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In the first part to this post, we looked at what are the differences between formal or informal Italian in writing, and in what situations it is necessary to use either. We also introduced the idea of semi-formal written Italian which is especially useful in today’s digital world. This form is often used when writing to people you don’t know over alternative (not letters, or email) communication channels.

Today, we’ll take a more practical approach to introducing writing in Italian, and compare the differences in using formal, informal, or semi-formal language in either letters, emails, or other forms of written communication.

Opening Salutations

Language: Formal

Method: traditional letter on paper, email

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

If you’re writing to a man:

Gentilissimo Sig. Marco Rossi, or Gent.mo Sig. Marco Rossi,

If you’re writing to a woman:

Gentilissima Sig.ra Marta Rossi, or Gent.ma Sig.ra Marta Rossi,

Language: Informal

Method: traditional letter on paper, email, text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are in confidence

Ciao Marco,

come stai?

or

Ciao Marta,

come va?

It is always very nice to open our letter asking our friends how things are going in their life.

Language: Semi-Formal

Method: text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

Gentilissimo Marco,

come sta?

or

Gentilissima Marta

come sta?

This is a real mixture of formal and informal language which sounds direct but respectful.

Body of the Letter

Language: Formal

Method: traditional letter in paper, email

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

Sono il Sig. Paolo Bianchi, l’architetto della palazzina B, e Le scrivo perché La vorrei invitare alla riunione di condominio della prossima settimana.

If this is the first time you write to someone, the first thing to do is to briefly introduce yourself. After a short introduction, make clear the reason why you are writing.

In most cases, you will need more than two lines to write about the reason of your letter. In this case, try to be concise and to separate the body of your letter into paragraphs.

Remember to use Lei when the recipient of your message is a single person (for both, a man and a woman) and Voi when the recipient of your message is a company and the person you are writing to is just the spokesperson. Both Lei and Voi (and their relative pronouns) always need the capital letter.

Language: Informal

Method: traditional letter in paper, email, text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are in confidence

Lunedì prossimo festeggio il mio compleanno in pizzeria. Che fai, vieni?

You are writing to a friend, so you are free to use the language which best fits with your relationship. You can formulate direct questions as well.

Language: Semi-Formal

Method: text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

La prossima settimana c’è la festa di chiusura dell’anno accademico. Se non ha altri impegni, sarebbe bello averla tra gli invitati.

Here again an excellent example of a mixture between formal and informal language. Although Lei is used, the invitation is very direct.

Letter Conclusions

Language: Formal

Method: traditional letter on paper, email

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

In attesa di un Suo gentile riscontro, Le porgo i più cordiali saluti.

Serena Verdi

or

Ringraziando La per l’attenzione, Le porgo distinti saluti.

Serena Verdi

Remember to sign the letter with your name and surname.

Language: Informal

Method: traditional letter in paper, email, text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are in confidence

Fammi sapere se vieni.

Ciao,

Serena

or

Ti aspetto. Non mancare!

Ciao,

Sere

In your informal letter you can shorten your name as well as the name of your friend. In this example, Serena is now Sere.

Language: Semi-Formal

Method: text message, chat message

Recipient: people with whom you are not in confidence

Le auguro una buona serata.

A presto,

Serena

Although the closing of your semi-formal message must always be very polite, your last regards can be direct and you can sign using only your first name (but not in short version).

Other Useful Tips

Since Italian nouns, articles and adjectives have genders and grades, be sure to check the gender and the grades of the word you are writing before sending your letter.

Moreover, before writing your formal letter take some times to read as many samples as possible. This is a really time consuming task. However, it will help you to find the language which best fits with your personality as well as with the message you want to deliver. A Latin proverb says: “Verba volant, scripta manent” which means: “Spoken words fly away, written words remain“. So, take your time to make sure what remains from your written word, is worth it.

This post was written by Marzia P, our Italian teacher in Rome.


Sign up for lessons with her here:

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