Formal Business English Phrases

When writing a business letter or when e-mailing a business contact who we don’t know well, we use more formal English. Today you’ll learn how to transform casual, conversational English into more formal business English.

If you’re learning English for your career, make sure to check out my Business English Course, with 40 practical lessons!

Informal: I want to talk to you about the project.

More formal: I would like to discuss the project with you.

  • “I would like” is a more polite way to express what you want
  • “discuss” is a more formal way to say “talk about.” Note that we don’t use “about” after “discuss.”
  • Note the prepositions: you can “talk TO someone ABOUT something,” but you “discuss something WITH someone.”

Informal: I’ll get in touch soon.

More formal: I will contact you shortly.

  • In more formal business communication, we avoid contractions (short forms) like “I’ll” – so that’s why it is changed to “I will.”
  • “Get in touch” is an informal way to say “contact.”
  • “Soon” is also OK to use in business English, but “shortly” is another alternative that makes it sound a little more formal

Informal: You need to send in your application by June 30.

More formal: It is necessary to submit your application by June 30.

  • “It is necessary” is a more formal/indirect way to talk about needs and requirements
  • “Submit” is a more formal way to say “send in”

Informal: Sorry it’s taking forever.

More formal: We apologize for the delay.

  • It’s common to use “sorry” in conversational English, but in more formal business communication, use “We apologize” (if you are speaking on behalf of a group or company) or “I apologize” if you are speaking for yourself
  • “it’s taking forever” is an informal way to exaggerate the length of the wait (essentially, saying it is taking a VERY long time). In business English, the word “delay” is a better choice.

Informal: I promise to fix the problem right away.

More formal: I assure you that I will resolve the issue as soon as possible.

  • “I assure you” is a more formal way to promise things.
  • Describing a problem as an “issue” helps minimize the negative connotations associated with the word “problem,” and “resolve” or “solve” can be used as a more formal word for “fix.”
  • “Right away” means “now” or “in the very near future.” In business English, it’s better to say “as soon as possible” or “immediately.”

Informal: Don’t forget that you need to pay us by Friday.

More formal: We would like to remind you that payment is due by Friday.

  • In everyday English, we tell people “Don’t forget” – but in business English, “We would like to remind you” is a more polite way to help someone remember something.
  • If something is “due” on or before a certain date, it means it must be finished or completed before that time.

 

Informal: Also, please give us a list of your products.

More formal: In addition, please provide us with a list of your products.

  • When speaking informally, it’s common to start a sentence with “Also,” “Plus,” or “And” to add information. In more formal business English, “In addition” sounds better.
  • “Provide” is a little more formal than the common verb “give.” Note the prepositions: someone gives YOU something, but someone provides you WITH something.

Informal: See you later.

More formal: I look forward to seeing you.

  • When you are anticipating seeing someone in the future, say “See you later” informally to friends. In business communication, it’s better to say “I look forward to seeing you.”