Correct doesn’t mean Formal; it just means Professional

When I was explaining Mailfixer to a long-time client and senior member of his field, he responded by saying "Oh – so you make the writing formal". I immediately answered "No! We make it correct, we make it professional".

In actual fact, it’s because of this kind of misperception that people struggle to get the nuances of professionally-written English emails correct, even when their grasp of English writing might be quite good. I thought it was probably worth exploring the difference between correct and formal when it comes to communication.

What Do “Professional” and “Formal” Really Mean?

Before defining what distinguishes the two, let’s take a brief look at what each concept implies. “Professional” means that you’re acting in a business-like manner, while “formal” is used to refer to a person who is acting with the highest levels of etiquette. The dictionary uses words like “courteous” to describe the former and “official or important” when illustrating the latter.

Try to visualize it the way you might clothing: a person might wear a suit to work every day and perhaps even the same suit to a special event. The nuance is in the accessories: the high heel vs. the flat shoe, the tote bag vs. the evening clutch, an open shirt vs. tie or even a bow tie – subtle yet crucial differences that respond to social norms. It’s the same with communication. A correctly-written email doesn’t mean formal, nor does it mean losing your voice and personality. But it will ensure that you present yourself in a positive, professional light.

Correct Doesn’t Mean Formal; It Just Means Professional

When it comes to writing, the difference between professional and formal is even more nuanced than the difference in clothing. A casual text can still sound professional if it is grammatically correct, uses the proper level of vocabulary and is well formatted. You don’t have to send an email that feels unnatural if you already have a good relationship with a colleague or a client, but making sure that your email is well written makes it easier for them to read it and it will shape their perception of you - highly professional, trust worthy and reliable; that you really do care.

Why Does it Matter?

The tone of your email needs to match your purpose and your preferred outcome. If you are trying to establish a business relationship or acquire a customer, poor grammar and spelling will most often lead to dismissal no matter what you say, because it looks like you just don’t care. Emails need not be formal but they must be well composed. Making sure that your communication is correct, easy to read and in the appropriate tone, will not only help you project the right image of yourself and of your business, it will engage the reader so that you receive your desired response. Which is basically our bottom line.

How Does Mailfixer Help?

Our native-English speaking Mailfixers have been trained to spot and fix the little and big mistakes and nuances that can make your email seem less than professional. Beyond basic punctuation and grammatical errors that can be picked and corrected by various technological tools, Mailfixers have been trained to use the most appropriate manner to engage your respondent, opt for the precise vocabulary to localize your language, and elaborate or even downplay details to establish the appropriate context. Mailfixers have also been trained to preserve your voice and tone. With Mailfixer’s help, your emails will be polished, professional and correct, all serving to enhance the sentiment that you’re trying to convey.

By Ronit Zimmer, first published on March 24, 2016 on