When learning English, it is very important to work out when and how to use formal language.
Informal language is usually in a casual context. Informal language may use abbreviations, contractions, emojis, and slang. We use it in our everyday communication with friends and family.
However, formal language is used mostly in writing and in speeches or presentations. We use it in serious situations that include people we do not know well, when applying for a job, writing emails at work, writing essays for school, etc…
Here are some tips to help you master a formal language:
- If you want to make your speech or writing more formal, the first thing to do is to replace contractions with non-contracted versions of the words. Instead of “isn’t,” “she’s,” or “couldn’t,” say/write “is not”, “she is” or “could not”.
Informal: She couldn’t possibly attend the meeting.
Formal: She could not possibly attend the meeting.
2. Avoid abbreviated versions of words such as TV, phone, photo, etc. Rather go for television, telephone, and photograph instead.
3. The formal language will not use slang terms and colloquialisms.
Don’t say: The chick was so drunk that she couldn’t stand on her feet.
Say: The woman/lady had too much alcohol so she could not conduct herself.
4. Avoid phrasal verbs in your academic writing. Although their usage is quite common in normal conversations and it makes your speech sound more natural, formal context is not an adequate place for them. So, instead of a multi-word phrasal verb, use a one-word verb.
Don’t say: The scientists found out a solution to environmental pollution.
Say: The scientists discovered a solution to environmental pollution.
5. Avoid first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘We’. Try and replace them with “One,” “the reader,” “the viewers”.
Don’t say: We can see the actor is confused.
Say: The viewers can see the actor is confused.
Remember that the tone of a formal context is more serious, while the tone of an informal context is more personal and spontaneous.