The Difference Between Formal and Informal Writing?

Depending on to whom you’re writing, you’ll use more formal or more informal language. 

But what is the difference between formal and informal writing, you might ask?

We use informal writing when communicating with people we know well. It’s very much like the language we use when speaking. So it’s fairly relaxed and more personal. 

We use:

  • personal pronouns (“I”, “you”, “we”)
  • the active voice (“I know that …”)
  • shorter, simpler words (“extra” or “added”)
  • more contractions (“we’re”, “I’m” and “you’re”)
  • abbreviated words (“photos” and “TV”)
  • colloquial expressions (“No worries. That’s fine!”)
  • expressions of emotion and exclamations (“wow!”), and 
  • shorter and simpler sentences.

We use formal language when writing to people we don’t know well. It is more official and can seem rather cold at times.

We use:

  • impersonal pronouns (“it”, “they”)
  • the passive voice (“It is known that …”)
  • longer words (“additional”), and often
  • longer and more complex sentences (with more than one clause). 

We also avoid abbreviated words and contractions. So we write out the words in full, like “television” and “photographs”, and “we are”, “I am” and “you are”, and so on.

Do you struggle with writing in English? If so, what do you find most difficult?


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Foto Christine Sparks

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