Formal and informal language

Perhaps you have been invited to a party, but you didn’t know what to wear? If you turn up in clothes much nicer than everyone else, you can feel uncomfortable. Using the wrong level of formality in your language can lead to the same thing.

Do you sometimes feel like you stumble while trying to speak another language? Maybe you don’t know all of the words you need, a sudden rush of adrenaline might make your mind go blank, or you could end up offending the person you’re speaking to by accidentally using the wrong words.

It is important to know the difference between formal and informal language and how to use them. If you have those skills, you will do better in your social, academic, and professional life.

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Frustrert dame som står foran klesskapet og er usikker på hva hun skal ha på seg av klær
Frustrert dame som står foran klesskapet og er usikker på hva hun skal ha på seg av klær

Formal or informal language?

Formal and informal language is also called register. By formal, we mean serious or very polite. By informal we mean relaxed and friendly. How can you decide if you should use formal or informal language?

Know who you are writing or speaking to

Look at the examples:
Imagine sitting in a park eating a sandwich with your best friend. Compare this to going to a nice dinner for a charity organization with your parents.

In the park, you would probably feel relaxed. You and your friend speak freely and do not think about how you say things. You probably use slang, abbreviations and contractions.

At the dinner, you will probably feel a bit nervous, especially if there are a lot of people you don’t know. This will make you think more about what you say and do.

The language you choose will be affected by the people around you.

In which situations do you think it would be unfit to use informal language?

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