Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Home > English > Writing > Formal and informal writing


Formal and informal writing


Formal Language

Two news readers

Using formal language doesn't mean that you have to sound boring, you can still use words imaginatively in formal writing. News reports use formal language, but the words are rich and stimulating to keep the audience interested.


Q1. The two sentences below both use formal language to give us the same information. Which sentence do you think is best and why?

a) The bomb broke the windows of nearby buildings.
b) The blast shattered the windows of nearby buildings.

Q2. Which of the following should NOT use formal language?

a) Advice to a close friend
b) A letter to the local paper
c) A speech to teachers or parents
d) A newspaper article aimed at adults


A1. Sentence b is better. Blast and shattered are far more descriptive than bomb and broke.

A2. Example a) should not be written with formal language. You wouldn’t use formal language when writing to a close friend.

Tips for making your writing more formal


  • Make your writing clear and to the point.

  • Try linking ideas with:
    In addition
    On the other hand
    By contrast

  • Include some complex sentences in your writing. Try using semi-colons if you feel confident about using them correctly.

  • It's good to use figurative language if you think it fits in with the purpose and audience of the task. Metaphors and similes work well in speeches.


  • Don't use 'Well' or 'You know' or 'Anyway' or 'Like I just said' or any phrase that sounds like you are having a friendly chat.

  • Avoid using: 'And', 'But', 'Because' or 'So' at the beginning of a sentence.

  • Keep exclamation marks to a minimum!!!

  • Words like 'nice' and 'a lot' have no power. Try to think of more descriptive words eg 'delicious' or 'endless'.

  • Clichés are colourful phrases that people use all the time in speech. So often, in fact, that they seem worn out and boring in writing. Avoid phrases such as 'pretty as a picture', 'big as a house', 'skinny as a rake'.


Formal and informal writing activity

One understands the difference - innit?



Join Questionaut's quest to find his friend's hat.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.