Most people’s experience of creative writing exercises were from high school English classes; where their teacher would tell them how to get started and then occasionally follow up with the odd prompt or two. The format of these exercises is often, “Say this, now make else something up, now say this…”
Not only did it not teach you anything, but it stifled your creativity at the same time – the worst of both worlds. Is it any wonder then that most writers these days don’t wouldn’t give creative writing exercises the time of day? They were bored half to death by them!
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The difference between the two is obvious. The first one is formal, and the second is informal. But what is it that makes them formal and informal?
It is the style of writing, or the way we use words to say what we want to say. Different situations call for different ways of putting words together. The way we write in academic and scientific settings differs greatly from the way we write to a friend or close one. The tone, vocabulary, and syntax, all change as the occasion changes. This difference in the styles of writing is the difference between formality and informality, or the difference between formal and informal writing.
Following is a list of some of the main differences between informal and formal writing: Informal: May use colloquial words/expressions (kids, guy, awesome, a lot, etc.) Formal: Avoid using colloquial words/expressions (substitute with children, man/boy, wonderful, many, etc.) Informal: May use contractions (can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, etc.). Formal: Avoid contractions (write out full words – cannot, will not, should not, etc.). Informal: May use first, second, or third person. Formal: Write in third person (except in business letters where first person may be used). Informal: May use clichs (loads of, conspicuous by absence, etc.) Formal: Avoid clichs (use many, was absent, etc.) Informal: May address readers using second person pronouns (you, your, etc) Formal: Avoid addressing readers using second person pronouns (use one, one’s, the reader, the reader’s, etc.) Informal: May use abbreviated words (photo, TV, etc) Formal: Avoid using abbreviated words (use full versions – like photograph, television, etc.) Informal: May use imperative voice (e.g. Remember….) Formal: Avoid imperative voice (use Please refer to…..) Informal: May use active voice (e.g. We have notice that…..) Formal: Use passive voice (e.g. It has been noticed that….) Informal: May use short and simple sentences. Formal: Longer and more complex sentences are preferred (short simple sentences reflects poorly on the writer) Informal: Difficulty of subject may be acknowledged and empathy shown to the reader. Formal: State your points confidently and offer your argument firm support.
These are just some of the differences between formal and informal writing. The main thing to remember is that both are correct, it is just a matter of tone and setting. Formal English is used mainly in academic writing and business communications, whereas Informal English is casual and is appropriate when communicating with friends and other close ones. Choose the style of writing keeping in mind what you are writing and to whom. But whichever style you write in – formal or informal – be sure to keep it consistent, do not mix the two.
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