Words differentiate formal and informal language
By Dr Albert P’ Rayan
03rd September 2012 12:00 AM
A friend of mine received a call from his colleague: “Sir, good morning. Sorry for disturbing you in the early morning. I have been suffering from fever since yesterday evening. I consulted a physician and he advised me to take rest for three days. I will not be able to come to college for the next three days. May I request you to inform the head of the department of my indisposition? Let him also be informed that I have already made arrangements for my classes. I am grateful to you for your help”
What is wrong with the telephonic message? The problem is that the message is too formal to be conveyed to a colleague on the phone. The caller uses very formal language. The message is rather cold. It lacks warmth. The tone is neither casual nor relaxed. The caller sounds very artificial. A telephonic conversation between two friends or colleagues should be informal and there should be no formal words and expressions.
Informal style is marked by a casual, familiar, and colloquial use of language. The message can be made informal as follows: “Hello, good morning. Sorry for disturbance. I’m not well. I saw a doctor and he asked me to take rest for three days. Please inform our HoD I will be on leave for three days. I’ve asked Mr A and Mr B to take my classes. Thank you.”
We do not speak the way we write. In other words, we don’t speak like a book. Written English is entirely different from spoken English. Even when we write to someone we know, we use informal style. Written grammar is different from spoken grammar. We use contracted forms when we speak. For example:
• I can’t do it. (I cannot do it.)
• Who’s that? (Who is that?)
• Aren’t they playing? (Are they not playing?)
• I won’t be able to come there. (I will not be able to come there.)
We use informal words when we converse with people we know and formal words are used in contracts, business letters, legal documents, etc. Formal language is used on formal occasions such as a graduation day or swearing-in ceremony. When friends, colleagues or relatives interact with one another, they use informal language, which is more direct than formal language.
It is the vocabulary that differentiates between the formal and informal styles in speech and writing. Here are some examples of formal terms and their informal alternatives in different sentences:
1. A) Please inform me as soon as possible.
B) Please let me know soon.
2. A) The employee apologised to his boss.
B) The staff said sorry to his boss.
3. A) Should I cancel my plan of meeting the director?
B) Should I drop my plan of seeing the director?
4. A) If you go on postponing, you will be in trouble.
B) If you go on delaying, you’ll be in trouble.
5. A) Contact the Public Relations Officer and obtain his permission to film the temple.
B) Get in touch with the PRO and get his permission to film the temple.
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