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Formal and Informal: Mastering Two Styles of Writing

It's said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. This is true not only for those who learn it as a second language but for those who speak it natively as well. There are so many subtle nuances, you can easily get lost if you don't have a roadmap. When it comes to writing, one of the most important distinctions to make is in tone. Do you want to write in an informal tone, or do you need a formal tone for the occasion? What's the difference?

 

It's said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. This is true not only for those who learn it as a second language but for those who speak it natively as well. There are so many subtle nuances, you can easily get lost if you don't have a roadmap. When it comes to writing, one of the most important distinctions to make is in tone. Do you want to write in an informal tone, or do you need a formal tone for the occasion? What's the difference?

The Formal Tone
If you've ever read Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica, you know what to expect from a formal style of writing. This type of writing is spare, streamlined, and usually stuffed with facts. Contractions are usually eliminated. Personality and voice are pushed to the background, if they are present at all. Instruction manuals, legal writing, hard news, and business letters are examples of various formal writing styles. When your goal is to dispense with familiarity or friendliness, you'll want to shoot for a formal writing style. 

The Informal Tone
Let's say you want to establish some level of rapport with your reader. You want them to come in, put their feet up, and let their hair down a little. You want your content to be read over a delicious cup of hot coffee. This is when you want to shoot for the informal style. You have a lot more leeway when you write informally. You'll still want to adhere to the rules of grammar, but you can loosen up your syntax. Use contractions, address the reader directly if you want, use slang, and keep things relatively simple. Some examples of informal writing include most bestselling novels, online blog posts, newspaper editorials, and friendly letters. 


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