Formal Vs Informal Writing: The Simple Guide

You’ve probably heard about formal and informal writing styles. There is actually a huge debate over “formal vs informal writing”. And when it comes to the informal vs formal writing, people can’t seem to agree on what they mean and when to use them. In this blog article, we will do our best to shed some light on this matter. We will explain both styles and show you when to use each. We’ll also talk about contractions from the perspective of formal writing. If you are looking for the best formal vs. informal writing examples, you can find some at the bottom of the page, of course.

The Simple Formal Language Definition

Why the formal vs informal writing debate? It’s not so difficult to define these two styles. Let’s start with the formal language definition. What is formal writing? To put it simply, formal writing is the style you use when you write in a professional manner. In other words, you will use this style when you write a cover letter, a white paper, an essay, a legal brief, and even an email. It depends on who the email is addressed to, of course. When writing your professors, for instance, writing a formal letter is mandatory. Here are some of the main characteristics of the formal writing style:

  • Abbreviations are used only after the thing they stand for is spelled. For example: “The Internal Revenue Service is changing its policy. According to the IRS, the sales tax…”
  • Remember that you should never use colloquialisms in formal writing.
  • You should avoid using first and second person, if possible. Here is an informal sentence, as an example: “I asked the mayor about the new bill and he said he’ll look into it.” Here is the same sentence in formal style: “When asked about the new bill, mayor Roland Keyes said that the appropriate committee will analyze it.”
  • Another difference between formal and informal writing is that you are prohibited from using slang and contractions.

What Is Informal Writing?

It’s now time to talk about informal writing, also called colloquial writing, for a bit. What is informal writing? It is very easy to define informal writing. It is the style you use when you talk to your friends or with people in an informal setting. It is the style you use on instant messaging systems, for example. You are free to include broken syntax, slang, figures of speech, contractions, and asides. Informal writing takes a personal tone, just like the one you would use when you are addressing your audience directly. And yes, there is also such a thing as informal letter writing. If you are writing a letter to a loved one or a friend, there is no need to use formal language. In this case, the informal writing style is perfectly acceptable.

Formal vs Informal Writing: Which to Use and When

We hope we’ve answered the “what is formal and informal writing” question. But what is the difference between formal and informal writing? The truth is that we’ve already discussed some of the differences already – if you’ve been paying attention. Formal writing bans the use of slang, colloquialisms and contractions. The use of first and second person is not prohibited, but you should avoid it when possible. However, there is a much more important difference between informal and formal writing: your audience. Formal writing should be used whenever you are dealing with a serious situation or with people you don’t know. It is also used in academic papers, press releases, emails to clients, and so on.

Here are some examples of informal writing:

  1. He’s decided to refuse the job.
  2. Went to Spain last weekend. Tell you all about it soon.
  3. I’ve started to talk about the car.
  4. I think we’ll end this contract.
  5. Can I suggest you give the S600 a try?

And here are the same examples in informal style:

  1. He has decided to refuse the job proposal.
  2. We went to Spain last weekend. We have a lot to tell you.
  3. I have commenced discussing the vehicle.
  4. Unfortunately, we are forced to terminate this contract.
  5. Might I suggest you try the S600 model?

These formal and informal writing examples should help you understand the main difference between the two styles. Of course, there are cases when you need to use an even more formal language. If you’ve written academic papers, you know what we’re talking about. However, you will not be required to use such a formal style in many other situations.

A Word on Contractions in Formal Writing

As you’ve probably noticed, you can use first and second person when necessary in both formal and informal writing (even though you should avoid it in the formal style). When it comes to contractions, things are different. You should never use contractions in formal writing, period. Using contractions in formal writing demonstrates instantly that you don’t know how to use the style. It is a sign of unprofessionalism. Keep in mind that some people are very strict about formal writing rules. In case of an essay, you are required to use formal language from start to finish. Any contractions or colloquialisms will be punished harshly by your professor.

Is Formal Writing Difficult to Master?

When we see a debate about formal versus informal writing, the difficulty of writing in formal style is often brought up. However, don’t worry too much about it. People who say that formal writing is too complex and difficult to understand have probably never written in this style. Not correctly, at least. If you need to write an email and don’t know how to do it, just take a look at some formal writing examples. These examples are also extremely helpful if you need to write an essay, of course.

There are several formal writing styles you can use: neutral, slightly formal, very formal. There aren’t many differences between them. The neutral form is closer to the informal style and doesn’t use complex words and lengthy phrasing. Very formal style, on the other hand, requires you to use a professional, official tone. You also need to make sure you write in passive voice and using formulaic language. The sentences are long and complex. Usually, very formal style is used in business and legal writing.

It is up to you to decide whether you need to use formal or informal language. Depending on your audience, you may choose one or the other. There is no such thing as “formal informal writing”. It is either formal or informal, period. Mixing the two will result in very awkward phrasing, as you can imagine.

The informal style is easy to master. You’ve been using it since you began to write. Formal writing is much more difficult though, especially when we’re talking about an academic paper. The good news is that you can easily get help with your essays online. All you have to do is find a reliable, trustworthy academic writing company. And did you know that their professional writers can help you write an exceptional formal email or even a resume? It’s not a bad idea to get a bit of help when you need it!

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