Formal vs. informal

There is a clear difference in register between 'familiar' and 'ceremonial' styles. However, academic writing may require some cross registering with 'informal' and 'formal' styles; therefore, it is important to understand the differences in the language used and when cross registering is possible.

The following provides comparative examples of the two registers.

  • Formal language makes use of complex sentence structures

(1) In 2001, the bridge was built. This was good politically. Two countries united. = Informal

(2) The bridge was completed in 2001, which resulted in a positive political move that united two countries. = Formal

  • Formal language does not use contractions

(3) When considering staffing in hospitals in the future, it's difficult not be concerned. = Informal

(4) When considering staffing in hospitals in the future, it is difficult not be concerned. = Formal

  • Formal language is objective

(5) I think/believe that the issue of global warming will be the primary concern at the meeting. = Informal

(6) There is little doubt/It is clear that  the issue of global warming will be the primary concern at the meeting. =Formal

  • Formal language does not use colloquialisms (language which is common to spoken English)

(7) Sweden's Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, totally flipped out when he read the latest report from the press. = Informal

(8) The Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, expressed his concern when he viewed the most recent report from the press. = Formal

  • Formal language focuses more on vocabulary choice

(9) The research assistant checked out the incident and got back to him the next day. = Informal

(10) The research assistant investigated the incident and reported to him the following day. = Formal

  • Formal language makes use of the discipline specific vocabulary

(11) Germs grow well in dirty and warm temperatures. = Informal

(12) Bacteria thrive in unhygienic and warm conditions.= Formal