Register and Style

Academic writing has a level of formality, and it is sometimes difficult for the non-native speaker of English to recognise the differences in register and style of the language. The section covers some of the differences in style and register.

Introduction

When discussing the register of a word, we refer to the use of language for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting, that is, its level of formality. The English language is no exception when it comes to language variation and style and it is important to recognise the differences and just as important to know the differences.

Consider the table below and the grade differences ranging from very formal to casual in salutations and closures in both spoken and written discourse.

Very formal

Formal

Neutral

Informal

Very informal, casual

How do you do

Hello

Hello

Hi

What's up! / Hey!

An important feature of writing at university is its style and register. The choice of register for a particular text or part of text will vary depending on the genre and who will be reading the text. Therefore, knowing the targeted audience before starting the writing process, will have an impact on the stylistic choices.

When referring to register in writing, the choices are usually 'familiar', 'informal', 'formal' and 'ceremonial'. However, the two registers that are commonly crossed in academic writing are generally between formal and informal; therefore, a standard guideline of the stylistic differences between the two have been provided, plus a simple guide of cross registering examples.

Style in writing generally refers to the choices in vocabulary and the accuracy of their use in the written text.