What is formal tone?
Writing in a formal tone doesn’t come naturally to all people, especially those just entering the workforce. A few simple techniques can help you perfect a formal tone and make you look more professional. When writing formally, remember to convey a professional and respectful tone.
Consider your audience.
Firstly, consider your audience. In everyday speech we talk differently to our chums at the beach than we do to our grandfather or your boss. You need to consider this as you are writing as well. When writing to a boss, colleague, client, or higher up, keep your tone respectful and polite. Think of those manners your mother taught you. Greet people appropriately, refrain from using slang.
Don’t skip the formalities.
Greet people appropriately. The difference between “Hello” and “Hi” may be subtle, but It’s an easy change that helps you appear more professional. Common good examples of greetings include: “Greetings”, “Good Morning,/Afternoon/Evening”, “Salutations”, “Welcome” or you can simply omit the greeting all together. Bad examples such as “Yo”, “Hi”, “whazup!” make you appear childish and immature.
End your emails with formality too. If you don’t want to retype your farewell every day, you can use an “Auto-Signature”. Essentially, a formal goodbye attached to all your emails automatically. Be sure to include 1. A polite farewell 2. Your name (Signature) 3. Your title or position.
Occasionally individuals may add a quote or image to their signature. Remember to keep this appropriate for the office. Including your astrological sign or a funny saying or joke or comic makes you look unprofessional. Consider it this way, a Salutation is a gesture or phrase indicating respect. A professional conveys respect at all times.
DO skip the slang.
Everyday speech uses slang–words whose meaning has been changed or adapted to fit a particular meaning. The difference between “Hello” and “Hi” may be subtle, but It’s an easy change that helps you appear more professional. Skip the slang, Jokes, or any Outside of Work References.
Instead try to replace those terms with more appropriate words. Instead of using “That’s so cool”, try saying “Interesting,” or “well done” or “positive”.
Words and Phrases to Avoid: Awesome, Groovy, LOL, ROLF, WTF, On Fleek, Chill, Yeet, Swole, Boi etc. Ask yourself, “Is this an actual word?”
You don’t need acronyms or emojis either. You aren’t twelve. Slang references cultures deeply and very seldom does slang convey the proper meaning. If you don’t have a through understanding of the culture and the slang term, Don’t Use IT!
Omit strong emotion.
Have you ever said something in anger or frustration and really come to regret it? Anything in print: FB posts, emails, memos, blogposts, comments can come back to bite you. Once it’s on the internet, you’ve lost control of it.
When posting online or using electronic correspondence, take a second and be calm. As a rule, always be as polite and as respectful as you can. Ask yourself, could this be interpreted wrong? Could this get me in trouble? Professionals are cool, calm, and collected. Losing your temper or showing extreme emotion is considered a sign of weakness. I’m not saying don’t be passionate about what you do, that’s generally good. But don’t become a braggart.
My last advice: Use a spelling and grammar check. Then read your writing out loud. Even native English speakers make mistakes. If your finger slips and you don’t notice, a silly mistake makes you look foolish. Just last week I accidentally replaced the word “Scenario” with “Senator”.
You got this! Now go write that memo.
Emily Tuckett is a Middle School Science Teacher, and mother of two delightful girls ages 3 and 6. She lives in Utah with a great view of the Rocky Mountains. She enjoys panning for gold to teach about density, and watching Bluey with her daughters. She is a writer and scholarship coach.