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Video: Register tips


Formal and informal writing styles vary because of the language that we use. The following points should be considered when deciding what register to use in your Task I letter. First of all, phrasal verbs (for example: take part in, look into, watch out for) are most often used in informal writing. When writing more formally you could use, participate in instead of take part in, investigate instead of look into and be cautious of or be aware of instead of watch out for. In the same way, slang or colloquial words should not be used in formal language. For example, ‘mate’ would become colleague or friend. Contractions can be used in Task I but only for informal letters. For example when writing to a friend, you could write “I’ll phone you next week’. In formal writing, you should avoid contractions and could instead write ‘I will be in contact next week to discuss this matter further’.

When writing formally, it is common to include particularly polite language. For example, ‘Thank you for your consideration’ and ‘I would be extremely grateful for your assistance’. Informal language is often more direct – you could simply say ‘thanks a lot’ and ‘It’ll be great if you can help me out’. Formal writing often has a more impersonal style and tone, which is often achieved through the use of the passive. For example, ‘It would be much appreciated if this matter could be resolved as soon as possible.’ In informal writing, we often use active sentences to write more personally. For example, ‘I’ll be really happy if we sort this out soon’.