Formal vs Informal Language

In linguistics, a register is a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. (Wikipedia )

Situations and Context

When do you use formal and informal language?
Formal situations

Informal situation


Vocabulary, punctuation and grammar.

Formal Style

  • more complex, longer sentences
  • avoidance of contractions and abbreviations
  • use of passive voice
  • more 'educated' words, Latin origin, low-frequency vocabulary
  • avoid the imperative form
  • noun phrases

Informal Style

  • short words and sentences
  • contractions and abbreviations
  • colloquial language, Anglo Saxon words (phrasal verbs)
  • may use the imperative form
  • verb phrases

Formality Scale

  1. Extremely formal
  2. Formal
  3. Neutral
  4. Informal
  5. Colloquial/oral
  6. Extremely informal

Levels of Usage



Formal or Informal English
Identifying and Using Formal and Informal Vocabulary
How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing (wikiHow page)


Which is Better: Formal or Informal Language?