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The Right Level of Formality
The Right Level of Formality

Depending on who you're emailing, formality can set the tone for getting a reply. This article is how to approach formality in cold email.

Will Allred avatar
Written by Will Allred
Updated over a week ago

Formality is hinted at throughout our documents.

Mirroring provides a good amount of depth on how to respond, but in the event that you've never communicated with the person before (aka The Perfect Cold Email) this will provide a good overview.

So, how formal/informal should you be?

It's a balance.

Not just in the figurative sense. The data tells us if you're sending an email it's best not to be to formal or too casual. You want to straddle the middle.

Being overly formal will make the other person feel as though you are either unsure and uncomfortable... or faking confidence. Meanwhile being overly casual will come across as disrespectful, curt, or crass.

How do you strike the balance?

  1. Write like you're speaking. There are certain words that you'd write, but you'd never say. Find the more common version of them.

  2. Comb your writing religiously for errors. Nothing says I couldn't be bothered like firing off an email with a typo or a missing coma.

  3. Use personal pronouns

  4. Active > Passive Voice

  5. Avoid garbage acronyms and buzzword fillers.

  6. Take a friendly warm tone

Emojis: I'm personally pro-emoji, but please don't overuse them. It's like a nice spice to a dish. In the right situation it ads a perfect dash to a reply or a note. Miss the mark and it comes off as awkward. 🙃

Do your research before you reach out.

Do they look a bit more old school? What industries have they worked in? How do they talk online? These can all give you killer clues on how formal vs. informal you can be.

A fun catch that we've found with this: The person works at a services company (ex. an ad agency). You'd think an ad agency is fairly informal, but you have to think about their personal backgrounds, company culture, and who they sell to.

If you client is in finance, your culture is going to reflect that. Your tone should take a more polished formal tone.

Again, Lavender can help. We track formality and point out which sentences have you off balance. We included a quick guide below that covers the most common triggers.

Need to be more or less formal? A few notes:



Can't vs. Cannot

Personal Pronouns


You, I, We, Our

Active Language


Passive Language


Complex Sentence Structures


Simple Sentence Structures


Hey, Howdy




Hello, "First Name," Dear, "First Name:" Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening






Emojis + GIFs


Adverb/ Adjective Misuse


Good vs. Well. Less vs. Fewer

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