Formal And Informal Language

Monday 13th of June 2011 | By: Administrator | Views: 10487 | Comments: 0 | Rating: 3 Star Content3 Star Content3 Star Content3 Star Content3 Star Content |  


There are two types of standard language. The language we speak at home, with friends is informal. It is like casual clothes which people use on informal occasions. Formal language, on the other hand, is used in offices, businesses, and other formal occasions. It is like a suit or dress for public and formal situations.

Formal Language
We use formal language when we are dealing with serious business affairs. The situations which call for it include the following:

Applications for jobs
Letters to public and utility companies
Business letters
Business reports and memos
Public discussions of serious issues
Formal reports (e.g. accident reports)
Oral and written reports
Class discussion
Discussions in conferences, seminars, assemblies, courts

In formal language we avoid slangs and informal words and sentences. Here we are more respectful, courteous, reserved, and careful. We use more resources of the language because it has more synonyms. Audience the subject seriously and pays solemn attention to the subject.

Informal Language
It is spoken language. It is used in private conversation and we use it in personal letters. Informal language has all-purpose words. For example boss is all-purpose word which is used informally to mean manager, director, employer, owner, gang leader or supervisor. It may be funny which may make us smile, such as cheaters which as a slang means eyes glasses.

This language is often used when you are in a hurry. To do so you use contractions, such as I’m, I’ve, she’s, it’s, we’re, ‘em. We are informal, free, and close to the reader or listener.

The following is the list of formal and informal language and words.

Formal Language: Informal Language
Manager, supervisor, director, owner: boss
A kind person, a helpful friend: a great guy
A relaxed party, a friendly party: a neat party
Friend: pal
Family: folks
Children kids
Boy: guy
Police officer: cop
Annoyed: fazed
Angry: mad
Out of money: broke
Complain: gripe
Exaggerate: lay it on thick
Repeat a criticism: rub it in
Get very angry: blow your top
Do something trick: pull a fast one
Spectacles: cheaters, eye glasses
Beaten badly: take a licking
Advertisements: ads

A list of more informal words
I’ve, I’m, she’s, we’re, they’re, em, won’t, can’t, gym, math, champ, exam, reps, hassle, spat, pooch, buddy, con, old man, dig, polish, blab, snooze, nab.

Accounting to Herta A. Murphy and Charles E.Peck,1 in their book assert that business language including letters, memos, and reports should be informal. In the informal words they include short, well-known, and conversational words. The authors have given the list of some formal and informal words as follows:

Formal: Informal
Anticipate: expect
Ascertain: find out
Conflagration: fire
Deem: think, belive
Domicile: home
Edifice: building
Endeavor: try
Interrogate: ask

procure: get
remunerate: pay
terminate: end
utilize: use

But Hans P. Guth and Edgar H. Schuster1 in their book emphasize that the business language should be formal. According to them.

“We use formal English ourselves when we have serious business to transact. We use it when the situation calls for it. Such situations would include letters to public agencies and news papers; letters of application for jobs or scholarships; papers or oral reports in the classroom; public discussions of serious issues. In your later life, you might need to use formal English in writing memo or an accident report.”

These authors have give some interesting examples of informal English language:
Informal: Dotty can lick anyone on the other team.
Formal: Dotty can defeat anyone on the other team.
Informal: Us newcomers were made to feel real welcome.
Formal: We newcomers were made to feel really welcome.
Informal: Me and my friends are ready.
Formal:  My friends and I are ready.
Informal: It looks like we are losing.
Formal: It looks as if we are losing.
Informal: We won, like we thought we would.
Formal:  We won, as we thought we would.

Notice that both the books referred to above have been published by the same publisher, McGraw-Hill Book Company of the USA.

There is still another school of thought as to formality of the business language. This school belongs to james A. Lee, Advisor in Management, University of Southern California, USA, and ex-Advisor, at the Institute of Business Administration and his co-author Danishmand, ex-professor at the IBA.2 According these authors business English is less formal. In other words, it is neither purely formal nor informal.

Other authors of celebrity, as Janis and Dressner, Dumont and Lannon, Sigband and Bateman, Bowman and Branchaw, and Vervalin are silent about the formality of the business language.

Deciding on whether the business language is formal, less formal or informal is not important. The importance of the business communication lies in the fact that it must be understandable, clear, concrete, to the point and bring the efficacious, desired results

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