Shortcut - Writing Course 1: Informal and Formal English

writing summary This writing course is going to help you with writing longer texts, for exams or for homework.


Different styles in different situations
By style we mean if the writing is informal or formal. Informal writing will sound personal and more like everyday speech. The writer will seem to be talking to the reader, as if they know each other. But formal writing will have more of a distance between the writer and the reader.

So which style should you use? Well, one style is no better than the other. It all depends on the situation. Ask yourself: Who is the reader? What is the point of this text?


Informal and formal words
Have you ever noticed that English can have two words that mean the same thing? Take a look at these two lists:

 A             B
 Go on      Continue
 End         Terminate
 Own        Possess
 Stop        Discontinue
 Shock      Appall


You have probably heard the words in column A before. They show up in normal speech among normal people. They are also used in writing messages, emails, letters and other personal texts. The words in this column are informal. They are the common language of everyday situations.


That means that the words in column B must be formal. They mean the same thing as the words in column A, but they are used less often in everyday conversation. You find them mostly in written texts, such as textbooks, reports and articles.

Signs of informal and formal language: see your textbook for a list.