Writing Effectively at The World Health Organization

Levels of formality

Before you start drafting your correspondence, consider how formal it should be. The required level of formality is generally determined by the position of the correspondents (the reader, and either you as the writer or the person who will be signing the letter). We can separate WHO correspondence into two broad categories: informal and formal.

The correspondence you write at work is most likely to be informal memos, emails or letters; that is, day-to-day correspondence with people inside and outside WHO. The majority of WHO letters are informal letters of inquiry, request or information.

Formal letters may be addressed to heads of state, ministers of Member States, ambassadors or other dignitaries. Formal letters are usually about matters relating to the duties and responsibilities of the Director-General or a Regional Director. They are often signed by a Regional Director, the Assistant Director-General or the Director-General. Formal letters are governed by strict protocol rules and approval processes.

© WHO 2011