Professional or personal letters, emails… Polite expressions are commonplace in writing. While in French we sometimes use complex expressions, polite expressions in English are much simpler. However, there are certain subtleties you should be aware of in order to avoid making mistakes when writing a letter in English. How can you use polite expressions properly in the language of Shakespeare? Let us explain it all to you!
Polite expressions in English: essential for professional writing
Anglo-Saxon correspondence tends to be a little less formal than ours. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore polite expressions, especially in professional writing. A cover letter with proper expressions can score points with a recruiter!
In order to use the right phrases, you should first determine two parameters:
1. Is it private or professional correspondence?
2. What is your “hierarchical relationship” with the recipient?
This will help you decide whether to use formal or informal expressions.
Read also: 6 good reasons you should learn English
Starting a letter or email in English: the greeting
When writing a letter (paper or email) in English, you should start with a greeting. However, the expressions you use will depend on the context of your correspondence and how close you are to the recipient.
Informal greetings in English
The most common way to start an informal email is: Dear [first name]. It’s a simple and direct way to start letters or emails for your friends and family. You can also use it for some of your business writing if you don’t have a hierarchical relationship with the recipient.
Or, simply opt for a “hello”: Hello / Hi [first name]. With these slightly more familiar greetings, the exclamation mark can replace the comma (example: Hi Tom!).
More formal versions
For your business or administrative letters, it is a good idea to use slightly more formal expressions. The choice will mainly depend on whether or not you know the recipient.
If you know the recipient, you can use: Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss [surname]. Note here that the comma cannot be replaced by an exclamation mark.
When you don’t know the person you are writing to, you should use a neutral expression such as:
- Dear Sir/ Madam;
- Dear Sir or Madam;
- To Whom It May Concern.
Formal and informal letter endings
To end an informal letter or email, you are spoilt for choice! There are many options, depending on the nature of your relationship with your correspondent. Here are some examples:
- Regards, or Rgds, (more common in emails or texts);
- Best (wishes), (the version without “wishes” is more familiar);
- Have a good day!;
Ending a formal letter or email in English
There are two polite expressions that are used to end a business letter in English. These are Yours faithfully, (GB) (Faithfully yours, – US) and Yours sincerely, (GB) (Sincerely yours, – US). You should use the first one when you don’t know the recipient. The second one can be used when you know the recipient of your letter.
For emails, other expressions are often used, the most common being Best regards.
An example of an informal email
How are you? I hope everything is going well.
I’ve heard that you’re learning Spanish with 1to1PROGRESS. That’s amazing! Rumor says that they have great trainers. I’m sure you’ll be fluent in no time.
I was considering learning this language too. Any tips for me?
Have a nice evening,
An example of a business email
Dear Mr. Thompson,
Thank you very much for meeting me this morning. I appreciate your time, and it was a pleasure speaking with you about the position of a sales manager.
Our conversation confirmed my interest in working for XYZ Inc. I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you more.
Should you need any further information to help you in your decision-making process, do not hesitate to contact me.
Polite expressions in Englishare no longer a secret for you! You are now ready to write all kinds of letters and emails. To continue improving your knowledge of the language of Shakespeare, why not start a language training course with 1to1PROGRESS?