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Formal and informal registers

Formal and informal registers

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Formal and informal registers

In a nutshell

Choosing grammar, words and expressions in a manner that suits the purpose of the writing is called tone or register. A text's register is defined as the language used by its author based on the text's audience. In this summary, you will learn how to use register to reflect the purpose of your writing. 

How to use register

Your choice of register should reflect the audience of your writing. The choices you make will differ greatly depending on the audience you are writing for. Academic writing will have a different tone or register depending on the type of writing you are asked to do. When approaching a new piece of writing, it is best to ask yourself:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • What type of writing is this?
  • What is the purpose of the writing?

The 4 features of academic writing 

There are four main features of academic writing. These are:



Technical language


  • An essay will be formal, objective, use technical language and be abstract.

  • Conversational writing will be subjective, casual, use everyday language and adhere to concrete ideas.

  • Reflective writing will be formal, subjective, use semi-technical language and mostly abstract ideas.

Your writing style and language will alter depending on the type of writing you are requested to produce. As a result, it is crucial to make sure your register and tone align with the writing's intended purpose and audience.

Formal register

Documents requiring accuracy, precision and clarity are written in the formal register. A more serious and impersonal tone might be found in formal writing. Formal writing is more dispassionate and engages the reader from a distance. With those you don't know or don't know very well, the language is more complicated and intricate.

Features of formal register


Technical language
Technical phrases or jargon, which is terminology that might only be understood by a particular group of individuals, including topic specific language and concepts, are frequently used in formal writing.
Formal vocabulary
More elaborate and intricate terminology is employed in formal writing.
Standard English
Standard English is typically employed in official writing. This indicates that proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation are used. Writers should refrain from using contractions—words that have been condensed—in formal texts.
Impersonal language
In formal writing, the author may adopt a detached tone to put the reader at ease. The passive voice, which places the object first in the phrase, is frequently used to do this. The action of the verb is subsequently transferred to the object (new subject).
Developed ideas
Before shifting topics, a topic or idea must be thoroughly elaborated in formal writing.
Orderly structure
The employment of sentences is systematic and complete. There should be no missing words and all sentences should make sense. 
Discourse markers
To link the topics discussed, you must build a relationship between points using discourse markers.
Longer complex sentences
Longer and more intricate sentences are more common in formal writing. The conversation topic is serious and complicated, hence longer sentence structure is frequently seen.

Informal register

The tone of informal writing is more relaxed and intimate. When speaking with people the author knows well, such as friends, relatives or their peer group, they tend to employ informal language. The goal of casual writing is typically to establish a relationship with the reader.

Features of informal register


Chatty language or slang
Typically, plain language is employed in informal writing. Slang or words used often in daily speech may be included. Slang is terminology that is only used among close friends or members of the same social group.
The use of humour in informal texts is another possibility. The text becomes more light-hearted as a result and less serious.
Short sentences
Short and simple phrases and/or sentences are typically employed in casual writings since they are intended to be spoken with people the writer is familiar with or to make a work seem more approachable and accessible.
An idiom is a commonly used expression that, when taken as a whole, has a specific meaning that cannot be inferred from the individual word meanings.
As there are fewer rules and formalities, abbreviations can be used to shorten words and phrases.
Expressive language
Informal register can include very expressive language since the writer does not feel under any obligation to observe more formal norms of etiquette than the most fundamental ones.
Direct address
In informal writing, the pronouns "you" or "we" are more frequently employed. This gives the impression that the author is speaking directly to the readership.
Contractions are frequently employed in casual writing because they are concise and direct.

When to use different registers

Type of register

Found in

Formal register
Essays and reports
Informal register
Magazine articles, blog posts

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

How does the type of writing affect the register?

How does the audience affect the register?

What is register?


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