Grammar and punctuation

Register: Formal and informal writing

Register: Formal and informal writing

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Register: Formal and informal writing

In a nutshell

A formal and informal register refers to the level of formality that is used in writing. Formal language is used in situations that are more serious or with people that you don't know. Informal language is used in more relaxed, less serious situations and with people you know well.


Before going into more detail about formal and informal registers, it's important that you understand what the word, 'register' means. Register is the language that the author uses and is chosen based on the text's audience. A register can be formal, informal or somewhere in between.

Formal writing

Formal writing has a more serious and impersonal tone. Formal texts engage with the reader from a distance and is more detached. The language is more complex and sophisticated and is used with people that you don't know or don't know very well.

Examples of formal writing can be found in

Job applications
School reports
Official letters
Instruction manuals

Features of formal writing

Formal writing usually has some of the following features:

Standard English

In formal writing, Standard English is usually used. This means the correct grammar, punctuation and spelling is used. In formal texts, writers avoid the use of contractions which are words in a shortened form.

we will
do not
they had/would

Technical language

Formal writing often includes technical terms or jargon, which is language that might only be understood by a specific group of people. 


A doctor might say, "I need a nurse in room 5, stat!" The word, "stat" is medical jargon meaning "in a hurry/immediately".

Formal vocabulary

In formal writing, more complex and sophisticated vocabulary is normally used. 

I want to ask for help.
I would like to request assistance.
I have a problem with my computer.
I have an issue with my computer.
I will bring this up with my boss.
I will mention this to my boss.

Impersonal language

In formal writing, the writer may create an impersonal tone to distance themselves from the subject. This is often done with the use of the passive voice which places the object first in the sentence. The object (new subject) then receives the action of the verb.


The research is believed to be valid.


I believe the research is valid.

Longer complex sentences

Formal writing usually contains longer and more complex sentences. This is often done because the topic of discussion is serious and complex.

Informal writing

Informal writing has a more casual and personal tone. Informal language is mostly used with people that the author knows well such as friends, family or their peer group. The effect of informal writing is usually to connect with the reader.

Examples of informal writing can be found in

Comic books
Articles for children
Text messages
Social media posts
Personal blogs
A letter to a friend
Personal emails

Features of informal writing

Informal writing usually has some of the following features:

Chatty language or slang

In informal writing, simple language is usually used. This may include words used in daily life or slang. Slang is vocabulary that is used between people who belong to the same social group or who know each other well.

Last night's party was lit!
Last night's party was great!

Your Halloween costume is so cool.

Your Halloween costume is superb.
Why are you so salty?
Why are you so angry?

Personal language

The second person pronoun "you" or first person plural pronoun "we" are more likely to be used in informal writing. This makes it sound like the writer is addressing the audience directly.


In a comic book, you might see a sentence like this: "Not so fast! You have done enough; we are here to defeat you!"


You might also see the use of humour in informal texts. This makes the text more light-hearted.


In informal texts, contractions are very often used because they are short and to the point.


"Hey Cindy, I hope you're joining us later? I'm excited to see you!"

Short sentences

Since informal language is used with people the writer knows or to make a text more friendly and relatable, short and simple words and/or sentences are usually used in informal texts.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What is an informal register?

What is a formal register?

What does register mean?


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