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Session 4

Formal and informal writing

Is language becoming more informal because of email and the internet? Read our article to find out if 'Dear…' is dying.

Sessions in this unit

Session 4 score

0 / 14

  • 0 / 6
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 5
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 3
    Activity 3
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 4

Activity 1

Dear Sir or Hey, folks?

Skills practice - reading and vocabulary

Do you know how to begin an e-mail? What do you normally write at the beginning of a letter? Read this article about ways of beginning e-mails and letters. While you read look at the words in bold and try to guess their meanings. Look at the context (the words before and after the words in bold) to help you guess.

When you have finished reading, check your guesses by playing the definition game at the bottom of the page.

Read the text

Article: Should e-mails open with Dear, Hi or Hey?

It's time people stopped using the word 'Dear…' to start work e-mails. That's according to Giselle Barry, a woman who works in the United States Congress. She surprised lots of people by starting an email to a group of journalists with the words 'Hey, folks.'

Ms Barry thinks 'Dear' is too intimate and makes it sound like you have a personal relationship with the person you are writing to.

It seems she's not alone. E-mail and the internet have changed the rules about how to write. In the past, there was no choice, but now you can see e-mails from people starting with 'hello', 'hi' and even 'hey'.

The American newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, wrote 'Across the internet, the use of 'dear' is going…'

But not everyone is as relaxed about this as Ms Barry. Etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith says, 'I'm fed up with people writing 'Hi Jean' when they've never met me.'

'If you're sending a business e-mail you should begin 'Dear...' - like a letter. You are presenting yourself. Politeness and etiquette are essential.

How about you? Do you think that the internet has made the language you use less formal? Is that a good or a bad thing? How important is it to be polite?

Note: this article is based on an original story written by James Morgan from BBC News.

So, did you understand the words in bold? Try the definition game to see.

The definition game

6 Questions

Look at the words from the article and choose the correct definitions.

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Well done! Understanding vocabulary in context is a very useful skill.

Now try the next activity to see how well you understood the article.