English Language
Formal Language

Formal Language

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Understanding Formal Language: Definition, Theory, and Usage

Formal language is frequently utilized in professional communication and other official forms of correspondence. It is also employed when one wants to make a good impression.

Defining Formal Language

Formal language is a style of speaking and writing that is used when addressing someone who is unfamiliar or highly respected. This can be observed in the following email:

Greetings, Ms. Brown,

I hope this message finds you well.

I am writing to extend an invitation to our annual Medical Conference, taking place from October 10th to October 15th at our state-of-the-art facility.

Please confirm your attendance by September 15th by completing the attached registration form.

Thank you for your prompt response.


John Smith, MD

The use of titles, avoidance of contractions, and conventional formal phrases are key elements of formal language.

The Purpose of Formal Language

The primary function of formal language is to serve as a means of official communication, particularly in professional or academic writing.

Examples of Formal Language

Consider a job interview for a position at a primary school. Which language style would be more appropriate to use: formal or informal?

Formal: "I am confident that I am the ideal candidate for this role. As you may have seen from my Diploma in Education, I have previous experience working with children aged 5-8 at a summer camp."

Informal: "I'm gonna nail this job! I've got all the qualifications you need. I went to college and I've worked with kids before."

When conveying expertise on a topic, it is necessary to use formal language.

For instance, in the case of a scientist presenting their research at a conference, which language style would be most suitable?

Formal: "I would like to present my findings on the analysis of broadband night sky airglow intensity. Data was collected from three different locations between March 21st and June 15th, revealing previously unknown sources that occur during solar minimum."

Informal: "I'm gonna talk about my research on broadband night sky airglow intensity. I studied it in three places from March to June and found some new sources that only appear during solar minimum."

Using formal language in this scenario is crucial to establish credibility and capture the attention of the audience.

Informal vs. Formal Language

Formal language often uses more complex grammar and longer sentences compared to informal language.

For example:

Formal: "We regret to inform you that the item ordered on October 8th is no longer available for purchase."

Informal: "We're sorry, but you can't buy what you ordered last week."

Both sentences convey the same message, but in different styles. The formal language sentence is more intricate and prolonged, while the informal language sentence is straightforward and concise.

Modal verbs are commonly used in formal language, but not in informal language.

For instance:

Formal: "Could you kindly provide us with your arrival time?"

Informal: "Can you tell us when you're arriving?"

The informal language sentence is still polite, but because it is not formal, a modal verb is unnecessary.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are more commonly used in informal language, while formal language tends to avoid them.

For example:

Formal: "You can count on our unwavering support on all occasions."

Informal: "You know we'll always have your back, no matter what."

Formal language is more official and less personal, which is why it often uses "we" instead of "I".

For example:

Formal: "We are pleased to inform you that you have been hired."

Informal: "I'm happy to let you know that you're part of the team now!"

Understanding Vocabulary

The language we use can vary depending on the context - formal or informal. Some words are more commonly used in formal language, while others are more commonly used in informal language.

Synonyms: Differences in Language Style

Let's explore some synonyms that highlight the contrast between formal and informal language:

  • Purchase (formal) versus Buy (informal)
  • Assist (formal) versus Help (informal)
  • Inquire (formal) versus Ask (informal)
  • Disclose (formal) versus Explain (informal)
  • Discuss (formal) versus Talk (informal)

Formality and Contractions

Contractions, such as "can't" for "cannot," are not appropriate in formal language. For example:

Informal language: I can't leave now.

Formal language: I cannot depart at this time.

Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms in Formal Language

While abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms are useful in simplifying language, they are often used in informal language and should be avoided in formal settings. Consider these examples:

  • ASAP (informal) versus As soon as possible (formal)
  • Photo (informal) versus Photograph (formal)
  • ADHD (informal) versus Attention Deficit Disorder (formal)
  • FAQs (informal) versus Frequently asked questions (formal)
  • vs. (informal) versus Versus (formal)

Formality and Colloquial Language

Colloquial language and slang have no place in formal settings and should be avoided in order to maintain the appropriate level of formality. Let's compare an informal sentence and its formal equivalent:

Informal language: I just wanna say thanks.

Formal language: I would like to express my gratitude.

Informal language: You got a new dress? That's ace!

Formal language: You have a new dress? That's wonderful!

The Importance of Formal Language

Formal language is crucial in official forms of communication, such as academic writing and work-related correspondence, as it conveys knowledge, expertise, and a sense of importance. It differs from informal language in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and the use of pronouns. Formal language is intricate and precise, while informal language is more relaxed and casual.

Defining Formal Language

Formal language is a style of communication used in formal settings to address someone we do not know or someone we hold with respect, in order to make a good impression.

The Significance of Formal Language

Formal language serves the purpose of official correspondence, and is therefore important in conveying knowledge, expertise, and creating a sense of importance.

Example of Formal Language

'I would like to extend my gratitude' is an example of a formal sentence.

Differences in Grammar and Vocabulary Between Formal and Informal Language

The key differences between formal and informal language include the use of specific grammar and vocabulary, such as modal verbs, in formal language, while informal language relies more on phrasal verbs, contractions, abbreviations, acronyms, initialisms, colloquial language, and slang.

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