Formal English is not everyday English. You’ll rarely be expected to talk in a formal register to a person you have just met - politely, curtly, but not necessarily formally. Otherwise you may end up coming across as a parody, or perhaps a dashing young suitor from one of Jane Austen’s novels (which may not actually be a bad thing).
However, if you are learning English for academic or professional settings, understanding the distinction between the two registers is essential. Formal language isn’t just polite, it is also designed to be clear and precise with your intentions. It signifies that you are listening to a client at a detailed level, or that you fully understand the theory you are writing your paper on.
Which register you communicate with is dependent on what degree you are permitted to display your personality in any given situation (that was formal, see?). Informal language allows for colloquialisms, slang and wit. Formal language, however, demands that you follow strict rules and sentence structures.
Here are some examples of common informal phrases translated into business English:
Understanding the difference between the two registers takes practice and dedication. Are there any phrases or sentences you want to communicate in a formal or informal manner, but aren’t sure how? Leave a comment or a tweet and the OISE Language Coaching page can help. Remember - OISE courses are orientated to your goals. If this is something you struggle with, a solution is at hand.
Written by Sam Kearns, Community Manager.