Language to Show Status

Aims: this exercise is to help you understand how different statuses in a company, for example boss to employee and employee to boss, are shown in writing. It would be rude to use the wrong language, for example, boss to employee language, when talking to someone of higher status than you.

Instructions: Read the e-mail and then answer the questions:


  1. Do you think Sally is senior, junior or approximately equal to David?
    [See Answer]
  2. Which parts of the text that indicate this?
    [See Answer]
  3. Although it is not necessary for names to be included in an e-mail (since they are written at the top), Sally has done this. Why?
    [See Answer]
  4. Why has Sally used numbered points in this e-mail?
    [See Answer]
  5. What are the examples of informal language in the e-mail?
    [See Answer]

<< Link to the previous exercise, on Formality in Memos


Re: Banning smoking

I'd like you to look into the health and safety issues relating to smoking in the company's office, specifically:
1. What are the current regulations regarding smoking in the workplace?
2. What are other companies like ours doing re. smoking?
3. a. Can we introduce a ban on smoking in this company?
b. If we can, what procedure do we need to follow?
Could you please get back to me before next week's Senior Management meeting on .

















































a. Sally is senior to David. [Why?]
[Back to the Questions]
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b. Words that show that Sally is senior to David include:

  • 'David'. A junior or equal would use 'Dear David' or 'Hi David' instead, because longer expressions are more polite.
  • 'I'd like you to...' This is not a request, it is a polite order. A junior or equal would have to use a more polite request, such as 'I would be grateful if...' ('if' shows tentativity, which is polite) or 'Would you mind _ing...'
  • 'Could you please get back to me' is another polite order. It is polite as the deadline is only 7 days away.
  • Sally will be attending the Senior Management meeting, so she is probably a senior manager. 
    [Back to the Questions]

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c. Sally has included names in the e-mail because:

  • Names in e-mail addresses can be hard to understand. 
  • the formality of names in e-mail addresses is fixed, but if you use names in the e-mail message you can select the formality that you think is correct for this situation
  • leaving out the names would make the message too impersonal, which would not be good for Sally and David's inter-personal relationship
  • there may be more than one 'S.Suen' in a big company. Using more descriptive names in the e-mail avoids confusion.
    [Back to the Questions]

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d. Sally has used numbered points in the e-mail to:

  • to make the organisation of the e-mail clearer
  • give David an organisational structure for his report
    [Back to the Questions]

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e. The informal language includes:

  • "look into" - this is informal because it is a phrasal verb
  • "Cheers" - an informal version of 'Thank you.' This e-mail and the instructions are quite formal, so at the end Sally wants to be less formal to maintain her less formal relationship with David.
    [Back to the Questions]


























Last updated on: Monday, March 26, 2012