Formal notes and informal notes refer to the way a note is formatted. Both of these note styles have conventions that they should each follow. Each of these notes has a specific purpose which they must follow.
Formal notes are letters that are meant for professional correspondence. These notes generally address people that are not well known to you. They must follow specific conventions and a specified business format.
Informal notes are quite different. Informal notes can be written in nearly any way that you choose. They can be written mostly to people with who, you have a close working relationship or a familiarity with.
Unsure where to begin? We have guides on to help direct you to write the best formal or informal note that you can.
How to Write an Informal Note or Email
The best informal note should consist of four sections:
The first thing that you need to do is address your reader. But, depending on the country you are communicating with, you may have to change your address.
The opening is usually not as important to these letters, unlike a business or formal note where the opening is carefully crafted. There are still a few things that you may want to be aware of when addressing someone informally.
First, if you are communicating with someone in America versus someone who speaks and reads British English, you may notice that the British do not use a period the same way that the American English does.
- Mr Johnson (British English)
- Mr. Johnson (American English)
As you can see, the period has been omitted after the title.
Secondly, if you are sending the letter to a married woman, her title is different than an unmarried woman or a woman that you do not know her marital status. So, consider the following:
- Mrs. Johnson is married to our previously mentioned friend Mr. Johnson.
- Miss Jones is marrying her fiance this summer.
- Ms. Thomas is someone that you know but are unsure if she is married or not. Some women choose to use this moniker even after marriage.
Choosing whether or not you should use a title depends on your familiarity with the person you are writing to. The friendly you are with this person, the less likely you are to use their last name. The way you greet them is entirely up to you. For instance, if you are writing a letter to a friend, you might address it in one of the following ways:
- Dear Richard,
- Hi, Richard,
Never forget that there must be a punctuation mark after the name, typically a comma.
Examples of Opening Sentences
After you have mastered the opening, it is time to write! Here is where your creativity truly reigns! You should open with something that is casual and natural, unlike writing a professional letter. If you need some ideas, you may try one of the following:
- How are you?
- How have you been?
- How is life treating you?
- How are the kids?
- I hope everything is well!
- I hope you, Joseph, and the kids are having a great time in (location)!
The body is the meat of your letter. This should be written in a personal, friendly tone and will be the main content. It’s important to adjust your language based on who you are writing to. Think of how you would interact with the person if they were standing in front of you. Also, keep in mind that people in England and America believe it is socially polite to exchange social niceties.
For example, many native English speakers begin conversations with a few polite questions, such as “How are you?” or “How was your vacation/holiday?” They are typically not as direct in a conversation as most Europeans.
There are a few things you may want to include in your body:
- State why you are writing
- Expand on what you mentioned in the introductory paragraph
- Ask how the person is
- Make some concluding remarks
- Invite them to write back to you
The closing is where you will summarize your thoughts and say goodbye. If you are struggling to make your closing thoughts concise, you may use one of the following:
- I am looking forward to seeing you.
- I can’t wait to see you soon!
- I look forward to hearing from you.
- I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
- See you soon.
- Send my love to (family member).
- I hope things are well.
No matter how you decide to summarize your thoughts, make sure this closes your letter without leaving loose ends.
In terms of signing off, the choice is yours. You have a wonderful amount of freedom here. After you’ve chosen a sign-off phrase, make sure that it fits the overall tone of your letter and sign your name.
Here are some commonly used sign-offs to letters:
- Best wishes,
- Kind regards,
- Lots of love,
Sample Informal Note
Thank you so much for your kind gift the other day! You know how much I love chocolate! I’m extremely happy to report that it will go to good use! I appreciate that you thought of me on my birthday!
How to Write a Formal Note or Email
The sender’s address is notated in the top right-hand corner of the page or centered, as if it were the letterhead. The address should be a complete and accurate address for the recipient, in case the recipient needs to reach out to the sender for any reason.
Professional formal notes should always be dated. After the sender’s address, follow with the date underneath it. This should be the date on which you are writing the note. This is important for record keeping and because information in business is often time sensitive.
The receiver’s address will follow the date, usually on the left-hand side of the paper. You have the option of writing “To” before the receiver’s address, but this is personal preference. Make sure you write the title/name/position and other honorifics as the first line of the address.
This is the part where you will greet the person you are addressing the note to. Remember that this is a formal note, so the greeting should be respectful and not overly familiar. The general greetings used in formal notes are “Sir,” “Madam,” “Ma’am,” or “To whom it may concern.” If you know the name of the person who will be reading the note, you may also address it to “Mr. ABC” or “Ms. XYZ.” To show respect, you should not address a correspondent by their first name only. Make sure that you continually address them by their full name or only utilizing their title and their last name.
Following the greeting should be the subject of the note. In the center of the line, write “Subject:”. Sum up the purpose that you are writing the note in this one line. This helps the receiver focus on the subject and reason behind the note in one glance.
Body of the Note
This will be the majority of your note. It is either divided into two or three paragraphs, depending on the length of the note. The purpose of the letter should be made clear in the first paragraph and the tone should be kept formal. Do not use language to embellish the content. You should also remember that the note should be concise and jump straight to the point. Always be respectful and considerate of the other person, no matter the reason for your note.
At the end of your note, write something complimentary. “Yours Sincerely,” or “Yours Faithfully” should be printed on the right side of the paper.
This is where you will sign your name. Beneath your formal signature, print your name. You can do this in the word processor or by writing your name in block letters beneath the signature. This will address to the recipient who is sending the note.
Sample Formal Note
1234 Any Street
Maintown, NY 12345
Day/Month/Year (In the American format for the date, you would reverse the day and month portions)
Public Relations Liaison
1234 Any Lane
Business Town, PA 12345
Subject: Partnering with your business.
I have recently been made aware of an opportunity to work with your business as a partner. I heard recently that you were looking for art for a new literacy endeavor with a famous author. It is my understanding that this will benefit a non-profit that is extremely dear to me and I would like to offer my services to you at no charge.
I am an artist who has been working professionally for the past 10 years. My work has been published in over fifty major publications. I have enclosed several prints from my portfolio for your perusal. I hope that we may work together in the near future.
(Your handwritten signature should go here!)
Different Notes You May Come Across:
A medical note is an entry into a medical or health record. This should include accurate documentation of a patient’s medical history, diagnosis, and the treatment and care they are receiving. The date is important to note.
An admission note is part of a medical record that records a patient being admitted into the hospital for inpatient care. It is important to note the date as well as the diagnosis and the treatment plan for the patient in these notes.
A doctor’s note is a note that generally tells an employer or a school that a person has been seen and diagnosed by a doctor. It is important to note the date that the person was seen, the date they may return to work or school, and any restrictions that the person may have upon returning.
A nursing note is a medical note or health record that a nurse can provide an accurate reflection of their assessment, any change in their conditions, care provided and all other relevant information that relates to the patient’s care. It is important that these notes are dated so that the changes in the patient can be monitored.
A fit note is a note that is written for your employer or your school upon your return. These notes are typically needed if a person has missed one week or more of work. These notes are needed to return and, also, to ensure that you do not get in trouble with your employer. These notes should always include the dates that you (or the patient) were ill and in the care of a general practitioner.
Condolence / Sympathy Note
A condolence note is an expression of sympathy and sorrow to a person that has suffered a loss. This is often sent when a close friend or colleague has lost a family member or someone close to them. These should always include a message that expresses your sorrow at their loss. Often, these notes offer help in their time of need.
A goods received note is a note that acts as proof that you have received an item from a supplier. These are used to make sure that your invoices match with your supplier. It is important to note the dates that goods were received. Many companies also note where the goods were stored and inventoried.
A goods return note is the opposite of a goods received note. These notes inventory goods that you are returning to a supplier, whether it is for a defect or because they sent you an overage. It is important to note the date that the goods were returned in these notes. It is also important to note any shipping information or transportation information, such as a tracking number.
Personal (Informal) Notes
A welcome note is a brief note that welcomes someone to a new job, position, or dwelling. Welcome notes can follow any format, much like other informal notes. A welcome note should include a brief welcome to the person and an introduction of yourself.
Goodbye / Farewell Note
Farewell notes are written to bid goodbye to a person who is leaving a job or, perhaps, they are moving. A goodbye note should include a farewell to the person, as well as compliment the time that you have spent with the person. You should include your contact information and encourage the person to keep in touch.
Thank You Note
A thank you note is a note that briefly thanks someone for a job, favor, or gift. This should always include why you are thanking them. You should always compliment the person and let them know how much you truly appreciate them.
Get Well Soon Note
A get well soon note is sent to an ill person to let them know that you are thinking of them. It is most beneficial to send to family and close friends. Often, these are left for colleagues to collect upon their return to work. These notes should be brief and wish the person good feelings and thoughts in their time of need.
Business (Formal) Notes
A delivery note is a formal note that is sent with a shipment of goods. These notes describe the goods and also notates the quantity. These are crucial in the shipment of goods.
A promissory, or debt, note is a legal document that acts as a promise to pay a loan or a debt. Companies use these as a form of debt capital. These should always include the date, the name of the person who is paying the debt, the name of the person who is going to collect the debt, and the amount of debt. Should you be collecting interest, it is important to note the interest rate that will be accrued.
A credit note is a letter that is sent by a supplier to a customer that tells them they are being credited a certain amount. This can also be called a credit memo. These should always include the date, the name of the person that is receiving the credit, the name of the supplier, an explanation of why they are being credited this amount.
Meeting notes, or meeting minutes, are used to keep track of the important events that take place at a meeting. It is important to take main notes for a meeting and at least one person should forward them to anyone who was present. Meeting notes should include who was present at the meeting, and always note who was speaking. This helps to keep track of who is supposed to be responsible for what duties and helps to hold everyone accountable.
A demand note is a formal request for payment. These notes are written when someone owes a debt and has not repaid it or has lapsed in their payments. These notes should include the amount that should be paid. It is also important to include the date by which the debt needs to be repaid and any repercussions that could occur should the payment not be received.
In the U.S., a mortgage note is a debt note that is secured by a specified mortgage loan. These are written promises to repay the specified amount plus the interest rate. The amount, as well as the interest rate should be noted. It is also important to make sure the names of the mortgage company and the name of the person who has responsibility for the mortgage are mentioned.
A loan note is another type of debt note. A loan note is a contract that specifies when a loan must be repaid. It is important to always include who is responsible for the loan, when payments should be made, and who the payments should be paid to. The amount of the full loan, the amount of any agreed-upon payments, and the interest rate are also important to note within these notes.
A briefing note is a short note that quickly lets someone with authority know about an issue. This should include a subject line (always). It should also be dated and include the full extent of the issue that is arising. It is never a good idea to downplay an issue in a briefing note, in the instance that a situation becomes larger.
A retirement note is a note that is similar to a resignation note. This lets your employer know that you will be retiring. These notes should be dated, include the date which will be your final day, and your contact information. Your contact information should always be included so that coworkers who wish to stay in touch can stay in touch and anything that needs to be forwarded to you can be.