Tips to help you master a formal language

When learning English, it is essential to work out when and how to use formal language.

Informal language is usually in a casual context,so it may use abbreviations, contractions, emojis, and slang. We use it in our everyday communication with friends and family.

However, formal language is used mostly in writing and in speeches or presentations. We use it in serious situations that include people we do not know well, when applying for a job, writing emails at work, writing essays for school, etc…

Here are some tips to help you master a formal language:

If you want to make your speech or writing more formal, the first thing you need to do is replace contractions with non-contracted versions of the words. So, instead of “isn’t,” “she’s,” or “we’d,” say/write “is not”, “she is” or “we had”

Informal: She couldn’t possibly attend the meeting.
Formal: She could not possibly attend the meeting.

Avoid abbreviated versions of words such as TV, phone, photo, etc. You’d better go for television, telephone, and photograph instead.

The formal language will not use slang terms and colloquialisms.

Don’t say: The chick was so drunk that she couldn’t stand on her feet.
Say: The woman/lady had too much alcohol so she could not conduct herself.

Avoid phrasal verbs in your academic writing. Although their usage is quite common in normal conversations and it makes your speech sound more natural, formal context is not an adequate place for them. So, instead of a multi-word phrasal verb, use a one-word verb.

Don’t say: The scientists figured out a solution to environmental pollution.
Say: The scientists discovered a solution to environmental pollution.

Avoid first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘We’. Try and replace them with “One,” “the reader,” “the viewers”.

Don’t say: We can see the actor is confused.
Say: The viewers can see the actor is confused.

Remember that the tone of a formal context is more serious, while the tone of an informal context is more personal and spontaneous.

Happy writing!

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Latin Abbreviations in English

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Latin abbreviations use in English. There are many of them but I’ll try to explain most frequently used ones.

e.g. (exampli gratia)

We use “e.g.” for giving specific examples.

Ex:  I feel like eating something sweet, e.g. ice cream.

i.e. (id est)

This abbreviation is used to explain something clearer.

Ex:  Schools usually don’t work in the summertime, i.e. in July and August.

P.S. (post scriptum)

We add „P.S“. at the end of a letter when we want to write something more.

Ex: P.S. Best wishes to your family.

vs (versus)

This abbreviation basically means „against“. It is used to oppose two different things in competition.

Ex:  The New York’s Knicks vs Chicago Bulls.

cf. (confer)

You can normally see this in a book when the author wants to mention another source that tells about something. It means “refer to…“ or “compare“

Ex: Summer is a great time for outdoor activities (cf. John Smith for various types of summer pastimes).

etc. (et cetera)

This Latin abbreviation is used at the end of a list to show that there are more things included in the list but you don’t want to mention them.

Ex: We often see snails, bugs, birds, etc. in our garden.

et al (et alia)

“et al” usually comes right after a name and it means “and others.” It is used when there are too many names to list, but you still want to give credit to everybody.

Ex:   The method is explained in the work of Johnson et al.

 

Formal Letter

A formal letter is a letter written to someone you do not know, therefore you should generally use more formal language than in letters you write to your family or friends, avoid phrasal verbs and involve more complex sentence structure.

Here are some useful phrases for formal letter writing:

Dear Mr/Ms (surname),                             Dear Sir/Madam/Sir or Madam,

Reasons for writing

I am writing to …

I am writing with regard to …

I am writing on behalf of …

I am writing this letter to inquire about…

With reference to your letter of May 5th…

With reference to your phone call today…

Asking questions

I would be grateful if you could…

I wonder if you could …

Could you …? Could you tell me something about …?

Could you possibly…?

I would particularly like to know …

I would be interested in having more details about …

Referring to their letter

As you stated in your letter, …

Regarding … Concerning … With regard to …

Closing

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Feel free to contact us again if we can help in any way.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Please contact me if you have any further questions.

Signing off

(If Dear surname) Yours sincerely,

(If Dear Sir/Madam) Yours faithfully,

Signature

First name + surname

 

INFORMAL LETTER

Beginning

Dear (first name),

Thank you for your letter/mail.

It was great to hear from you.

I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch you for such a long time.

I hope you’re having a good/great time.

Inquiring about their news

How are you/your family? / How are things?

Great news about … Glad to hear that … Sorry to hear about …

Giving news

Listen, have I told you …? You’ll never believe …

I’ve got some good/bad news…

Oh, and another thing …

I thought you might be interested to hear that …

Apologies

I’m writing to apologise for…

I’m really sorry that I forgot about your birthday/anniversary.

Invitations

I’m/We’re having a party on Sunday and I hope you will be able to join us.

I was wondering if you’d like to go to the movies/camping with us?

Thank you very much for your invitation. I’d love to come.

Thank you for asking/inviting me to … but I’m afraid I won’t be able to …

Requests

I’m writing to ask for your help/you to do me a favor.

I hope you don’t mind me asking but could you (possibly) …?

I’d be very/really grateful if you could …

Expressing thanks

Thank you/thanks a bunch/a million.

I appreciate your help/invitation/advice.

It was so kind of you to …

I really appreciated all your help/advice.

Congratulations on getting a new job!

I wish you good luck with your new job/your driving test/your interview.

Making suggestions and recommend.

Why don’t you …? Maybe you could …? How about …?

If I were you, I’d…/I’d recommend that you…

Have you thought about…?/ Don’t miss to…

Endings

I should/must go now… Well, that’s all for now…

Give my love/regards to … Say hello to … Hope to hear from you soon.

See you soon! Write soon. Once again, thank you for all your help.

Signing off

Love/Lots of love/Take care/Yours/Best wishes,

First name