Formal and informal

Features of informal English

common words and phrasal verbs

  • Don’t worry, I’ll back you up.

abbreviations, contractions and acronyms

  • Call me asap.

simple, short sentences

  • I graduated. Then I worked for a small company. They promoted me to manager.

Features of formal English

Formal vocabulary and equivalents to phrasal verbs 

  • We will support your decision.

Fewer abbreviations, contractions and acronyms

  • Please contact me as soon as possible.

More complex sentences through use of linkers, passive forms and relative clauses.

  • After graduating I started working for a small company where I was promoted to the role of manager.

Formal and informal

Here is an example of formal English that you might come across in a book:

As the price of five dollars was reasonable, I decided to make the purchase without further thought.

The same thought would be expressed quite differently in informal English. Here’s an actual example that I heard from a young American:

It was, like, five bucks, so I was like “okay”.
Formal: Good morning! How are you?
Informal: Hey how’s it going?

Another difference is the use of contractions which is basically shortening words. When we use formal English, we tend to say out all the words but we use contractions in informal English:

Formal: They will be attending the meeting tomorrow.
Informal: They’ll attend the meeting tomorrow.

We also use different words to convey the same meaning. For example, if we’re saying sorry:

Formal: I would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Informal: Sorry!