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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 2

Dear Sir or Hey, folks? - part 2

Comprehension practice 

How well did you understand the article? Read it one more time - and then take the comprehension challenge underneath. Good luck!

Read the article and try the activity

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.

The comprehension challenge

5 Questions

In this game, you will see five statements about the article. Are the statements true - or are they false? You decide... Good luck!

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y


Yo! Folks! Did you enjoy those two activities? If you send us an e-mail please remember to use 'Dear' – we are the BBC after all.

Facts about the course

Now it's time to find out about another new weekly feature. It's called News Report - Alice will explain more...

Session Vocabulary

  • folks
    an informal word for a group of people

    describes a close personal relationship

    hey folks
    an informal way of saying hello to friends

    describes the rules of correct behaviour in social situations

    fed up
    bored or annoyed