Let’s learn how to write a semi-formal letter

  • We write semi-formal letters to people that we do not know very well but know by name and with whom we have a professional or business relationship with, for instance, your teacher, host family, boss, etc .
  • Semi-formal letters are usually more polite than informal letters and are written in a neutral style.
  • The surname should be used when addressing people – Dear Mrs.Thomas, Dear Mr Jones, 
  • When signing off the letter, ‘Yours truly’‘Sincerely yours’ and ‘Yours faithfully’ would be used for semi-formal or formal letters.
  • In semi-formal letters, you can also use – ‘With best wishes’, ‘Cordial regards’, ‘With best personal regards’ and ‘With regards’.
  • It is important that you do not omit the opening and closing statements.
  • Opening remarks: I am writing to tell you … It was very kind of you … It is very kind … I am writing to request  …
  • Closing remarks: Thank you very much for your … I am looking forwad to … I would be very grateful if you could …
  • You must organise your semi-formal letter into 4-5  paragraphs including the opening and closing statements. Before you begin writing spend some time deciding how you will effectively structure the letter and read each bullet point carefully.
  • It is important, when writing this type of letter, to make sure that your writing is neither too formal nor too informal.
  • Semi-formal or neutral style is characterized by: a polite, respectful tone; less colloquial language; less frequent use of short forms, phrasal verbs and idioms.
  • You may occasionally want to abbreviate but do not use ‘text language ‘ (UR, SU) in the exam, even in the informal letter to a friend. It’s okay to use these abbreviations though in your informal and semi-formal letter: i.e.  = I’m going to explain what I mean using different words.  e.g. = I am going to give an example. Etc. = and other similar things.
  • In semi-formal letter writing you can use contracted forms, e.g. it’s, won’t, don’t. etc. but this depends on who you are writing to and the overall formality of the letter.
  • Don’t forget to use linking words.

Compare some expressions of informal and semi-formal letters:

  • Informal: Why not phone the secretary and ask her?
  • Semi-formal: It would be a good idea if you phoned the secretary and ask her.
  • Informal: I’m sorry, but I can’t come on Friday night.
  • Semi-formal: I’m afraid I won’t be able to come on Friday in the evening.
  • Informal: I didn’t like the food.
  • Semi-formal: I was dissatisfied with the food.
  • Informal: What do you need?
  • Semi-formal: Please let us know your requirements
  • Informal: Many thanks for … Thanks for your letter.
  • Semi-formal: Thank you for your letter.
  • Informal: Sorry, I can’t make it to the …
  • Semi-formal: I am sorry but I will not be able to come to … . Please accept my apologies for … .
  • Informal: (I’m) So sorry to tell you that … .
  • Semi-formal: I am sorry to say that I / we  … .
  • Informal: I promise to +verb or I promise + that clause
  • Semi-formal: I / we can assure you that … .
  • Informal: Could / Would you … ?
  • Semi-formal: I was wondering if you could / would … ?
  • Informal: Don’t forget … .
  • Semi formal: We/ I would like to remind you that … .
  • Informal: But …  Also…  So…
  • Semi-formal: However, In addition, Therefore, …
  • Informal: Can you … , please … ?
  • Semi-formal: Could you please … ? 
  • Informal: I’m sorry for putting you out.
  • Semi-formal: I am sorry for inconveniencing you.
  • Informal: I thought I’d drop you a line to ask about 
  • Semi-formal: I am writing to request information about …
  • Informal: Can you …
  • Semi-formal: I was wondering if you could ...

And here is an example of a semi-formal letter:

Dear Mr and Mrs Brown,

Thank you very much for your letter. Since I left England, a lot has happened.

To begin with, I have been very busy with my studies. Now that I am in the last year of university, we seem to have one exam after another! I also have to look for a job. Next week I have an interview with a psychologist firm. I hope it will be successful.

Furthermore, I am still fond of running and doing high jumping. Next year I am going to take part in competitions.

My month in England with you really seems to have improved my English. According to my teacher I hardly make any mistakes in grammar. And my English conversations are now at a high level. Once again I would like to say how grateful I am for your kindness and hospitality.

Thank you once again for your letter.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,


One more sample of a semi-formal letter

You are working for a company. You need to take some time off  and want to ask your manager about this.

Write a letter to your manager. In your letter:

  • explain why you want to take time off
  • give details of the amount of time you need
  • suggest how your work could be covered while you are away.

Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing to request a few days of unpaid leave in March.

It is my parents’ wedding anniversary on 22nd March and they are planning to celebrate their special day with their children and grandchildren in a cottage, which they have rented to accommodate all the family.

To participate in this special occasion I would need to be away from work for four days, from Tuesday 19th to Friday 22nd. My schedule for that week is relatively light apart from two meetings with clients. Anna would be able to attend the meetings in my place, as she has dealt with both of these clients in the past. I have no other meetings nor any other urgent work that needs to be completed at that time.

I would be very grateful if you could allow me to take these four days off as it is very important to my parents that I attend and I would appreciate it if you could let me know by the end of the week.

Kind regards,

Tom Watson

Based on:  www.lingq.com; www.blog.e2language.com