How To Choose Between Formal Or Informal Writing Styles

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Formal Or Informal Writing Styles
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Numerous people often ask the question of what’s the difference between formal and informal writing styles and which to use. Of course, there are many factors to consider whenever you have to decide on how to choose between formal or informal writing styles. Deciding between either style depends on various issues which are addressed in this article. Since both languages serve a different purpose and address a distinctive audience, knowing when to use which is extremely important.



What’s The Difference?


As students, writers and people in general progress in their grammatical usage, they begin to think about writing styles, proper spelling and rules. This also applies to the question of “what’s the difference between formal and informal writing styles?” As opposed to some other grammar and spelling rules, choosing between the formal and informal writing language is not that complicated. However, before going over which of the two to choose and when to do so, we must first go over both of the styles and what they mean.


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Formal Writing Style:


Third Person – There is nothing personal about formal writing. The reason for this is because when writing in a formal style, the writer is disconnected from the topic. The writer also does not use either the first person’s point of view (such as We or I) nor do they use the second person (such as you).


Complex – In formal writing language, longer sentences tend to be more commonplace. This means that the writer needs to be as thorough as possible in their approach to each topic or issue they address. When using a formal style, every major suggestion, point or angle needs to be done in these three steps. Key points need to introduced, elaborated on, and finally, concluded.


Full Words – Unlike informal language, there are no contractions used in formal writing whenever the writer wishes to simplify their words. This means that words such as – it’s, you’re, can’t or won’t –  should be avoided. Furthermore, abbreviations should be spelt out completely when they are used. The one and only exception is when acronyms are better known than the full name. Examples: NATO, NFL or CEO.


Objective – When addressing your audience in formal writing, arguments should be given full support and main points need to be stated confidently and with conviction. Being as detailed and thorough as possible when addressing each topic is extremely important. Again, every individual point should be introduced, elaborated on and concluded completely.



Informal Writing Style:


Contractions and Abbreviations – When using an informal language to address your audience, the words used need to be simplified. This means making it as easier as possible for your reader to understand your point. Contractions such as – it’s, I’m, can’t, won’t, couldn’t, you’re – and others, can be used when necessary or needed. Also, abbreviations such as – ASAP, TV. pics, DOB – should be used as well.


Colloquial – The best way to think of the informal writing style is to see it a spoken conversation. This is because informal language can contain figure of speech, broken syntax, asides, slang and so on. The reason for this is that informal writing takes a personal tone. It is as if you – the writer or speaker – are speaking directly to your audience – the reader. You can speak to the reader using the second person such as – you and your. Also, you can use the first or third person’s point of view such as – I and we.



Simple – When making a point in informal language, short sentences are not only acceptable, they are actually necessary. Using incomplete sentences or ellipsis (…) to accentuate or point out your thoughts can and should be done.


Empathy and Emotion – Unlike formal writing, when using informal language, the author can show empathy and emotion towards the reader or audience. Being able to address the complexity of a thought and to explain it thoroughly using either is allowed and essential.


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Formal vs Informal Writing


The only real issue that remains is deciding which of the two styles to use or when. Deciding which of the languages to use largely depends on the audience you are addressing and the point you are trying to convey. Whenever you want to write a professional letter for work or something else, formal writing style should be used and it is highly recommended. It is very unprofessional to use contractions, slang and informal writing in scenarios such as these. If however, you are familiar with the person you are writing or addressing, then an informal style can be used. Emails tend to be less formal than paper-based communications. Still, when writing them, you should avoid using ‘text talk’ or slang unless you are really familiar with the recipient(s). In the end, if you are still unsure which style to use for a particular situation, stick to the formal as opposed to the informal. The latter is always the sure way to make sure you do not offend anyone or seem unprofessional in your tone.