When writing reports, essays, documents, and even letters, there are two forms of the English language that you can choose from: the formal and the informal. Both types serve different purposes. The tone of voice you use, your choice of words, and the way you combine them together to create a cacophony vary between these two types. Formal and informal writing have different intended audiences, and an effective writer gets to know his audience first before he can decide on how to talk to them.
This is why it is important that you know who you are writing for because you don’t want to speak to them with an inappropriate tone of voice. Formal language in writing is less personal than informal language. You can use them when you are writing for academic purposes, when making legal documents, when writing to professionals, for business writing, and for formal letters. It gives an air of authority and, of course, formality to what you are writing which is best for writing that involves serious issues and facts.
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Sample Formal Letter
Formal Email Writing Example.
Informal writing, on the other hand, is a lot like putting into writing the things that you say. It utilizes a more conversational form of the language. It creates an atmosphere that is casual and carefree. This tone of voice in writing is very much useful when corresponding with friends and families through writing. There are also certain types of academic writing where informality is acceptable such as in writing reaction papers or book reports because these papers tend to need a more subjective and more honest point of view and writing using a more informal tone can make the process easier and more effective.
Informal and formal writing are not guidelines on what is right and what is not. They are both acceptable. However, they are both acceptable for different settings. Think of it as a casual jean and shirt outfit and a suit and tie ensemble. Both are an accepted choice of clothing and both probably look good on you. But you wouldn’t wear jeans to, say, a job interview, right? Nor would you wear suit and tie to the beach.
Rules for Formal Writing
Informal and formal writing are simply choices given to you on how you would convey your different messages to different people. This is why it is important to know your audience because you can’t talk to all of them the same way. Tone and voice are very important elements in writing. They help create a general atmosphere for your paper that can highlight the points you are trying to convey.
Formal Essay Example
Understanding Formal Writing
This article discusses formal writing and all its complexities. However, we also need to touch on its counterpart, which is informal writing, to better distinguish and to get to know both. Here are the important things to remember about informal and formal writing:
- Formal writing does not use contractions the way informal writing does.
Formal: The orders cannot be delayed.
Informal: The orders can’t be delayed.
- Formal writing does not use phrasal verbs the way informal writing does.
Formal: The special guest did not arrive as expected.
Informal: The special guest didn’t show up as expected.
- Formal writing does not use slang or colloquialism the way informal writing does.
Formal: The actor was paid a considerable amount of money for the role.
The student decided that he cannot accomplish the task, so he decided to give it to someone else.
Informal: The actor was paid a lot of dough for the role.
He passed the buck to someone else.
- Formal writing does not use first person pronouns the way informal writing does.
Formal: A different method was considered for the study.
Informal: I considered to take a different method for the study.
Formal Writing Example
- Formal writing cannot involve emotions or empathy in the content of their paper the way informal writing can.
Formal: Simply state the facts that you have gathered and any additional information about it that you want to include. There is no need to tell your audience about your struggles and feelings because formal writing is not an avenue for sensations.
Informal: I had a hard time in constructing my paper’s body since the topic is a little confusing.
- Formal writing utilizes long sentences to be able to express a point more thoroughly. Informal writing is less complex than that.
Formal: The onlookers were disturbed and appalled by the distorted lifeless body that was left on the crime scene.
Informal: We saw the body of the murdered guy earlier and it was disgusting!
- Formal writing is very objective and, as aforementioned, does not incorporate emotions into writing. It also does not use emotive punctuation such as exclamation points.
Formal: The murderer of the 65-year-old resident of the quite town has been sentenced to a lifetime of servitude in jail.
Informal: Personally, I think that what the murderer did to that man is ruthless to say the least. He deserves to rot in jail.
Formal Writing Page Example
Acronyms and initialism can be present in both formal and informal writing. If your intended audience is informal, and you think they can understand your terminologies perfectly, then acronyms and initials are accepted. However, the process will be a little tricky for formal writing. The first time that you mention a name, make sure that you introduce it in full.
Do this for perhaps two times in the first parts of your paper. For the next times, you can already use the initial or acronym for it. This is important so that you can make sure that your audiences have already retained in their memory the full definition of the acronym so that they won’t have to look for it again. For plural forms of your acronyms and initials, just add an apostrophe and a small letter s after it.
Formal Report Format
The Rules of Formal Writing
Actually, think of these as something closer to guidelines rather than rules. They will not limit your writing. They will only make it better. These are the things that you should constantly strive to remember when you are using formal language in your writing.
- Sentences should be complex to be able to convey your message in a striking one-liner. Verbosity is encouraged as long as it helps you state everything in a clear and concise manner. And be as specific as possible. Formal writing, as mentioned already, states facts and truths. Which means that no detail is ever too small or too insignificant to be mentioned. Every single one is necessary for thorough comprehension in the part of your reader.
- Use words that are sophisticated. This does not mean that you should only use big, difficult words. In fact, that is highly discouraged since our aim here is to relay a message and using close to incomprehensible words won’t help us in this goal. An effective trick to do this is to picture how the people in the Victorian era talk. Notice how magical and mesmerizing they sound even when they tell you that “your countenance is not very appealing to the eye”? This is what you want to achieve in your formal writing. Formality with sophistication. Who knew that even insults could sound so endearing?
- Be literal. When you want to say that someone died, state it plainly. If you want to say how disappointed you are, go ahead and say it. There is no need for metaphors and euphemisms because this is not a poem. Be straight and factual. Flowery words will not help you make a point. They can only make your paper unnecessarily lengthy, and length is not the a major qualification in formal writing. It’s not even a qualification at all. If you want to use flowery words, use it with limitations. And make sure that, in utilizing it, you are actually bettering your paper and not simply making it loquacious.
- You should have a clear reason for writing which should be stated in your thesis statement. Without a purpose, what will your writing be? Plus, a concise thesis statement can make the difference between your audience being intrigued and curious, and being uninterested. It condenses your paper’s whole reason for existence. Your thesis statement should be in response of “What questions do I want to answer?” It introduces the issue that you are going to build on. It gives your audience and readers a glimpse into what they are going to be dealing with.
- Use standard spelling, which means that using words like LOL is more than unacceptable. Slang is an abomination to formal writing. Refer to the dictionary to learn about spellings that are accepted (if you don’t already know). Visualize a businessman in a meeting. Would he use the word LOL while discussing to his colleagues about a new marketing strategy? No. And since you are trying to speak his language, observe the same.
- Use standard punctuation. If you’re emailing or texting a friend (ha! examples of informal writing), you might be inclined to use too many periods or question marks than necessary. (A pro tip, one is enough.) Avoid doing the same when writing formally. By using standard punctuation, you are abiding to what is universally accepted to be right. Although using too many periods is technically not wrong, it is, however, inappropriate.
- You should properly cite your references. If you are writing a report or a technical paper, references are often necessary to help you prove a point. By citing a professional in the field related to your topic, you are basically asking someone to back you up in your arguments. But if you don’t mention their contribution to your study, it would be like claiming their idea as your own and this is the worst crime that a person can commit. Plus, if you don’t cite the names of authors or book titles of your references, how can you prove that they really exist and not just something you’ve made up to help you in your research? References can also help your readers do further readings which can help them learn more about the topic.
- Use the active voice as much as possible because it is considered to be more clear and more direct. Choosing to use the passive voice would make your sentence seem weak and unsure.
- Avoid repetition and redundancy. First of all, why would you feel the need to repeat things you’ve just said? Are you trying to emphasize a point or do you simply have nothing more to say? Redundancy is annoying. And it won’t help you get anywhere. Know where you are going with your writing and find the shortest, easiest way to get there. Another pro tip, it is not through repetition.
- Do not exaggerate. State things the way they are. Exaggeration would alter the facts that you are trying to convey which destroys the whole purpose of your writing. Plus, exaggeration is only acceptable when you are trying to create a picture in someone else’s mind. Formal writing does not need imagism. It relies on cold, hard facts stated plainly.
- Avoid cliches. One thing that is more annoying that redundancy are cliches. Especially if you have chosen one so clearly overused. Use your own words as much as possible. Why do you have to copy one that has been repeatedly employed in thousands of written works since ever? Using cliches can create the impression that you’re too lazy to write things in your own terms that you felt the need to borrow a couple from someone else.
- Basically, you shouldn’t put into formal writing the things that you would normally say in a daily conversation. Save all that for informal writing.
Formal vs. Informal Writing
Formal Report on Time Management
Important Things to Note When Writing Formally
When in doubt, follow the recipe: introduce, discuss, conclude. Although this is the simplest trio in writing, it has never failed anyone yet. Which is not at all that surprising since writing doesn’t have to be complicated. You state your point, expound on it, and arrive at a conclusion.
Do not stray from your thesis statement. Writers are guilty of the occasional nonsensical talk. It’s true, there are a lot of things you can talk about in writing and you may get carried away. But if these things do not help you cement your paper’s main point, then there is no use in mentioning it.
Be careful with transitions. Which simply means that your next paragraph should support or continue your last. This will make your paper well-developed and well-structured which can help guide your reader into better understanding it.
Formal Report Writing
When you have decided on what to write about, choose who to write it for. From there, you can decide how to express it all in writing. Remember the (tedious) rules we’ve discussed above and you’ll find yourself talking and writing formally effortlessly.