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Writing an Effective Email: The Difference in Formal and Informal Writing

Discerning whether an email correspondence is formal or informal is an important step in writing an effective email marketing piece. The etiquette is different for each type of email. So, what are the main differences between formal and informal writing?

  • When writing a formal email correspondence you should only use Standard English terms. While informal writing may contain colloquial terms and slang. You should also be aware of common grammatical missteps so you can avoid them.
  • Be aware that in formal or business writing, the use of contractions such as won’t, can’t, don’t, shouldn’t, haven’t, etc. should be avoided.  These expressions should be written in their complete form in a formal or business communication.  Will not, cannot, do not, should not, have not, etc., can be used as a contraction in an informal email or correspondence.
  • Formal writing often uses shortened, less detailed or obtuse sentences also known as using “the passive voice”. Informal writing makes use of the active voice or a more detailed sentence.
“Your quote request was received yesterday.” – Passive Voice
“Karen received your quote request yesterday at 9:30." – Active Voice
When sending a business letter, a formal tone of voice is most often used because it conveys a professional demeanor; as opposed to e-mail marketing where an informal tone is preferred by marketers. The informal tone of a marketing email tends to be friendlier and is more effective in generating positive response.

Even though a marketing email is informal, this does not mean that you should stop paying attention to grammar and the respectful manner you should use when speaking with a prospective client. This is still a business correspondence after all, and you should be thoughtful about what you say about your agency and how you say it.

The correct salutation: When writing a marketing email, you should address your contacts by their first name. This creates a since of familiarity and begins to build a trusting relationship between you and your client. By using their first name in a correspondence, you’re conveying to them they may address you by your first name as well. If you’re on a first name basis with your clients, they look to you as a confidant of sorts when it comes to their insurance coverage and protecting their family.

Never use emoticons:  Even if you’re writing an informal email, if it is business related, it’s best not to use emoticons if possible. Emoticons should only be used when writing a personal email to your friends and family.

Double check your grammar and spelling:  It’s easy to overlook sloppy writing when you’re composing an email. Checking for correct spelling and grammar can be the difference between someone trusting you as an insurance professional and someone dismissing your expertise because your misuse of their, there, or they’re made you appear less than educated. Regardless of whether you are writing a formal or informal e-mail, you should take the time to proofread your message before sending it out. If you’ve spent too much time looking at one email before sending it out, have someone else take a look at your work. It’s better to have your assistant catch a mistake before an email goes out than to have 15 clients reply to your email telling you the difference between then and than.


If you have questions about how to effectively communicate with your clients, we’re here to help. Call our office at 800-383-3482 and we will be happy to offer you solutions to market yourself as the insurance expert you really are.


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