Business English Podcast
Episode 4: Customer Service & Formal and Informal English
Formal and Informal English
Main ways of being formal:
- Tone of voice
1: Formal and Informal English : Vocabulary
- There’s a range. For example:
|Very formal (often antiquated)
|‘sup? / What’s the craic? / Story?
|Hi / Hey
- Formal words often sound like Latin (and so Spanish, French, etc)
Please proceed to gate 12 Go
What time would be convenient? Handy /Good
At what time does it commence? Start
- Phrasal verbs are almost always informal/neutral
Look into investigate
Make up invent
Do up renovate
Look over review
- Formal vocabulary tends to be similar across different English countries but slang changes hugely, often from city to city or generation to generation
“A man” might be: a bloke / a dude / a fellow / a lad / a geezer / etc
- Very formal language is much more common in written English than spoken (e.g. reports, emails, proposals, etc for work)
There are lots of fixed phrases we rarely use in spoken English, especially in emails. E.g
To whom it may concern / Dear Sir / Yours Sincerely / etc
With reference to / Regarding your recent inquiry…
I look forward to…
- Finally, there’s how we address people – Jane v Ms Murray v Dr Murray, etc
2: Formal and Informal English : Grammar / Sentence Structure
Another thing we can do to be formal English is change the sentence structure. We often use modal verbs or conditional structures or we make things into questions so it sounds more polite.
Help me -> Would you mind helping me?
Can I have some time off? -> Would it be possible to get some time off?
Can I open a window -> May I open a window?
3: Formal and Informal English: Tone of Voice
In many ways this is the most important way of sounding formal or informal.
“Go over there, please” could be formal or informal depending on how you say it (just adding please isn’t enough!)
So, let’s have a look at all of this in relation to customer service. When dealing with a client or customer you need to be polite and relatively formal (depending on the type of job)
How can I help you?
Are you alright? (a phrase students often get confused by)
What can I do for you?
Explaining / Selling
If I could interest you in X
Could you tell me what are you looking for exactly?
Do you need me to explain anything again?
If you could just follow me over here
If I could ask you to sign here
Would you mind waiting here for a moment?
If you’ll just take a seat, I’ll call Mr O’Dea
I’m very sorry but…
I’m afraid that…
That’s not available at the moment, unfortunately, but what I can do is…
Thanks again for everything
Very nice to meet you / meeting you
I’ll be in touch
All the best / Take care
For more on this topic, check out this BBC video on youtube.