Formal vs. Informal Language

The difference between formal and informal language
We use formal and informal language in different contexts. The two styles differ in relation to the choice of words, tone, and the manner in which words are put together.

Informal language is more personal and casual. Typically, it is used when conversing and interacting with family or friends, in relaxed scenarios; this communication could be either written or verbal, such as text messages and personal emails, in which we are not likely to ensure the use of correct grammar or complete sentences. Colloquialisms and jargons as well as an emotional tone can be used in informal language, as this style is used when interacting with people we are familiar and friendly with, and we do not need to be apprehensive about offending them.

Formal language, on the other hand, is less personal and is used in academic writing or professional and legal communication such as business emails or university assignments, and also in verbal communication (e.g., when delivering a lecture). Colloquialisms, contractions, or first person pronouns are avoided in formal language.

The following direct comparison between the two styles would provide greater clarity on their usage:

  1. Formal language is used for legal, business, or academic purposes, while informal language is used in personal or casual communication.
  2. A professional tone needs to be used in formal language, and an emotional tone should be avoided, whereas an emotional and personal tone can be used in informal communication.
  3. The use of slang is not considered polite in formal language, whereas slang is acceptable in informal language.
  4. The use of passive voice is preferred in formal language, while active voice can be used in informal language.
  5. In formal language, short coordinating conjunctions are avoided, while their usage is allowed in informal language.
  6. First and second person pronouns are avoided in formal language, while there are no such restrictions in informal language.

For further clarity, here are a few examples of formal and informal language usage:

Informal: I believe the results aren’t precise.

Formal: The results are not believed to be precise.

Informal: The patient got over her sickness.

Formal: The patient recovered from her sickness.

Informal: Lecturers count on students to attend classes regularly.

Formal: Lecturers expect students to attend classes regularly.

Informal: It rained cats and dogs on Tuesday.

Formal: It rained very heavily on Tuesday.

Informal: During the workshop, I asked the students to relate their experiences.

Formal: During the workshop, students were asked to relate their experiences.