Appropriate language for formal letters

Posted by Manjusha Filed in Business English

The language used in a formal letter must be appropriate in style and tone. The following are the basic features of formal writing.

1. Avoid contractions.

All verb forms must be written in full.

Inappropriate: This isn’t what we’d expect from a professional service.

Correct: This is not what we would expect from a professional service.

2. Do not use abbreviations.

Abbreviations like BBC and RADAR are perfectly acceptable, but avoid using informal abbreviations. For example, do not write info for information; do not write ads for advertisement.

3. Limit the use of active verbs with the first person singular pronoun.

Inappropriate: I will send you all the relevant information asap.

Appropriate: All the relevant information will be forwarded to you as soon as possible.

4. Avoid the use of informal degree modifiers

Degree modifiers such as really and so are informal in nature. Avoid them. Instead, use extremely, highly, entirely etc.

5. Limit the use of phrasal verbs.

Most phrasal verbs are idiomatic in nature and hence their meaning cannot be guessed from their individual parts. You can make your writing easy to understand by using ordinary verbs instead of phrasal verbs.

6. Avoid informal discourse markers such as by the way

The same idea can be expressed used incidentally which is formal in nature.

7. Avoid using set phrases and idioms.

Inappropriate: I’m not losing any sleep over that.

Appropriate: That doesn’t worry me at all.

Inappropriate: He really gets on my nerves.

Appropriate: He irritates me.

8. Do not leave out words.

In informal speech and writing, we sometimes leave out words. This technique is called ellipsis. It is not considered appropriate in formal writing and hence you have to avoid it.

Inappropriate: Look forward to hearing from you.

Appropriate: I look forward to hearing from you.

See also

Business letter writing tips
How to Write an Apology Letter
Business Apology Letter Sample I
Personal Apology Letter Sample I
Email writing tips
Resume writing
How to write a cover letter
How to write a letter of enquiry
Standard phrases used in formal letters


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