Formal and Informal Writing: What’s the difference?


We can communicate with people in different ways. We need to know our audience before communicating with someone. We should have a purpose to communicate and we should know what we want to communicate. We can communicate with the audience by writing or speaking. Written communication has two styles of writing i.e. formal writing style and informal writing style.

What kind of writing style we should use to communicate depends on our target audience and purpose of communication. If we want to communicate with friends or relatives, we should adopt informal writing style. If our target audience is a co-worker, stranger or person in authority; we should go for formal writing style. If our purpose of communication is to entertain, we should be informal. If our purpose of communication is to persuade, we should be formal. We can either be formal or informal while providing information depending on our target audience.

There are many differences between formal and informal writing which we should know to communicate effectively with our audience. Following are 14 rules which illustrates the difference between formal and informal writing:

Rule No. 1

Colloquial expressions/words can be used in informal writing. For example: guy, awesome and kids etc.

Colloquial expressions should be avoided in formal writing . We should use words like man, wonderful and children in formal writing.

Rule No. 2

Contractions can be used in informal writing. For example: can’t, won’t and shouldn’t etc.

Contractions should be avoided in formal writing . We should use full form of words. For example: can not, will not and should not etc.

Rule No. 3

Vague pronouns may be used in informal writing. There are two common kinds of vague pronoun reference. The first occurs when there is more than one word that the pronoun might refer to; the second, when the reference is to a word that is implied but not explicitly stated.

Formal writer should avoid beginning a sentence with It, But, So, And, This or vague pronouns.

Rule No. 4

Cliches may be used in informal writing. For Example: loads of and conspicuous by absence etc.

Cliches should be avoided in formal writing. Raining like cats and dogs, over the hill, back against the wall and under the gun are some examples of cliches.

Rule No. 5

First person, second person and third person can be used in informal writing. Readers may be addressed in second person as you or your’s.

Readers are addressed in third person in formal writing with exception of business letters where first person may be used. Reader may be addressed using one, one’s, the reader or the reader’s.

Rule No. 6

Abbreviations can be used in informal writing. For Example: TV, photo

Abbreviations, symbols or slang should be avoided in formal writing. Following abbreviations are considered offensive in formal writing:

& = and; with = w/, because = b/c; without = w/o

Some examples of internet and texting slangs are: d/l =download, OMG! = Oh My God! ; LOL = Laugh Out Loud

Rule No. 7

Informal writing requires clear and concise thesis statement.

Thesis statement should be clear and rationale in formal writing.

Rule No. 8

Imperative narration may be used in informal writing. For example: Remember…………..

Polite voice should be used in formal writing. For example: Please refer to……………

Rule No. 9

Active voice is used in informal writing. Example: The teacher graded the paper.

Passive voice may be used in formal writing. For example: The paper was graded/the paper was graded by the teacher.

Rule No. 10

Rhetorical questions are commonly used in informal writing. Example: How could I be so stupid? 

Rhetorical questions must be avoided if you are writing a formal essay or response.

Rule No. 11

Simple and short sentences should be used in informal writing.

Complex, related and long sentences should be used in formal writing.

Rule No. 12

Difficult subjects should be explained to the audience with full empathy in informal writing.

Points should be stated confidently in formal writing and arguments should be backed up with firm evidence.

Rule No. 13

Oxymorons and pleonasms are acceptable in informal writing.

Oxymorons and pleonasms ahould not be used in formal writing.

Rule No. 14

Direct quotes and indirect quotes should not be overused in formal writing as compared to informal writing. 



About ibrahimsaleem

Ibrahim Saleem is a highly skilled professional who is well-versed with Web Content Writing and Client Relationship Management. He is an MBA in Marketing and is very well familiar with the terms associated with business. He is a man with positive attitude who does not like to miss opportunities.
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