Hey, English fans! Have you ever felt you didn’t know how to write something? And I don’t mean vocabulary, idioms, or grammar in this case. What I’m talking about here is tone. The tone we choose to use has a lot to do with the person or audience that will receive our writing. Generally speaking, we can divide tone into two big groups: Formal, and informal. But, what are the main differences between them, and when should we use each?
Formal English is impersonal. It does not include colloquialisms or contractions. It is used in business letters or serious and professional texts. Informal English is more personal and is used in everyday conversations and personal letters. Some phrasal verbs are considered informal, too.
Knowing when to use each tone is very important. Not only for our studies but also for our careers and professional lives. The tone used in a letter applying to a university or a job position says a lot about us. Sometimes, it tells more about our personality than words themselves! If you want to learn more about the differences between formal and informal English, keep on reading, and continue to master the English language!
Before jumping into when to use each tone, it is important to know how to identify what makes a text either formal or informal. This, as you will see, is quite easy to do. However, one informal component in a formal piece of writing can make a big difference, and have quite a negative effect. So, pay special attention while writing, and always remember to check for tone before sending an email, or delivering an essay.
Imagine you have applied to a university and were waiting for them to answer. When they do, they ask you for some personal information about yourself. Let’s take a look at these two short texts:
Which one do you think is a more adequate tone for applying to a university? Why? What elements can you see that are not correct enough when addressing an academic authority? If your answer is “2”, that’s correct! Tone, vocabulary, and the way we express things are key to showing our seriousness and professionalism.
So, with the examples mentioned above, we can find some differences between formal and informal tones when we write in English. However, both texts give the same information. What’s the big difference, then? Let’s take a look into each of them, and define what makes them either formal or informal.
The first example has an informal tone. This is not incorrect, as long as the receiver is a friend of ours or someone we are familiar with. It may be a relative, a friend, or someone we have enough trust to treat as a peer. These are some elements we can use in informal texts:
When we go to the second example, we find that the same information is provided, but more professionally. Let’s look at what elements make example number “2” a more formal text.
So, these are some tips for you to understand better the difference between formal and informal English. Have you ever written a letter or text using a formal tone? How difficult was it? If you think this article was helpful, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly news, tips, and updates related to the English language! Thanks for reading!