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Extended Essay: Formal vs. Informal Writing

  • Extended Essay- The Basics
  • Step 1. Choose a Subject
  • Step 2. Educate yourself!
  • Using Brainstorming and Mind Maps
  • Identify Keywords
  • Do Background Reading
  • Define Your Topic
  • Conduct Research in a Specific Discipline
  • Step 5. Draft a Research Question
  • Step 6. Create a Timeline
  • Find Articles
  • Find Primary Sources
  • Get Help from Experts
  • Search Engines, Repositories, & Directories
  • Databases and Websites by Subject Area
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography
  • Advice (and Warnings) from the IB
  • Chicago Citation Syle
  • MLA Works Cited & In-Text Citations
  • Step 9. Set Deadlines for Yourself
  • Step 10. Plan a structure for your essay
  • Evaluate & Select: the CRAAP Test
  • Conducting Secondary Research
  • Conducting Primary Research
  • Formal vs. Informal Writing
  • Presentation Requirements
  • Evaluating Your Work

Differences Between Informal and Formal Essays

When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone.  The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. See the box below for examples of the differences in tone in informal and formal essays written on identical topics. A PDF of this chart, and the examples below, is in the box to the right , along with a list of tips for avoiding colloquial writing.

Examples of Informal and Formal Tone in Essay Writing

The following examples highlight the differences between formal and informal tone.

Language B - English

  • Formal vs. Informal Writing A chart giving the differences between informal and formal essays in seven areas (author's viewpoint; subject/content (sources of evidence); tone; structure; location of the research question; vocabulary; and purpose. Also included are examples comparing informal and formal writing for essays in English, biology, and psychology.
  • How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing While it may be acceptable in friendly e-mails and chat rooms, excessive colloquialism is a major pitfall that lowers the quality of formal written text. Here are some steps/tips that you can follow to help improve your overall writing.
  • << Previous: Plagiarism
  • Next: Presentation Requirements >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 2, 2024 1:39 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.westsoundacademy.org/ee

Formal vs. Informal Writing: A Complete Guide

Daniel Potter

A key part of clear communication is considering your audience. How well you know them, and how casual it’s appropriate to be with them, will affect every word from your salutation to your sign-off, so let’s unpack the difference between formal and informal language.

Deciding how formal your writing needs to be is a bit like choosing an outfit. You need to know whether you’re headed to a backyard barbecue or a red carpet gala. A poor choice will make you stick out, and not in a pleasing way. We’ll start with some definitions and examples of formal vs. informal writing style, then elaborate on where each can serve you best.

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

What’s informal language?

Informal language is how you communicate with people you know well and can relax around. It tends to resemble the way people converse out loud more than formal writing does, and it may feature more contractions (“they’re” instead of “they are”) as well as slang, abbreviations, and expressions of emotion—even exclamations!

As an example, you might use informal language when sending a quick invitation to some friends:

Hey fam, we’re hosting a brunch thing at our place this Sunday morning say 10:30-ish. Hope you can make it! xo

That said, just because they’re your friends doesn’t mean you’ll never write to them formally. For instance, if you’re working on an invitation fancy enough to consider employing a calligrapher and the word “fête,” chances are you’ll want a more formal greeting than “hey y’all.”

Define formal language

You might think of formal language as the snappy blazer to informal writing’s t-shirt. It’s more serious, and features more buttoned-up construction, longer words, and little to no slang. A professional might use it to write a cover letter , business proposal, white paper, or legal brief.

Formal writing tends to use abbreviations only after first spelling out what they stand for. And where exclamations are fine in informal settings, they’re frowned upon for formal writing. 

The same goes for the first and second person—notably, pronouns like “I” and “you.” Here’s an example in which the formal version writes around the word “I” by using the passive voice:

Informal: I asked the mayor about earthquake preparedness, and he said we haven’t done enough to be ready.

Formal: When asked about earthquake preparedness, Mayor Kim said the city has more work to do.

Formal language sometimes gets panned for being full of stilted, winding sentences, but there’s no rule saying it always has to be mind-meltingly bland or as opaque as a Terms of Service agreement. Examples abound of it being memorable and funny. That’s true even on the level of Supreme Court opinions, like this one by Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Notwithstanding nightmarish images of out-of-control flatware, livestock run amok, and colliding tubas disturbing the peace and quiet of Tecumseh, the great majority of students the School District seeks to test in truth are engaged in activities that are not safety sensitive to an unusual degree.

Formal, yes, but a snoozer, that sentence ain’t.

How do I tell which style is appropriate?

Deciding when to use formal language and when it’s better to write informally goes back to the question of who your audience is. 

For example, if you’re writing to a prospective client, you want to seem professional, so your writing might err on the side of formality. You don’t want your casual manner to give the impression that you wouldn’t take the work seriously, after all.

Similarly, where in professional settings you’re generally expected to keep your emotions in check, formal writing usually favors objectivity, keeping the writer’s feelings at a remove.

If you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know well and aren’t sure what level of formality to aim for, it’s often easier to start out formal. As the correspondence progresses, you might reassess and ease your style accordingly. By contrast, if you start out too casually, only to realize you’re giving the wrong impression and have to correct course, things could feel mighty awkward.

Then again, being overly formal in a context clearly better suited to informal writing can look ridiculous. Imagine organizing a weekend float trip and flexing your formidable formal stylings this way:

Dear friends, 

As a longtime aficionado of float trips, it pleases me to suggest this upcoming Saturday, the 18th, for a worry-free afternoon on the storied Inconsiderate Goose River. Please advise me as to your availability and inclination to carpool. 

Yours faithfully,

Dang, Todd, did you also attach a SWOT analysis of potential snacks? Dial it back—it’s okay to relax sometimes.

Need more guidance on the difference between formal and informal writing? Use Grammarly’s tone detector when you write your next email.

formal vs informal essay writing

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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

Formal vs. Informal: Best Writing Practices

Formal-vs-Informal-Best-Writing-Practices

Langston Hughes once said, “The prerequisite for writing is having something to say.” But you are probably aware that there are many different styles of writing — and it pays to know which to use situationally. When it comes to formal vs informal writing styles, there is a time and place for each. By understanding their nuances and respective best practices, you can continue to improve your writing.

We will break all of this down and more, with examples. This can serve as a useful guide on formal vs informal writing for you throughout your educational journey (and beyond).

Defining Formal vs Informal Writing Styles

Formal writing is written for an audience you do not know on a personal level. It is often the main style in academic writing (unless otherwise noted) and is more complex than informal writing. Formal writing is serious.

Informal writing consists of short sentences and is used in more personal settings, such as writing a letter to a friend or writing a diary entry. It is much more relaxed than formal writing.

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Which style is appropriate.

Knowing the difference between formal and informal writing is only half the battle. The other important aspect is knowing which to use. Here are some examples of when you would use formal vs informal writing.

Use Formal Writing When:

  • Writing professionally (reaching out to a client or prospect)
  • Academic writings (essays, research papers, etc.)
  • Job applications ( resume writing , CVs, and cover letters)
  • Reaching out to someone you do not know

Use Informal Writing When:

  • Writing to a friend
  • Sharing a story or writing a personal blog
  • Writing creatively
  • Instructed to do so (if in school)
  • Writing dialogue and conversations
  • Writing an outline

If you are unsure of whether to use informal or formal writing, it’s generally the rule of thumb to start out writing formally. Then, when you make the connection and you see how the other side responds, you can ease up on the formality.

Key Features of Formal vs. Informal Writing

While the above gives a simple overview of the differences and uses of each style, let’s take a deeper look into what each style entails. That way, it should become more obvious how to recognize and structure each.

Formal writing tends to include the following:

  • Long and complex sentences: Sentences tend to be compound and contain commas to link two ideas or use transitions like “Furthermore” and “To exemplify,”
  • Does not use contractions: Would use “cannot” instead of “can’t”
  • Objective: Does not offer personal opinions
  • Doesn’t use colloquial language: You won’t see any slang or common everyday vocabulary
  • Diverse vocabulary words: Vocabulary is of a higher level
  • Use of words that are subject-specific: For example, if you are writing about biology, you’d use words like “epithelial cells” instead of “skin cells”
  • Use of third person: Does not use first person pronouns like “I” or “me”

Informal writing includes the following:

  • Can use first person, second or third: You can use any type of pronouns, including “I”
  • Can use slang: The use of everyday language and slang terms can be used, such as “It was cool that…”
  • Active voice: Sentences tend to be written with a subject acting on the verb, such as “We chilled the drinks and went out to the sea” instead of “The drinks were chilled…”
  • Personal emotional tone can be detected: Since the writing is personal, it can include feelings and the sharing of emotions
  • Contraction and abbreviation: It’s okay to use “can’t” instead of “cannot” or “it’s” instead of “it is”
  • Empathy: You can put yourself in the shoes of your audience and address their problems directly. This shows the author as coming from a place of understanding their situation.

Formal vs Informal Writing Comparison Guide

Formal vs Informal Writing Comparison Infographic by UoPeople

Additional Considerations

There are a few more things to take into account when starting out on any writing endeavor. These include the following 3 questions:

  • “Who is my audience?” – This is the first question you should ask when writing anything. You want to write to your audience, so you have to define them.
  • “How formal is the project I’m working on?” – This goes hand-in-hand with the audience and the project goals. However, knowing the level of formality will help you write accordingly.
  • “What medium should I use?” – For both informal and formal writing, you can produce the piece digitally or by hand. If it is for academic purposes and on the job, you’ll want to type your work. But, if you choose to write a formal letter by hand (such as a thank-you letter after a job interview), then it is advised to write on thicker card stock paper to look more professional. Remember, presentation is everything when it comes to formal work!

Here’s an Example!

Along with this list of references , here is a (meta) example on how this article would be written both formally and informally:

  • Formal: When writing academically or professionally, it is important to show respect to your audience by electing to write in a formal style, rather than informally. This means that sentences are longer than usual and tend to feel complex. Writing complex sentences with hyperfluent vocabulary shows your audience that you are well-informed on the subject matter. Furthermore, this writing style depicts unbiased information eluding emotions and first-person pronouns from the content.
  • Informal: Formal writing feels harder than informal writing. I think it’s because I can’t use contractions or short sentences. The only reason I’d write informally is if I had to, like if it was professional or academic. But when I write like this about formal writing, it’s easier. My vocabulary doesn’t matter as much. As you can see, I still care about grammar. Writing like this feels like I am talking to a friend.

Photo by  Glenn Carstens-Peters  on  Unsplash

Tying it all together.

There are many differences between formal vs. informal writing. That being said, they both serve their respective purposes. That’s why it’s important to understand both styles, as well as when to use them.

When writing professionally or academically, opt for formal writing. Remember to leave out contractions and remain unbiased.

On the other hand, informal writing comes from within. It’s aimed towards a personal audience, so you can write as if you are speaking to them. That way, you can use contractions, shorter sentences, colloquialism, and the like.

Regardless of why you are writing, always be sure to reread your work to check for typos and mistakes. The most important thing for writing is having something to say, but it’s also making sure that what you say can be understood!

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How To Write a Formal Essay Vs an Informal Essay- Updated Guide

Mon Oct 18 2021

Most academic papers require formal writing where students express their views in a strict professional language. Students are coached on how to write compositions since their preceding school years to mould their writing skills. At senior academic levels, they indulge in more complex essays and research papers. Check out our updated guide on writing a formal essay for that excellent grade.

What is a Formal and Informal Essay?

A formal essay can be best described as a research analysis expressed to an unknown audience, thus requiring a greater extent of professionalism in expression of ideas.

On the other hand, an informal essay is written to a known audience, say a love letter or diary. This kind of writing doesn't require so many rules as compared to the formal essay. So, what is an informal essay called? In many contexts, the paper is also referred to as a personal essay.

Why is a Formal Essay so Important?

Writing a formal essay is a crucial aspect that every student needs to master throughout their academic journey. This is because all schoolwork assignments must be presented in academically accepted standards. Learners should note that sometimes having the right idea may not be enough to get a good grade if they lack the know-how of presenting their views. Ideally, grammar mistakes and incorrect syntax reduce one's GPA, and it is thus vital to learn how to write a formal essay.

Differences between Formal and Informal Essay

Students must distinguish the formal essay format versus that of a personal essay. The points stated underneath are the ultimate guide when writing your essays:

·          A formal essay adopts a standard format, i.e., Introduction, Body, Conclusion, while an informal essay can take any direction as long as the message is passed across.

·          In formal writing, students are only allowed to use the third-person pronoun, i.e., their, themselves etc., while in informal, they can use first-person pronouns, i.e., we, I.

·          The structure of formal writing entails justified research, while a personal essay dwells on gentleness, personal experiences and a showcase of emotions.

·          The accepted vocabulary for formal writing is strictly professional, whereas personal essay allows for slang vocabulary.

·          Abbreviations such as we've, they're, and I've are accepted in a personal essay, whereas a formal report does not tolerate the use of such.

How Do You Write a Formal Essay?

Knowing the above-stated formal essay characteristics, you bet you are now ready to undertake your assignment confidently. The standard format for writing formal essays is explained below:

1.       Choose a topic

Choosing a topic may be tricky. Some students get it wrong at this juncture by either selecting a shallow topic or one that they are not well-versed with. To help you settle for the best topic, think of exciting themes that other authors have previously researched.

2.       Create an outline

As you settle for the topic, you embark on researching the project. To help you organize your thoughts, an outline is highly encouraged as it helps you not leave out any point as you draft your essay.

3.       Write the introduction

When starting your paper, think of creative ways of drawing your readers’ attention. The intro should be precise and with a thesis statement.  Remember that the opening is the deal-breaker as it determines whether people will read your essay or not.

4.       Paragraph your essay

Your formal essay should be well formatted and the paragraphs well-articulated. Each idea should be expressed in a new section where a sentence should range from 10 to 25 words. This is, however, dependent on the extent of explanation required plus the expected word count.

5.       Conclude the essay

This should be pretty easy, considering you have all your points at your fingertips. In this section, students are expected to summarize their essay in a paragraph while restating the thesis. Also, there should be no new information in this part, but students are encouraged to introduce a tagline or relevant call to action.

Common Formal Essay Topics

Nothing is ever hard if you want to learn, and there are plenty of formal essay examples online to help you get started on any project. These are usually papers written by other scholars and prove to be helpful when writing your assignment. Check out some topics below:

·          Students should be accorded free time to relax without carrying school assignments.

·          Is animal testing ethically justified?

·          Discuss whether part-time jobs exploit students.

·          What are the unhealthy pressures associated with social media

·          The impact of bullying on a person’s self-esteem

·          Are group discussions more effective than personal revisions?

·          Is texting a way of avoiding honest conversations?

·          Should senior schools be single-sex or mixed?

·          Is money a motivator for success?

·          Good leaders should be role models, discuss.

There are many more topics that students write about depending on their course modules. The most important thing to do when tasked a school project is research and facts.

Our updated guide will help you answer any questions relating to writing a formal essay. If you need extra help writing that paper, you can contact us, and we'll submit a high-quality article. Still, if you have more questions, check out our FAQs section or contact our support team.

All the best!

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  • Academic Writing / APA 7th Ed

Formal vs. Informal Writing

by Purdue Global Academic Success Center and Writing Center · Published December 11, 2020 · Updated December 11, 2020

formal vs informal essay writing

Writing to many is about dos and don’ts, especially don’ts–don’t use first person, don’t use second person, don’t use slang, don’t use contractions, don’t use hyperbole. Don’t, don’t, don’t. And of course these “don’ts” are usually couched within the context of formal vs. informal writing in that the don’ts apply to formal writing and what you don’t want to do when writing formally. These don’ts (and others) highlight what many see as the differences between formal and informal writing. Well, I suppose so, but exceptions to rules exist, and not all writing can be so neatly categorized as either formal or informal. Certainly some writing might be what I will term semi-formal. And just because a piece of writing is less formal than formal writing doesn’t mean that’s inherently bad, which I think is sometimes the impression given. For me, how language is used in a piece of writing is less about the level of formality of the writing context and more about audience and purpose. 

First, let’s consider formal vs. informal writing with respect to APA Style. APA Style does include some “don’ts” such as to avoid using contractions and slang, but APA Style also makes it clear that its guidelines are intended for scholarly writing, and the purpose of scholarly writing is to share research and discuss findings on a narrowly defined topic, so the audience would primarily be experts in a given field. When presenting research, one wants to be taken seriously, so using a more formal writing style seems a good approach as it would help to establish the proper tone for the work. After all, what would you take more seriously?

A. The upshot of the study will blow your minds.

B. The results of the study raise a number of questions worth pursuing.

The tone in the first example is too colloquial and casual. If the audience is made up of other experts in the field–researchers, scholars, academicians, educators–for the purpose of sharing and discussing serious research, then the writer would be wise to adopt a more formal usage of language in this writing context. To ignore what is surely a standard expectation of scholarly writing would risk alienating the audience. Not being aware of the writing context and dressing up your prose appropriately is akin to being invited to a big-deal gala, an invitation-only black-tie affair and showing up wearing shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers. You wouldn’t be taken seriously, would you? With this in mind, the audience and purpose in this example dictate that more formal writing be used. It just makes sense. 

Conversely, if you wrote a text to a good friend to invite him to a weekend barbeque, you wouldn’t write, Dear Friend, I would be honored by your presence at a barbeque Saturday, July 20, at 2 PM sharp. Food and beverages will be provided by the hosts. Casual attire required. RSVP no later than–you get the idea. The audience and purpose in this scenario would be alienated by the unnecessarily formal prose, not to mention utterly flabbergasted and perhaps even a little concerned. Clearly, a text to a good friend is an occasion for informal writing that might even include abbreviated words. Make sense?

I am often in the minority when people rail against the evils of texting and how it’s the downfall of an orderly and civilized world. “Texting is ruining people’s ability to write complete and grammatically correct sentences,” they will say. “Before we know it, sentences will be nothing but abbreviations.” Well, I’m not so sure. I get the idea that when textspeak creeps into some writing contexts, a problem exists. But doesn’t the issue all come down to audience and purpose? Perhaps the issue isn’t so much texting itself, but, rather, people’s failure to consider audience and purpose appropriately? 

Further, doesn’t language usage evolve over time to reflect a changing culture? After all, we have new words in the English language this year that we didn’t have last year. And how many of you have received an email from your boss with such abbreviations as FYI or SME? Think of the abbreviations that are already used regularly and in many different writing contexts–TBA, FAQ, AKA, NNTR, and everyone’s favorite, TGIF. Would I use an abbreviation like these in an academic paper? Unless the point of the paper were to discuss textspeak or a related topic, of course not! Have I received emails from higher ups that include such abbreviations as NNTR or COB? Yes, I have, and I see nothing wrong with it. Communication and the formality of the language used is all about audience and purpose, and for written communication to be effective, the writer must consider audience and purpose carefully. EOD.

You might be thinking, ok, I get the difference between formal and informal writing situations, but what about the middle-of-the-road, hard-to-tell, not-so-black-and-white writing occasions? What’s the best approach in these kinds of situations? 

Just like there are back-yard barbeques and black-tie affairs, there are also semi-formal and business-casual events. Appropriate language use still comes down to audience and purpose. 

Let’s say your’re writing a blog post for an educational audience made up of primarily educators, students, and administrators. Your purpose is to inform and engage and develop an ongoing readership and learning community. Perhaps even to stir up a little controversy from time to time. Does this sound like a black-tie affair or business casual? While the audience may be comprised of students and educators, a blog post that shares information is not at all the same as sharing and discussing research findings in a peer-reviewed academic journal that might be published quarterly and whose primary audience is other experts in a defined field of study. Readers of a blog usually are subscribers and thus a more informal writing style is indicative of a closer relationship between the blog and its audience, so a casual treatment of language seems appropriate even if the topic itself is a serious one. While an author of a scholarly article might not use first person, address readers directly, engage in word play, or use other rhetorical devices for effect, such an approach seems perfectly fine for a blog. 

What about college assignments such as informative or persuasive essays that include research? Without a doubt, some student papers are intended to be formal academic works in which case avoiding contractions and first person makes sense. Indeed, for many college-level assignments, a more formal approach to writing is preferred, and if one has such an assignment and has questions about just how formal the writing should be, I suggest sending an email to the professor who would be the final authority on such a matter. (And if you do email your professor, please keep your audience and purpose in mind.)

That said, without another doubt, lots of student writing is not intended to be of a scholarly nature even if it uses content from research. Some assignments ask students to conduct interviews of family members or write about an issue in the community in which they live or discuss their personal educational journey, so, for example, it seems that using first person would be essential as referring to oneself in the third person is tremendously awkward and, frankly, just plain wrong. 

Now, despite all that I’ve written, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least put on the table that regardless of writing expectations and style guide pronouncements, I have to wonder if formal academic writing wouldn’t benefit by loosening up the writing a bit so that it sounded more natural, perhaps even personable. After all, those of us who teach writing or are educators surely have told our students not to use highfalutin, polysyllabic words and unnecessarily complex sentence structures when writing just to sound more sophisticated and knowledgeable, yet (dare I say it!), isn’t that what much formal academic writing does? 

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

formal vs informal essay writing

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Guilford College Writing Manual

Informal vs. formal writing.

  • Practical Considerations
  • Write to Learn
  • Defining and Freeing the Self
  • Joining a Community of Seekers
  • Final Thoughts
  • A Proposed Categorization of the Academic Writer's Responsibilities
  • Required Writing Courses
  • Placement in First-Year Writing Courses
  • Writing Courses Beyond First-Year English
  • Essay vs. Article
  • Two Models of Papers
  • What is the Real Difference?
  • Specific Expectations of Papers
  • Grade Descriptions
  • The A Paper
  • The B Paper
  • The C Paper
  • The D Paper
  • The F Paper
  • What makes college reading different?
  • Levels of Reading
  • An Overview
  • Sample Schedule
  • Suggestions for Prewriting
  • Modes of Invention
  • Four Categories of Invention
  • Intuition Heuristics
  • The Five Perspectives
  • Loosening Heuristics
  • Closing Observations
  • Introduction
  • Preliminary Tasks
  • The Search Strategy
  • Finding Materials
  • Finding Appropriate Websites
  • Selected Websites
  • Documenting Your Sources
  • Open Form vs. Fixed Form
  • Geography of a Thesis and Proof Essay
  • Introductions
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Conclusions
  • Maintaining Control
  • Geography of an Issues and Exploration Paper
  • Reader Expectations
  • What is Style?
  • Festival of Verbs
  • Two Zones of the Word Stock
  • Levels of Generality
  • Writing with Nouns and Verbs
  • Avoiding Cliches
  • The Two Faces of Jargon
  • Using "I" in Academic Writing
  • What Kinds of Sentences to Use
  • Hemingway vs. Faulkner
  • Three Syntactic Devices Worth Using
  • Subject-Verb-Object
  • Touches of Elegance
  • Gunning's Fog Index
  • Why It's Important
  • Two General Principles
  • Some College-Level Problems
  • A Word on Typos
  • An Important General Rap
  • Revising Checklist
  • Revising for Concreteness
  • Revising to Eliminate Wordiness
  • Revising to Sharpen
  • Revising to Improve Coherence
  • Revising to Make More Effective Use of Quotations
  • Revising to Make Language More Inclusive
  • Revising to Brighten
  • What It Is and Why We Do It
  • Sample Edit Guide

At Guilford you will do both informa l and formal writing. Let's look at informal writing first. The phrase is actually a misnomer. "Informal writing" suggests writing that is casual, unimportant. The true situation is just the opposite. Informal writing may be the most important writing you do.

Informal writing encourages independent thought, enlarges your capacity to make connections, makes you aware of yourself as a learner, increases your confidence by giving you a chance to get your ideas right with yourself before communicating them to others, affirms the value of your writing voice, and can serve as a springboard for formal assignments.

Informal writing tends to be:

exploratory digressive searching speculative talky writer-based uncorrected

Types of informal writing: impromptu writing in class, field notes, journal entries, initial drafts of papers, imaginative writing projects your professors will assign.

Now let's look at formal writing.

  • << Previous: Types of College Writing
  • Next: Essay vs. Article >>
  • Last Updated: Dec 8, 2015 1:59 AM
  • URL: https://library.guilford.edu/writingmanual
  • University Writing Center
  • The Writing Mine

formal vs informal essay writing

The writing in text messages and scholarly articles is different. There’s no denying it.  

Several features in each make them drastically different, such as the content. But one of the main differences is the tone of the writing.    

In simple terms, tone refers to the attitude of writing. Some examples of tone are optimistic, sincere, and regretful. There are many more, but two of the most important – in my opinion – are informal and formal.   

Formal Writing  

Think of formal writing as the serious one; the tone you use with people you aren’t close to, your seniors and people whom you want to show respect to, such as your boss, a professor, or a potential employer. This is also the tone you use in academic writing.  

This style of writing requires properly formulated sentences with no slang or colloquialisms. Instead, it calls for more elevated language. This doesn’t mean using words you don’t know the definition of, but rather choosing more specific and complex words.   

For instance, if I were writing an email to my boss apologizing for something, I wouldn’t write “Sorry.” I would write, “My apologies.”   

Or if I was writing a research paper about discrimination, I wouldn't write, "Marginalized communities have historically put up with discrimination." Instead, I would write, "Marginalized communities have historically endured discrimination."  

Writing formally also requires proper grammar. Although this might be a no-brainer, some forget to double-check their writing before sending or submitting it. As tempting as this is, our writing greatly influences others’ impressions of us, especially when we’ve never met. So, use punctuation marks where needed and avoid spelling mistakes.   

Formal writing is impersonal. So first-person pronouns (I, we, us) are a no-go. It’s best to use third-person pronouns (they). You should also avoid emotional language. Instead, try to be as objective as possible.  

On a smaller scale, but just as important, avoid using contractions when writing formally. Instead of “can’t” or “they’re,” write “cannot” and “they are.”   

Informal Writing  

Think of informal writing as the more relaxed one; the one you use with people you know and are more comfortable with, such as your family and friends. This type of writing might come easier to most as it resembles the way we speak more closely.  

When writing informally, you can use slang and colloquialisms. Throw a “y’all” in there if your heart desires. Also, there’s no need for using complex words.  

Unlike informal writing, this style is more personal, so it allows you to express your feelings. Don’t be afraid to express your anger, sadness, or happiness. You can also use first- or second-person (you) pronouns.   

This style also allows you to use contractions and abbreviations. Also, you can avoid some grammar rules. For example, using “who” instead of “whom” even when the latter is needed. At the end of the day, you are sending this to someone you’re comfortable with. They won’t judge you… right?  

Hopefully, this helps you better address and reach your audiences more effectively.   

Remember, mastering this takes practice, so don’t stress out if you still don’t have this down perfectly. If you need more help, don’t hesitate to come visit us at the Writing Center.   

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  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference Between Formal and Informal Writing

formal vs informal writing

Our choice of the form of writing mainly depends on the fact – to whom we are writing to? Secondly, the matter we are going to discuss in our write up also decides the writing style, because if we are writing on a serious matter, then an informal way of writing will not be considered suitable in that case. So, in this article, you will get to know the details of these two writing styles along with its do’s and don’ts.

Content: Formal Vs Informal Writing

Comparison chart, definition of formal writing.

A formal piece of writing is used when we do not have any idea of the person, or when we know the person but haven’t exchanged words, or we are not having familiar terms with the person who receives the letter. Here, we use formal language which indicates dignified and deferential regard for the reader. It is used when writing for academic, professional and legal purposes.

Formal Writing is a bit difficult as we have to consider some important points are to be kept in mind with respect to:

  • Word choice and tone should be polite.
  • No use of first and second person singular pronouns
  • Use of positive and literal language and academic vocabulary.
  • Avoiding repetition and over generalisation.
  • Use of proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • No use of contractions, cliche, colloquial diction and abbreviations
  • Sentences are fully elaborated and concluded.
  • Avoid use of jargons.
  • No emotional language
  • No statistics without proper reference.
  • Full of objectivity, as proper evidence, should be there to support your argument.

Definition of Informal Writing

The informal style of writing is one used for personal and casual conversation, wherein friendly and colloquial language is used. In an informal writing style, personal and emotional tone is used, and the reader is directly referred by the words ‘you’ or ‘your’. It is used when writing personal emails, text messages, letters to friends and family etc. It is a direct form of writing which uses:

  • Contractions, abbreviations and short sentences are used.
  • Use of ordinary, short and simple sentences.
  • Personal and subjective
  • Loosely structured
  • Use of first and second person pronoun.
  • Acceptable use of slang and cliche
  • Imperative sentences can be used

Key Differences Between Formal and Informal Writing

The differences between formal and informal writing can be drawn clearly on the following grounds:

  • Formal writing is that form of writing which is used for the business, legal, academic or professional purpose. On the other hand, informal writing is one which is used for personal or casual purpose.
  • Formal writing must use a professional tone, whereas a personal and emotional tone can be found in informal writing.
  • In formal writing, use of slang is not at all common, whereas we normally use slang in informal writing.
  • When it comes to language, we use formulaic language in formal writing, which contain a set form of words. As against, informal writing is direct.
  • We use passive voice in a formal piece of writing. In contrast, in an informal piece of writing, we use active voice.
  • In formal writing, linking words are used, instead of conjunctions which are used in case of informal writing.
  • In formal writing, interjections are usually avoided, and so exclamation marks are not used. Conversely, in informal writing, interjections are commonly used.
  • In a formal piece of writing, when we refer to audience 1st person plural or third person singular is used. On the contrary, informal piece of writing, we use 1st person singular form to refer to the audience.

Both formal and informal writing is used in our day to day life but in different situations. We just need to think about the reader and the topic of your discussion, before choosing the writing style. When the topic is quite serious and objective, the formal writing style is suitable. It is also used when the write up is addressed to some respectable person or institution.

On the other hand, informal writing is best suited when you are communicating with your family, friends and acquaintances. Further, if the matter of discussion is not very serious, then also informal writing can be used, subject to, you are comfortable with the reader, in talking informally.

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How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

If you’re a student, you’ve heard about a formal essay: a factual, research-based paper written in 3rd person. Most students have to produce dozens of them during their educational career. 

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The picture enumerates the characteristics of a formal essay.

Writing a formal essay may not be the easiest task. But fear not: our custom-writing team is here to guide you through the process. This article will:

  • explain what a formal essay is;
  • show how to write it step by step;
  • provide you with an essay sample. 

👔 Formal Essay Definition

  • ✅ How to Write
  • ✍️ Writing Rules
  • 🖥️ Essay Format
  • 📑 Sample Paper

🔍 References

A formal essay is a well-structured piece of writing with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. This type of essay often includes cited research, uses an academic tone, and is written in 3rd person. While writing a formal essay, it’s necessary to back up your arguments with factual evidence.

What Is an Informal Essay vs. Formal Essay?

Essays come in two formats: formal and informal (also known as personal .) They differ in terms of style and context. You can choose one of the formats depending on the situation and the type of paper you need to write.

Don’t know how to tell the difference between them? Well, here are some key characteristics of these essay types:

As you can see, these types of writing are almost total opposites. Informal essays are only reserved for creative assignments, which means that most of the papers you write need to be formal.

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Our article on creative essays can help you write an informal paper. But how do you craft a perfect formal essay? Keep reading to find out.

✅ How to Write a Formal Essay

Traditionally, a formal essay it’s composed of 3 sections: an introduction, 3 or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Let’s examine each part in detail.

Formal Essay Introduction

The introduction is what your essay starts with. Its primary goal is to catch the reader’s attention with a hook, briefly introduce the topic, and lead toward the thesis statement located at the end of the first paragraph.

Here is what you might want to keep in mind while writing the introduction:

If you want some more inspiration for your introduction, check out our article on hooks in writing .

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Now on to the thesis statement : the key idea of your essay. When working on it, keep in mind that it should answer the central question in your topic and reflect your essay’s overall structure. your essay’s overall structure.

Suppose your topic is related to the teaching methods involving poetry. In that case, the thesis statement can be like this:

Teaching methods that involve reading and writing poetry in elementary school are beneficial for children as they enhance their capacity for empathy, develop creativity, and help with self-realization.

Formal Essay Body

The next part of an essay is the main body paragraphs. They support the thesis statement with well-developed arguments and explore the topic in-depth. Each body paragraph starts with a topic sentence stating its main point. The length of a paragraph can vary, but the best option is to have between 4 and 7 sentences.

To make the text flow easily, you may use transitional words. Here are some examples:

  • after all, 
  • for instance, 
  • on the one/other hand, 
  • initially, 
  • as a result.

How to Write a Formal Essay Conclusion

Lastly, every essay needs closure. A good conclusion summarizes the essay’s main ideas, includes a paraphrased thesis, and encourages the readers to think more about the topic.

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The structure of a conclusion may change slightly depending on the subject. For instance, it can suggest some solutions to a problem, express an opinion, or give a recommendation. It’s important to remember that the conclusion is a part that emphasizes your essay’s most important points and doesn’t introduce new information.

If you’re curious about writing each essay part, check out our article on 5-paragraph essays .

✍️ Formal Writing Rules

Just like choosing the proper attire to wear to a formal event, we need to use the right words while writing a formal essay. Here are some suggestions that can help you maintain a formal tone in your paper:  

Dos of formal writing

  • Pay attention to your vocabulary. The words you will use in a formal essay will likely have a nuanced meaning. Make sure you know exactly what the terms mean, and do your best to sound precise.
  • Use punctuation correctly. Here are some of the things to watch out for: Avoid exclamation marks; Use dashes for insertions; Use colons with enumerations; If you’re unsure of whether to use a punctuation mark or not, rewrite the sentence in a way that doesn’t require it.
  • Use varied sentence structure. In formal writing, there is always a danger of sounding monotonous. Avoid repeating sentence structures to make your essay more readable.
  • Provide references. It’s essential to cite every idea that you borrow. Try to paraphrase quotations from your sources: it will help you avoid plagiarism.

Don’ts of formal writing

  • Avoid using pronouns.  With words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” or “us,” an essay becomes wordy. It also makes the author seem less sure of their ideas. If you want to use personal pronouns, try substituting them with words like “the reader,” “viewers,” or “one.”
  • Avoid using slang expressions and nonstandard diction. Slang words in a formal essay will make it less appealing to the readers. If you want to be taken seriously, it’s best to avoid those expressions and use proper Standard English.
  • Avoid informal tone.  When you write a formal essay, incorporate the language and the expressions you would use while delivering a speech, not the words you use when you casually talk to friends. A formal tone suggests that the author is serious about the topic and respects the audience.
  • Avoid passive voice. Passive verbs are hard to read, and they are wordy. Use active voice to sound more straightforward and concise.

Contractions in Formal Writing

A contraction is usually a combination of two words into one, such as “don’t,” “isn’t,” “can’t,” and “wouldn’t.” When you work on a formal essay, it’s essential to be careful about contractions. It’s inappropriate to use them in academic writing, so it’s best to stick to the full variant.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, when working with direct quotations, it’s essential to reproduce words exactly as they are used in the original. To learn more about it, be sure to check out the University of North Florida’s article on in-text citations .

What to Use Instead of “You” in an Essay

Another common mistake students make is using the “you” and “yours” pronouns to address the readers. This mistake can make the essay overly informal and lead to misinterpretations of the text.

How do you fix it? Our advice is to replace 2nd-person pronouns with the following words:

  • individuals,

You can find more formal writing tips in this informative video from Smrt English:

🖥️ Formal Essay Format

Now that we’ve discussed formal essay writing in detail, it’s time to look at the formatting. A formal essay is usually written in MLA or APA formats. If you’re asked to write a paper in one of these formats, you may find the guidelines below helpful:

📑 Formal Essay Example

Here is an excellent sample of a formal essay that uses all the guidelines mentioned in this article. It will help you to produce a perfect paper of your own:

For more information, check out Purdue OWL’s resources on various formatting styles .

Formal Essay Topics

  • Stress management techniques  
  • The effects of coffee  
  • Negative effects of technology on children 
  • Causes and outcomes of organizational conflicts in sports  
  • Different types of friends  
  • Same-sex marriages in the United States  
  • Are early marriages harmful or beneficial? 
  • How do nutrition and hydration improve athletes’ performance? 
  • Is polygamy morally acceptable? 
  • Different features of sports business  
  • What characterizes friendship in the age of media ? 
  • Positive and negative effects of tourism on environment in the Caribbean  
  • How does society treat single parents ? 
  • How does the uninvolved parenting style affect child’s future well-being? 
  • The role of family relationships in Odyssey  
  • Financial concepts in sport finance  
  • Main features of a strong marriage  
  • The importance of media coverage for sport teams 
  • Reasons why students choose to get internship  
  • The role of stadiums in the sports industry 
  • The multiracial family: the Carters case analysis  
  • Characteristics of children’s sports  
  • Crucial factors affecting health fitness  
  • How is technology used in hotel management ? 
  • Structure and operational context of Four Seasons  
  • What are the main qualities of a true friend?  
  • Different websites that promote rental properties 
  • The imperative aspects of tourism  
  • Importance of hotel training  
  • What factors determine adolescents’ adjustment after they experience parental divorce ? 
  • How does tobacco use affect the human body?  
  • The importance of language and world view for communication 
  • What makes a combination of reinforcement and punishment in parenting efficient? 
  • The scientific approach of sports economics  
  • How does divorce affect children? 
  • Living on-campus vs. living off-campus when attending university: a comparison  
  • How does the New Moves program promote a healthy lifestyle? 
  • How to be an effective counselor  
  • Various types of restaurants in Ireland  
  • Carolina Dog’s characteristics 
  • Comparison of Monzameon’s The Love Suicides at Amijima and Tartuffe by Moliere  
  • Comparing homosexual and heterosexual families  
  • How is family presented in Everyday Use by Alice Walker ? 
  • In what ways can Anaerobic Threshold be assessed? 
  • Is bad parenting a healthcare problem? 
  • Why student-athletes should benefit from sports  
  • Mind-body awareness and its health benefits 
  • Can punishment boost academic performance? 
  • Techniques to teach students swimming  
  • Issues faced by the sports licensing field 

Thanks for reading through this guide! We hope that you found it helpful and now have a better idea of how to write an excellent formal essay. Don’t hesitate to share our article with a friend who may need it. Good luck!

Further reading:

  • How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
  • What Is a Discourse Analysis Essay: Example & Guide
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Précis: Definition, Guide, & Examples 

❓ Formal Essay FAQs

It’s best not to use pronouns such as “I,” “my,” “we,” “our,” etc., in a formal essay since it give the paper an informal tone and the text becomes wordy. It also makes the writer seem less sure about their ideas.

It’s better to avoid using parentheses and dashes in formal academic writing. If the information you want to include in the essay is important enough, it should be a part of the sentence. Otherwise, you can simply omit it.

The formal and informal essays differ in style and context. While a formal essay is a piece of well-structured writing that tries to convince the reader by providing arguments, an informal essay has no set structure. It reflects the author’s personal thoughts or opinions.

Starting your sentence with “because” in formal writing is not the best idea. The word “because” is a subordinate conjunction, which means it’s used to join the main clause to a subordinate clause, not to start a sentence.

It’s best to avoid using 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns, slang expressions, nonstandard diction, and contractions in a formal essay. They are primarily used in daily speech and are considered inappropriate in academic writing. 

  • Point of View in Academic Writing: St. Louis Community College
  • Components of a Good Essay: University of Evansville
  • Introductions & Conclusions: University of Arizona Global Campus
  • How to Improve Your Academic Writing: University of York
  • Nine Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing: University of California, Berkeley
  • Academic Writing Style: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: University of Southern California
  • Formal and Informal Style: Northern Illinois University
  • Formal Writing: Davenport University: LibGuides
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Writing Arguments: An Overview

What is an argument? Think about attorneys arguing a criminal "Who dunnit?" The prosecutor claims the gardener did it: The gardener's attorney says, "Prove it!" The burden falls on the prosecutor arguing the case to supply the damning evidence. The defense need only counter the claim with an argument casting doubt on the prosecution.

Facing the same audience, each attorney will try to persuade the jury. The judge sees to it that the arguments are presented in an orderly fashion. One will inevitably hold more water than the other. After considering the merits of each, the jury will return. The bailiff will hand the judge a folded piece of paper. The verdict will either be: "Guilty-the evidence is overwhelming-the gardener did it" or, "Not-it's doubtful the gardener did it-the evidence was insufficient."

An argument is a formal presentation of evidence that supports a particular claim or position regarding an issue of interest to a specific audience. Its persuasive strength rests on the rhetorical skills of the author-the art of wielding the rational, emotional and stylistic tools of language in a skillful and conscious effort to persuade. Its logic is built upon rational premises and follows to a conclusion reasonable people are willing to accept.

Formal vs. Informal Arguments

The difference between a formal and an informal argument is in the burden of proof. A formal argument clearly states the claim or position it argues and presents a well-developed chain of evidence leading to a reasonable conclusion supporting the claim. The chain of evidence itself may include a wide variety of elements ranging from personal experience to statistical data and expert testimony.

Informal arguments contain little or no supportive evidence. "I did the dishes last night" may be all that's necessary to encourage your roommate to do them tonight but it's hardly an argument designed to convince or persuade. Its primary purpose is merely to assert, or point something out, nothing more.

Informal arguments are the stock-in-trade of radio and TV talk-shows, op-ed pages and letters to the editor. Generally speaking, they're used to instigate discussion among individuals holding different opinions. Quite often they are used to provoke a confrontation between those who flat-out disagree with each other (e.g., The O'Reilly Factor and The Jerry Springer Show ). Seldom do they end in a consensus of opinion or a reasonable conclusion.

Academic Arguments

An academic argument is a formal argument constructed according to the specific conventions of the academic discipline in which it is presented. A literature argument, for instance, will typically include evidence from the literary text in question; a biology argument will include data from field or laboratory research.

Before beginning your argument, ask your instructor what academic conventions you will be expected to follow. Though many elements will remain the same, the norms for stating a claim or position, organizing the argument's evidence, structuring and styling its presentation and citing its sources will differ from one discipline to the next and from context to context.

Common to all academic arguments, however, are the following:

  • The claim must be arguable: A disagreement or a number of legitimate points of view must exist regarding the claim. If everyone in the audience is in agreement there really isn't anything to argue over.
  • The argument must be rational: An argument must be based in fact not emotion. The claim must be meticulously considered, the evidence thoroughly researched and carefully selected; the audience correctly assessed.
  • The logic must be cohesive: A claim must be argued linearly, step-by-step, with appropriate transitions revealing the logic that ties one point to the next. If a minor point doesn't add to the main point, it doesn't belong.

Credit must be given where credit is due: All outside sources must be documented (e.g., footnotes, endnotes, and in-text citations) using a citation format approved by the academic discipline into which the argument falls.

Citation Information

Donna LeCourt, Kate Kiefer, and Peter Connor. (1994-2024). Writing Arguments: An Overview. The WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University. Available at https://wac.colostate.edu/repository/writing/guides/.

Copyright Information

Copyright © 1994-2024 Colorado State University and/or this site's authors, developers, and contributors . Some material displayed on this site is used with permission.

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Is an essay formal or informal: characteristics of each

Is an essay formal or informal: characteristics of each

Is an essay formal or informal

Is an essay formal or informal

Essays are common in the world today. They have easily become part of our life.

The need to differentiate all types of essays that can be written has led to a popular question of whether essays are formal or informal. Essays can be both formal and informal.

formal vs informal essay writing

To start with, formal essays are written for academic and professional purposes. They must be factual, research-based, and written in the third person.

On the other hand, informal essays are written for personal or casual services. They are also known as personal essays. Also, they are subjective and involve the writer giving his or her problem. They must be written in first person voice

Features of a Formal Essay

The following are the features that a formal essay should have:

being formal

1. Specific Language

Specific terms are preferred in formal essays to general ones. These terms help in providing more information and impact to the reader.

Also, physically concrete language is better than abstract terms because it helps give the reader a clear understanding. For example, instead of saying that “the scene was lovely and beautiful,” you can say that “the bright green grass and the clear blue sky were perfect for a day out.”

When descriptions are needed it is advisable to be as specific as possible.

2. Third person voice

Formal essays and any academic writing should always be written in the third person voice unless stated otherwise by the instructors. He, she, they, and one should be used instead of me or us.

Essays should not be referencing you unless in instances you ask for your own opinion which mostly occurs in coursework questions and not essays.

3. Active Voice over Passive Voice

To make the essay clearer and livelier to the audience active voice should be used because it uses fewer words and lays an emphasis on the doer of an action.

On the contrary, passive voice puts the receiver of the action first and puts the doer of the action after the verb or completely excludes the doer something that should only happen if the doer is not important.

active and passive voice

In essays, the subjects need to act which is guaranteed by the active voice, unlike the passive voice where the subject is acted upon.

4. Present Tense over Past Tense

The present tense is preferred in essays because it makes it them to read, draws the reader’s attention more than the past tense, and makes information more immediate.

However, some sciences require that essays be written in the past tense. Therefore, you must consult with professors about what tense to use.

5. No clichés

Clichés should not be used in essays because they are not original. Also, they are overused hence making your essay lose originality and creativity.

They are too common and often used and should be avoided. For example, saying “as blind as a bat” is a cliché. Instead, the writer should just say “severe vision problems.”

Informal Essay characteristics

1. first and second person.

When writing informal essays, the writer is free to use the first and second person . Therefore, pronouns such as I, us, we, you, and me can be used. They help show the ownership of thoughts and experiences.

When writing an informal essay, telling a story is important. The story has to be personal for it to connect with the audience.

share stories

If your informal essay does not connect to the target audience, then it means that it will not serve its purpose.

3. Simple Grammar

Informal essays should not be too complex. The writer should always use simple words that are easy to understand.

One does not need to be an expert to understand the content of your essay.

To add to that, the sentences need to be short. There is no concept in an informal essay that calls for a detailed explanation requiring you to use long sentences to deliver the point home.

Short sentences make your informal essay easy for readers to understand and follow through.

4. Use of Slang, Colloquialisms, and Humour

Slang should be used in informal writing to connect with the audience. However, it is important to ensure that the slang words are well known to avoid giving trouble to readers who may not know the slang.

Colloquialisms or the words and language used in the street should be used to make your informal essay connect with common people.

Also, humour should be used to make the reader of your informal essay laugh. Exaggeration, shock, and misdirection are techniques that you can use to deliver humor in the essay.

Differences between Formal and Informal Writing

Informal and formal essays can be differentiated using the following factors:

1. Vocabulary

In informal essays, the vocabulary is short, simple, and direct. There is no use of phrasal verbs.

On the other hand, long and hard vocabulary can be used in formal essays. Slangs and contractions are not used .

formal and informal writing

The tone used in formal essays should be objective. All emotions should be held back and if expressed they should be through the essay arguments.

However, the tone in informal essays is subjective and personal. What this means is that the tone can either be casual, conversational, amusing, or thoughtful.

3. Structure

There are no structure or format rules when it comes to writing informal essays. What you have to do mostly is just write. There is no logical standard or sequence put in place that dictates how the essay should be written.

Contrarily, formal essays have logical sequences and structures. Several formatting methods are required to be followed when writing these essays.

Also, arguments should be made in single paragraphs and points should never mix up. Remember the conclusion should also be a summary of the points discussed earlier.

Formal essays are mainly used for educational purposes to evaluate and detail analysis.

On the other hand, informal essays’ main purposes are interactions, entertainment, and reflections.

5. Subject/Content

The subject or content of formal essays mainly involves historical events, literature, and knowledge.

On the other hand, the content of informal essays mainly involves personal events and everyday events.

6. Characteristics

Formal essays are usually written using the third person pronouns while informal essays are written using first and second person pronouns.

Also, everyday language and slang can be used in informal essays while official and simple language is used in formal essays.

formal vs informal essay writing

With over 10 years in academia and academic assistance, Alicia Smart is the epitome of excellence in the writing industry. She is our chief editor and in charge of the writing department at Grade Bees.

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Formal vs. Informal Writing in IELTS Writing Task 2

Woman studying formal vs informal writing on IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 - image by Magoosh

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is the second of two writing tasks you’ll be asked to complete on the IELTS exam. As the name suggests, the writing you will be asked to do is academic by nature, so below we will be covering how to write in the the style necessary to perform well on the exam.

Academic/Formal Writing

The IELTS expects you to use an academic/formal writing style. This means you should use the same kind of language that you would when writing a report for work or an essay for school. Obviously, you would avoid using “slang” words. You would also write in complete sentences and use proper punctuation. Here are some additional features of academic/formal writing to keep in mind for Task 2:  

  • Organize ideas into separate paragraphs: You will lose points if you do not divide your essay into paragraphs. In the IELTS Writing Task 2 response template , you’ll find the essential paragraphs you should include in your Task 2 response. Generally speaking, your essay must have an introduction paragraph, 2 – 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.  
  • Write in complete sentences: Make sure each sentence you write has an independent clause with a subject and verb. When you write complex or compound sentences, use “connectors” like coordinating conjunctions (and, but, so, etc) or subordinating conjunctions (when, although, because, etc).  
  • Avoid repetition of words and ideas: Your ideas should move from one to the next logically, and you should show off your vocabulary by avoiding redundancy (don’t repeat the same words over and over).  
  • Avoid “slang:” The English you hear in the movies or read on social media is often inappropriate for formal writing. It is a big problem to use words like “dude” or spellings like “U” (for “you”) on the IELTS.  
  • Thoughtful and Neutral Tone: Academic/formal writing has a very careful and thoughtful tone. It rarely sounds angry, excited, or overly certain about an idea. It is also best to avoid broad generalizations in formal/academic compositions. Here are some examples to demonstrate:

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NOT ACADEMIC: I hate this idea! (Too excited/angry) ACADEMIC: This idea has some problems to consider.

NOT ACADEMIC: Everyone is distracted by cell phones these days. (Too broad) ACADEMIC: Many people are distracted by cell phones these days.

NOT ACADEMIC: I have the best solution to the problem. (Too certain) ACADEMIC: I would suggest this solution to the problem.

For more about this component of your test, check out our complete guide to IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 for everything you’ll need to know to score well.

A Final Word About IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

This writing task is definitely considered a bit harder than IELTT Academic Writing Task 1, but with the right preparation, you’ll be able to score well on it. For more support, check out our complete IELTS test prep including hundreds of lessons, practice questions, email support, and more.

Happy studying and good luck!

Nadyja Von Ebers

Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions . Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn !

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What is the key difference between Formal and Informal essays?

  • Post author: Rajveer
  • Post last modified: March 12, 2023
  • Reading time: 7 mins read

You are currently viewing What is the key difference between Formal and Informal essays?

If you are on this page then I think you must have heard about these terms formal essay and informal essay. Basically, these are the two categories to differentiate in the essay. Whenever you are writing an essay, it will probably fall into one of these categories.

Essay writing is not a difficult task but when we talk about the difference between formal and informal essays then some beginners get confused with these two different types of essays. This article is specially written for those people who want to understand the difference between formal and informal essays.

If you are also wondering about the difference between formal and informal essays then you must read this article.

Formal Essays

Informal essays, 1. purpose of writing, 2. writing tone, 3. writing language, 4. writing characteristics, 5. structure of writing, 6. evidence for facts and data, final words on the difference between formal and informal essay, what is the difference between formal and informal essays.

A formal essay is one of the writing styles and categories in essay writing. A formal essay is written using a well-organized structure, vocabulary and punctuation. A formal essay is conducted with a formal tone and writing style and is more focused on giving readers a valuable perspective or solution.

A formal essay follows an academic and professional writing style. A formal essay does not contain informational words and the personal experience of the writer.

Informal essays tend to be more personal messages and conversations. Informal essays do not follow an academic and professional writing style and may include humorous words and personal opinions.

Writing an informal essay doesn’t require much topic research and grammar knowledge because it is more about just writing personal opinions.

Formal vs Informal Essays: The Key Differences You Need to Know

Both formal and informal essays are different categories of essay writing and they have some major differences. Below I have tried to write down some of the key points for the difference between formal and informal essays.

The purpose of formal essay writing is to present solutions and information for a specific topic. A formal essay includes a well-organized structure to represent logical arguments and thoughts.

Whereas an informal essay is a matter of expressing personal views and opinions on a specific topic.

The writing style and tone of both formal and informal essays are different. A formal essay is written in a professional manner. It excludes informal words and personal thoughts and focuses more on academic and professional writing.

Whereas an informal essay is more like a conversational message and may include some humorous words, and personal opinions.

A formal essay is written in formal language. It does not include personal expression or personal tone. While an informal essay may include informal language and words and personal thoughts and expressions.

Formal essay writing always includes only third-person pronouns. Some of the third-person pronouns are he, him, himself, she, her, herself, etc. While an informal essay mostly uses first personal pronouns. Some of the first-person pronouns are I, Me, My, We, Our, etc.

A formal essay follows an organized structure and focuses on easy navigation for readers to understand and connect with each paragraph. It includes typical academic content writing sections such as the introduction, main body and conclusion.

Informal essays, on the other hand, do not follow any structure. It can be flexible and the structure can vary from writer to writer. It is only focused on representing the idea and experience.

Formal essays usually require evidence for the statements, research, or data shown in the essay. Evidence and proof are not required in informal essays but sometimes you may need some proof to support your statement or idea.

Also Read: Guide for writing an essay fast and quickly

I hope the above key points helped you understand the difference between formal and informal essays. These are some key checks that you can use to identify whether an essay is formal or informal. Let me know if you still have any confusion

FAQ: Difference between Formal and Informal essay

Formal essays are written in a professional manner using good grammar, research, and evidence while informal essays are more like a conversational message.

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Formal vs Informal Writing: Difference and Comparison

Writing is a way to express facts, opinions, beliefs, and many other aspects. Writing can be done through formal writing or informal writing.

Key Takeaways Formal writing follows strict rules and conventions, using formal language, complete sentences, and proper grammar, and is used in academic or professional contexts. Informal writing is more casual and conversational, allowing for colloquial language, contractions, and relaxed grammar rules, and is common in a personal communication or creative writing. The choice between formal and informal writing depends on the purpose, audience, and context of the communication, with formal writing conveying a sense of professionalism and authority and informal writing fostering a more personal, relatable tone.

Formal Writing vs Informal Writing

Formal writing has a complex sentence structure written for people you don’t know personally. It avoids the use of personal pronouns, colloquial or slang terms. Informal writing has a shorter sentence structure used in more personal settings and allows nonstandard English forms and colloquial vocabulary.

Formal writing vs Informal writing

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However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on specific parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:

Comparison Table

What is formal writing.

Formal writing, as the name denotes, means writing of a formal nature. In other words, legal writing is written following specific rules of writing.

Formal writing is used for formal purposes. Formal purpose can be varied, but something quite common could be a situation where a person is not very friendly with the other person to whom the communication is being made or is writing to someone in an official capacity.

Formal writing may be considered difficult to write because of the inclusion of specific rules such as the choice of correct words, avoiding repetition of words, avoiding any emotional tone or jargon, and other aspects.

Formal writing comes with long and compound sentences and passive voice . Further, formal writing will not use personal pronouns such as “I”, “We”, “You”, etc. Legal writing is commonly used for business, academics, and other professional purposes.

formal writing

What is Informal Writing?

Informal writing, as the name denotes, is writing of informal nature. In other words, an informal essay is writing with a relaxed, friendly, or unofficial style or manner.

Informal writing is full of colloquialism, full of casual, relaxed, friendly, and maybe even slangy writing. There is an intense usage of active voice in informal writing, and the focus is on the subject.

Informal writing will not have any specific rules to be followed for making the conversation. Informal writing will have straightforward and short sentences.

Informal writing is commonly used for personal, ordinary, familiar, or informal communication or conversation. Informal writing, if not used properly, may even hurt the feelings of the intended recipients.

informal writing

Main Differences Between Formal Writing and Informal Writing

  • Formal writing is professional. Informal writing is personal.
  • Formal writing does not use colloquialisms. Informal writing makes use of colloquialisms.
  • Formal writing is used for business, professional and academic writing. Informal writing is utilized for writing personal emails.
  • Formal writing will utilize passive voice. Informal writing will utilize active voice.
  • Formal writing does not use slang. Informal writing may use slang.
  • Formal writing will have long and compound sentences. Informal writing will have short, straightforward and easy sentences.

Difference Between X and Y 2023 04 07T161715.904

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  1. The Difference Between Formal and Informal Writing

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  2. Formal vs. Informal: Best Writing Practices

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  3. What Are the Major Differences Between a Formal and Informal Essay?

    formal vs informal essay writing

  4. Formal Essay: What it is and How to Write it

    formal vs informal essay writing

  5. 10+ Formal Writing Examples

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  6. Formal vs. Informal Writing: A Complete Guide

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  1. Essay Writing

  2. The Writing Process:Pre-Writing and Drafting

  3. How to make an essay sound formal

  4. || Formal vs informal ||✨️ #english #phrases #informal #formal #ytshorts #trending #readingpractice

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  1. Extended Essay: Formal vs. Informal Writing

    Differences Between Informal and Formal Essays When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone. The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. See the box below for examples of the differences in tone in informal and formal essays written on identical topics.

  2. Formal vs. Informal Writing: A Complete Guide

    Formal writing tends to use abbreviations only after first spelling out what they stand for. And where exclamations are fine in informal settings, they're frowned upon for formal writing. The same goes for the first and second person—notably, pronouns like "I" and "you."

  3. Formal and Informal Writing—Explanation and Examples

    French Spanish Check Your Grammar For Free Instantly enhance your writing in real-time while you type. With LanguageTool Get started for free Understanding The Difference Between Formal and Informal Language in Writing LanguageTool A good writer knows when to use formal or informal language in their writing.

  4. Informal Vs. Formal Writing: What's The Difference?

    October 24, 2023 What Is Formal Writing? What Is Informal Writing? Formal Vs. Informal Writing Formal Example Informal Example As a writer, you're faced with a lot of choices related to your writing: how long should your essay be? Who should be addressed in a cover letter? What is a thesis statement?

  5. Formal vs. Informal: Best Writing Practices

    Informal writing consists of short sentences and is used in more personal settings, such as writing a letter to a friend or writing a diary entry. It is much more relaxed than formal writing. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash Which Style is Appropriate? Knowing the difference between formal and informal writing is only half the battle.

  6. How To Write a Formal Essay Vs an Informal Essay- Updated Guide

    · A formal essay adopts a standard format, i.e., Introduction, Body, Conclusion, while an informal essay can take any direction as long as the message is passed across. · In formal writing, students are only allowed to use the third-person pronoun, i.e., their, themselves etc., while in informal, they can use first-person pronouns, i.e., we, I.

  7. Formal vs. Informal Writing

    First, let's consider formal vs. informal writing with respect to APA Style.

  8. Informal Essay Definition, Format & Examples

    Informal Writing vs. Formal Writing & Examples Lesson Summary Frequently Asked Questions What is informal writing? Informal writing is writing that does not follow a specific...

  9. Informal vs. Formal Writing

    Informal vs. Formal Writing At Guilford you will do both informal and formal writing. Let's look at informal writing first. The phrase is actually a misnomer. "Informal writing" suggests writing that is casual, unimportant. The true situation is just the opposite. Informal writing may be the most important writing you do.

  10. Informal vs. Formal Writing

    Informal vs. Formal Writing. The writing in text messages and scholarly articles is different. There's no denying it. Several features in each make them drastically different, such as the content. But one of the main differences is the tone of the writing. In simple terms, tone refers to the attitude of writing.

  11. Formal vs. Informal Writing

    Table of Contents Formal vs. Informal Writing What is Formal Writing? What is Informal Writing? Formal Writing & Informal Writing Examples Lesson Summary Frequently Asked...

  12. How to Write an Informal Essay: Guide, Tips, and Sample

    What are the major differences between a formal and informal essay? There are several peculiarities about the structure of informal essays you should know before you start writing: 1) Informal types of papers do not have a specific format and can be determined by the author personally.

  13. PDF Formal vs Informal

    Types of Formal Writing: research paper, reports, proposals, critiques, essays, articles, critical thinking essay, MOST COMMON in college papers FORMAL WRITING: ü Do not use contractions Ø "can't, shouldn't, they're" instead use "cannot, should not, they are" ü Do not use first person language, use third person instead Ø "I ...

  14. Formal vs Informal writing

    This is a video animation explaining the differences between formal and informal language and an explanation of when you would want to use one or the other. ...

  15. Formal vs. Informal: Best Writing Practices

    One of the differences between formal and informal writing is the variation in the length of the sentences. In informal writing, the writer can use short as well as fragmented sentences while in formal writing, the writer must use convectional sentences that are longer and other times, complex.

  16. Difference Between Formal and Informal Writing

    Comparison Chart Definition of Formal Writing A formal piece of writing is used when we do not have any idea of the person, or when we know the person but haven't exchanged words, or we are not having familiar terms with the person who receives the letter. Here, we use formal language which indicates dignified and deferential regard for the reader.

  17. PDF Formal vs informal writing

    Formal vs. informal writing When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone. The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. Characteristic Informal essay (sometimes also called personal or familiar essay) Formal essay Author's viewpoint Usually uses first-

  18. How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

    6 min Updated: September 21st, 2023 Print How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example (5 votes) If you're a student, you've heard about a formal essay: a factual, research-based paper written in 3rd person. Most students have to produce dozens of them during their educational career.

  19. Writing Arguments: An Overview

    The difference between a formal and an informal argument is in the burden of proof. A formal argument clearly states the claim or position it argues and presents a well-developed chain of evidence leading to a reasonable conclusion supporting the claim. The chain of evidence itself may include a wide variety of elements ranging from personal ...

  20. Is an essay formal or informal: characteristics of each

    Informal and formal essays can be differentiated using the following factors: 1. Vocabulary. In informal essays, the vocabulary is short, simple, and direct. There is no use of phrasal verbs. On the other hand, long and hard vocabulary can be used in formal essays. Slangs and contractions are not used. 2.

  21. Formal vs. Informal Writing in IELTS Writing Task 2

    on May 30, 2021 in IELTS Writing Task 2: Academic & General Training IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is the second of two writing tasks you'll be asked to complete on the IELTS exam.

  22. What is the key difference between Formal and Informal essays?

    1. Purpose of Writing The purpose of formal essay writing is to present solutions and information for a specific topic. A formal essay includes a well-organized structure to represent logical arguments and thoughts. Whereas an informal essay is a matter of expressing personal views and opinions on a specific topic. 2. Writing Tone

  23. Formal vs Informal Writing: Difference and Comparison

    Formal Writing vs Informal Writing. ... In other words, an informal essay is writing with a relaxed, friendly, or unofficial style or manner. Informal writing is full of colloquialism, full of casual, relaxed, friendly, and maybe even slangy writing. There is an intense usage of active voice in informal writing, and the focus is on the subject. ...