Informal letters

Here are a few things you should remember about informal language:

  • We use contractions (I’ve, it’s, etc.) in informal writing. (I’ve just seen the film you mentioned. It’s great!)
  • We start and end letters in an informal way.

Dear Tom,

Lots of love,

Take care,

Write soon,

  • We don’t always write in complete sentences. (Sorry to hear about your dog.)
  • We use informal vocabulary. (e.g. cool instead of impressive)
  • We use direct questions. (Did you pass your Spanish exam?)
  • We use the active voice more. (They’re pulling down the old theatre across the road.)
  • We use informal connecting words and phrases. (Anyway, what I wanted to tell you about was the party last night.)
  • We use exclamation marks to give a friendly feel. (I can’t wait to see you!)


Here are a few things you should remember about formal language:

  • We do not use contractions in formal writing. (Most people do not agree with this position.)
  • We start and end letters in a formal way.

Dear Sir/Madam

Dear Mr Smith

Yours faithfully (after Dear Sir/Madam)

Yours sincerely (after Dear + surname)

  • We always write in complete sentences. (I hope that you will be able to come to speak to the students on December 14th.)
  • We use formal vocabulary. (e.g. accommodation instead of a place to stay)
  • We use indirect questions. (I would be grateful if you could provide further information about the salary.)
  • We use the passive voice more. (A new law has been introduced to reduce crime.)
  • We use formal connecting words and phrases. (Moreover, it is clear from statistics that more people are getting divorced than ever before.)


1. Beginnings

In an informal letter to a friend, it may be appropriate to begin by mentioning a letter which you have recently received or by making general friendly comments.

Useful language:

Many thanks for your letter and for the photographs ...

It was lovely to hear from you recently ...

I was glad to hear that you had a good holiday …

What wonderful news about …

I’m sorry to learn that …

I hope you and the family are well.

How are things?

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

It's been ages since I last saw you. What are you doing these days?

Anyway, the reason I'm writing ... 

You’ll never believe what …

2. Invitation

Say what the event is and explain the details of date, time and place clearly. You may need to add other details such as who else is coming, what you would like your friend to bring (if anything), whether they can bring a partner or friend, when you need a reply by, and how to get there. Use separate paragraphs for each main piece of information.

Useful language:

I'm having a birthday party on Saturday the 22nd and l hope you'll be able to come.

I was wondering if you'd like to come to see 'Wild Lives' at the Theatre Royal with me?

Why don't you come and stay for the weekend?

Could you (possibly) let me know if you can come by …


Read this email from a colleague of yours on a course and the reply. Notice the informal writing style.

Hi there

As you know we’re coming to the end of term and the end of the course. Some of us think it’d be a nice idea for all of us to get together for dinner and we’re thinking of organising a farewell meal. Sounds great, doesn’t it?  I hope you’ll be able to come.

We’re asking people if they know a trendy restaurant, somewhere fairly central but not too expensive that can cater for 20 or 30 people. Have you got any suggestions? Can you give us an idea what type of food they do? Also, do you happen to know roughly how much it might cost us?

One more thing, we’re asking people if they’d prefer to have the meal on a Friday or Saturday night. We thought we’d meet at about 9 p.m. What do you think?

All the best



Dear Heni

I think it’s a great idea to have a meal to celebrate the end of the course. I’ll definitely be there!

As for the venue, I’d suggest Toni’s Pizzeria, which is very close to the town hall. There is a spacious room upstairs that we can surely book for a private party. I have the phone number if you’re interested. They do lovely pizzas baked in a traditional clay oven and excellent fresh pasta dishes – yummy! It’s very reasonably priced as well, I’d say between 25 and 30 euros a head.

You asked which day people want to have the meal. Well, I’d prefer Saturday evening because I play basketball on Friday afternoons and usually go out with my team mates afterwards. Actually, I think 9 o’clock is a bit late to meet for dinner, though. How about meeting at 8.30 instead?

Best wishes



3. Request

4. Apology

5. Information/News

6. Giving Advice

7. Thank you/Congratulations/Good Luck

8. Endings


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