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Writing Letters: formal & informal English

September 5, 2016

 

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0:02

Hello, my name is Emma, and in today's lesson we are going to learn about writing. What

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kind of writing? Writing letters. Okay? So this is important for people who work in business.

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It's also important for people who like to write letters to their friends maybe or to

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their grandparents in English. Also, it is very... It is a very useful video for anyone

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who is taking the general IELTS test. So if you're taking not academic, but general, this

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is an important video. And also, if you plan to immigrate to Canada and you want to do

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the Canadian immigration test which is called: "the CELPIP", this video is also... It will

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also be useful and helpful to you. Okay?

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So let's get started. What do I mean by "formal" and "informal"? "Informal" means something

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you would write to your friends, something you would write to your parents, - well, probably

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your parents unless you're afraid of your parents, then you might be more formal -, your

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classmates, your coworkers. Okay? So this is... It means it's not formal; it's for people

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you know well. On the other hand, "formal" English we use with strangers, we use with

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our boss, in the workplace, we use it in these different ways. So it's the English you really

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have to think about, whereas informal is kind of the relaxed English. So relaxed, serious. Okay?

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So, sometimes you will have to write a letter formally, maybe to your boss or your company,

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other times maybe you're on holiday and you want to write a letter to your friend, you'll

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use informal English. So what is the difference? Let's see.

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Informal English uses contractions. What are contractions? "Didn't", "wouldn't", "couldn't",

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"haven't", "hasn't". So if you see a verb with an apostrophe and then a "t", that is

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a contraction. Okay? It's very important to know this because in formal writing, you don't

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use contractions. "Didn't" would be: "Did not". I can write that for you. "Did not".

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Couldn't: could not, haven't: have not, can't: cannot. Okay? So that's one major difference.

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Another major difference between formal and informal writing is the use of idioms; the

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use of certain expressions. If I'm writing to my friend, maybe I'll say: "Oh, you know,

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I've been very under the weather lately." Meaning: I've been very sick. If I'm writing

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to my boss, I won't use idioms. If I'm writing a formal letter, I will not use idioms. Those

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aren't good to use in formal writing.

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Phrasal verbs, this is another thing we find in informal writing. What is a phrasal verb?

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It's a verb that has a preposition. Okay? So, for example: "find out", "find" is a verb,

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"out" is the preposition. "Go" is the verb, "up" is the preposition. So the... The preposition

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adds a different meaning to the verb. Phrasal verbs are very difficult to learn; we have

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so many of them in English. My students have told me phrasal verbs are one of the hardest

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parts of learning English, but it's possible, you can do it.

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So, in informal writing, we use phrasal verbs, whereas in formal writing: what do we use?

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We don't use phrasal verbs. We usually use longer words that mean the same thing. Example:

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"find out": "discover". "Discover" is more formal. "Go up", for example: "Prices have

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gone up.": "Prices have increased." "Increased" is more formal. Okay. For more of these examples,

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there will be a list in the resource section of the engVid website.

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I'll talk more about that later.

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Next: imperatives. Imperatives are sentences that start with a verb. "Don't talk to me

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that way.", "Help your mother more.", "Do your homework." Okay? Parents love to use

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imperatives and so do teachers. So, if you're writing to your friends, you can use imperatives.

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"Send it soon!" Maybe your friend has to mail you a package, you write: "Send it soon! I

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want it, send it soon!" In formal writing, we do not use imperatives; they're too strong.

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We like to use more polite sentences: "You may send it at your earliest convenience."

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Do you see how much longer the formal is than the informal? Formal writing is usually a

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lot longer than informal writing; it's not simple sentences, it's long complex sentences.

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And you often see words like: "may", "could", "would" instead of: "want", "can". Okay. So

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this is one of the main differences.

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All right, so what are some more examples? For informal, words like: "very". "He's very

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cool.", "He's really great.", "He's totally hot." Okay, these are things you would never

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say in the workplace, but you might say to your friend. So if you see: "very", "really",

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"totally" - informal English. Okay? It's... It's okay to use these in letter writing,

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but not when you're writing to a client, to your boss, in the workplace, on the IELTS

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if it says, you know: "A formal letter", don't use these words.

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What about formal? "Strongly". "I strongly advise you to clean your room." You'd never

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write that to anyone, but that's an example of "strongly". It gives emphasis just like

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"really", "very", and "totally" do. Okay? So: "I strongly agree.", "We strongly recommend

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that you send in your order form as soon as possible." Okay? So you might see the word

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"strongly" used in formal writing.

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Okay. Informal writing, you can use these as connectors. Okay? So if you're connecting

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one idea to another idea, one paragraph to another paragraph. "To top it all off,", "On

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top of it all,". "To top it all off, my vacation was ruined because of a blizzard.", "To top

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it all off, there was a fly in my salad.", "To top it all off, the actor in the movie

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was horrible." Okay? "On top of it all," these sort of mean like the last thing you say,

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the last word on something. "On top of it all, she was very rude to me." So these are

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informal expressions to connect ideas.

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Here, we have some formal equivalents: "Furthermore,". "Furthermore, she was rude to me.", "Furthermore,

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the actor was terrible." Okay? So it's the formal way of saying things. "Moreover," and

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all of these are another way to say: "and", so don't let these words scare you; it's just

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another way to say: "also", "and", you add another piece of information.

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Okay, next idea for what's informal use: "TV". "TV", what is "TV"? It's an abbreviation;

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it's the short form of a word. The full word is: "television". So what does this mean?

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Do not use abbreviations in formal writing. You can use "TV" in informal writing. Don't

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use abbreviations in formal writing.

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Next idea: "!". In informal writing, you can write: "!", it's okay. In formal writing:

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can you do this? No. So no "!".

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Another difference: in informal writing, you can use the word: "a lot". "I have a lot of

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friends.", "I have a lot of hobbies.", "I have a lot to say to you.", "I have a lot

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to teach you." In formal writing, the better thing to use is: "much/many". Okay, so if

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you write a letter in your company: "much/many" better idea. They all mean: "a lot".

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Finally, in informal writing, non-Latin words are common. Now, why do I say: "non-Latin"?

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For those of you who speak Spanish, French, Italian, these are Latin-based languages.

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For example: "intelligente" in French, the English word... The English equivalent: "intelligent".

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So you can see that many words in English have a Latin root. Now, these words are usually

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more formal, so you don't want to use Latin words. You want to use common words. Okay?

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So non-Latin words/common words, this is in informal writing, but you don't want to use

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it in formal writing.

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In formal writing: use Latin based words, use uncommon words. Okay? That's a characteristic.

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So I would use the word: "intelligent", I would use the word... Instead of "smart".

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Maybe with my friends, I write: "smart", here, I might use: "intelligent".

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Okay, so for a full list of some of these words I'm talking about, - you know, another

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example would be: "kids", "children" -, phrasal verbs, expressions to use in informal writing

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versus formal writing, for a longer list, you can come visit our website at www.engvid.com.

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You can also visit our website to do our quiz to see how much of this you remember.

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Until next time.

 

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