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Writing an Informal Letter

Lesson and Exercise


Getting students to understand the differences between formal and informal letters is an important step towards helping them master differences in register required for writing in English. These exercises focus on helping them improve their understanding of the type of language that is used in an informal letter. Generally speaking, the main difference between informal and formal letters is that informal letters are written as people speak. There is currently a tendency in business communications to move away from formal writing style to a more, personal informal style. Students should be able to understand the differences between the two styles. Help them learn when to use formal and informal writing style with this exercise.

Aim: Understanding proper style for and writing of informal letters

Activity: Understanding the difference between formal and informal letters, vocabulary practice, writing practice

Level: Upper intermediate


  • Ask students which situations call for a formal letter and which situations call for an informal letter.
  • Have students brainstorm on the differences between formal and informal letters written in their native language.
  • Once you have discussed the various differences between the two styles, introduce the topic of differences in English letter writing by giving them the worksheet asking students to decide on the differences between formal and informal phrases used in letter writing.
  • Correct exercise as a class discussing any questions that may occur.
  • Ask the students to do the second exercise which focuses on appropriate formulas for writing informal letters.
  • Discuss the differences in layout and language between informal and informal letters. (indentation, the use of contracted verb forms, the use of phrasal verbs and idiomatic language, etc.)
  • Have students write an informal letter choosing one of the suggested topics.

Informal Letters

  • I am sorry to inform you that...
  • phrasal verbs
  • I am very grateful for...
  • Why don't we...
  • I will not be able to attend the...
  • idioms and slang
  • contracted verb forms like we've, I'm, etc.
  • Give my regards to...
  • I look forward to hearing from you...
  • Let me know as soon as...
  • short sentences
  • Dear Tom,
  • Dear Ms Smithers,
  • Best wishes,
  • Yours faithfully,
  • I'm really sorry I...
  • Unfortunately, we will have to postpone...
  • We had a little bit of luck...
  • Our computers are used for a variety...
  • I use my pencil sharper for...
  • polite phrases
  • fewer passive verb forms

Look at the phrases 1-11 and match them with a purpose A-K

  1. That reminds me,...
  2. Why don't we...
  3. I'd better get going...
  4. Thanks for your letter...
  5. Please let me know...
  6. I'm really sorry...
  7. Love,
  8. Could you do something for me?
  9. Write soon...
  10. Did you know that..
  11. I'm happy to hear that...
  • to finish the letter
  • to apologize
  • to thank the person for writing
  • to begin the letter
  • to change the subject
  • to ask a favor
  • before signing the letter
  • to suggest or invite
  • to ask for a reply
  • to ask for a response
  • to share some information

Choose one of the three subjects and write a letter to a friend or family member

  1. Write a letter to a friend you haven't seen or spoken to in a long time. Tell him / her about what you have been doing and ask them how they are and what they have been up to recently.
  2. Write a letter to a cousin and invite them to your wedding. Give them some details about your future husband / wife.
  3. Write a letter to a friend you know has been having some problems. Ask him / her how she / he is doing and if you can help.

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