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

line drawing laptop typing with coffee

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, only use standard English terms. Colloquial terms and slang are informal writing. For example, in Texas many people say y'all when referring to a group of people. Avoid slang terms in formal writing.
  • You should also be aware of common grammatical errors so you can avoid them. For example, the difference between their, there, and they're. Or, the difference between possessive (it's) and plural (its) apostrophes.
  • Be aware that in formal or business writing, the use of contractions such as won't, can't, don't, shouldn't, haven't, etcetera, 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, 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 passive voice. Informal writing makes use of the active voice or a more direct sentence. The easiest way to identify passive voice is to look for a form of to be combined with a past tense verb. 
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. This is opposed to email marketing where an informal tone is preferred by marketers. The informal tone of a marketing email tends to be friendlier and more effective in generating a positive response.
  • Even though a marketing email is informal, this does not mean 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.

Whether writing in an formal or informal style, there are a few more rules to think about. 

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 email, 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.


Never, never, use all caps.

If you have questions about how to effectively communicate with your clients, we're here to help. Contact us today and we will be happy to offer you solutions to market yourself as the insurance expert you really are.


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