Writing Letters: formal & informal English
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Hello, my name is Emma, and in today's lesson we are going to learn about writing. What
kind of writing? Writing letters. Okay? So this is important for people who work in business.
It's also important for people who like to write letters to their friends maybe or to
their grandparents in English. Also, it is very... It is a very useful video for anyone
who is taking the general IELTS test. So if you're taking not academic, but general, this
is an important video. And also, if you plan to immigrate to Canada and you want to do
the Canadian immigration test which is called: "the CELPIP", this video is also... It will
also be useful and helpful to you. Okay?
So let's get started. What do I mean by "formal" and "informal"? "Informal" means something
you would write to your friends, something you would write to your parents, - well, probably
your parents unless you're afraid of your parents, then you might be more formal -, your
classmates, your coworkers. Okay? So this is... It means it's not formal; it's for people
you know well. On the other hand, "formal" English we use with strangers, we use with
our boss, in the workplace, we use it in these different ways. So it's the English you really
have to think about, whereas informal is kind of the relaxed English. So relaxed, serious. Okay?
So, sometimes you will have to write a letter formally, maybe to your boss or your company,
other times maybe you're on holiday and you want to write a letter to your friend, you'll
use informal English. So what is the difference? Let's see.
Informal English uses contractions. What are contractions? "Didn't", "wouldn't", "couldn't",
"haven't", "hasn't". So if you see a verb with an apostrophe and then a "t", that is
a contraction. Okay? It's very important to know this because in formal writing, you don't
use contractions. "Didn't" would be: "Did not". I can write that for you. "Did not".
Couldn't: could not, haven't: have not, can't: cannot. Okay? So that's one major difference.
Another major difference between formal and informal writing is the use of idioms; the
use of certain expressions. If I'm writing to my friend, maybe I'll say: "Oh, you know,
I've been very under the weather lately." Meaning: I've been very sick. If I'm writing
to my boss, I won't use idioms. If I'm writing a formal letter, I will not use idioms. Those
aren't good to use in formal writing.
Phrasal verbs, this is another thing we find in informal writing. What is a phrasal verb?
It's a verb that has a preposition. Okay? So, for example: "find out", "find" is a verb,
"out" is the preposition. "Go" is the verb, "up" is the preposition. So the... The preposition
adds a different meaning to the verb. Phrasal verbs are very difficult to learn; we have
so many of them in English. My students have told me phrasal verbs are one of the hardest
parts of learning English, but it's possible, you can do it.
So, in informal writing, we use phrasal verbs, whereas in formal writing: what do we use?
We don't use phrasal verbs. We usually use longer words that mean the same thing. Example:
"find out": "discover". "Discover" is more formal. "Go up", for example: "Prices have
gone up.": "Prices have increased." "Increased" is more formal. Okay. For more of these examples,
there will be a list in the resource section of the engVid website.
I'll talk more about that later.
Next: imperatives. Imperatives are sentences that start with a verb. "Don't talk to me
that way.", "Help your mother more.", "Do your homework." Okay? Parents love to use
imperatives and so do teachers. So, if you're writing to your friends, you can use imperatives.
"Send it soon!" Maybe your friend has to mail you a package, you write: "Send it soon! I
want it, send it soon!" In formal writing, we do not use imperatives; they're too strong.
We like to use more polite sentences: "You may send it at your earliest convenience."
Do you see how much longer the formal is than the informal? Formal writing is usually a
lot longer than informal writing; it's not simple sentences, it's long complex sentences.
And you often see words like: "may", "could", "would" instead of: "want", "can". Okay. So
this is one of the main differences.
All right, so what are some more examples? For informal, words like: "very". "He's very
cool.", "He's really great.", "He's totally hot." Okay, these are things you would never
say in the workplace, but you might say to your friend. So if you see: "very", "really",
"totally" - informal English. Okay? It's... It's okay to use these in letter writing,
but not when you're writing to a client, to your boss, in the workplace, on the IELTS
if it says, you know: "A formal letter", don't use these words.
What about formal? "Strongly". "I strongly advise you to clean your room." You'd never
write that to anyone, but that's an example of "strongly". It gives emphasis just like
"really", "very", and "totally" do. Okay? So: "I strongly agree.", "We strongly recommend
that you send in your order form as soon as possible." Okay? So you might see the word
"strongly" used in formal writing.
Okay. Informal writing, you can use these as connectors. Okay? So if you're connecting
one idea to another idea, one paragraph to another paragraph. "To top it all off,", "On
top of it all,". "To top it all off, my vacation was ruined because of a blizzard.", "To top
it all off, there was a fly in my salad.", "To top it all off, the actor in the movie
was horrible." Okay? "On top of it all," these sort of mean like the last thing you say,
the last word on something. "On top of it all, she was very rude to me." So these are
informal expressions to connect ideas.
Here, we have some formal equivalents: "Furthermore,". "Furthermore, she was rude to me.", "Furthermore,
the actor was terrible." Okay? So it's the formal way of saying things. "Moreover," and
all of these are another way to say: "and", so don't let these words scare you; it's just
another way to say: "also", "and", you add another piece of information.
Okay, next idea for what's informal use: "TV". "TV", what is "TV"? It's an abbreviation;
it's the short form of a word. The full word is: "television". So what does this mean?
Do not use abbreviations in formal writing. You can use "TV" in informal writing. Don't
use abbreviations in formal writing.
Next idea: "!". In informal writing, you can write: "!", it's okay. In formal writing:
can you do this? No. So no "!".
Another difference: in informal writing, you can use the word: "a lot". "I have a lot of
friends.", "I have a lot of hobbies.", "I have a lot to say to you.", "I have a lot
to teach you." In formal writing, the better thing to use is: "much/many". Okay, so if
you write a letter in your company: "much/many" better idea. They all mean: "a lot".
Finally, in informal writing, non-Latin words are common. Now, why do I say: "non-Latin"?
For those of you who speak Spanish, French, Italian, these are Latin-based languages.
For example: "intelligente" in French, the English word... The English equivalent: "intelligent".
So you can see that many words in English have a Latin root. Now, these words are usually
more formal, so you don't want to use Latin words. You want to use common words. Okay?
So non-Latin words/common words, this is in informal writing, but you don't want to use
it in formal writing.
In formal writing: use Latin based words, use uncommon words. Okay? That's a characteristic.
So I would use the word: "intelligent", I would use the word... Instead of "smart".
Maybe with my friends, I write: "smart", here, I might use: "intelligent".
Okay, so for a full list of some of these words I'm talking about, - you know, another
example would be: "kids", "children" -, phrasal verbs, expressions to use in informal writing
versus formal writing, for a longer list, you can come visit our website at www.engvid.com.
You can also visit our website to do our quiz to see how much of this you remember.
Until next time.