Differences Between A Formal Letter And Informal Letter: Letter writing is the act of presenting an information or communication in a written form for the purpose of transmitting it to a predetermined recipient. A letter is simply a written or printed communication.
This article is targeted at discussing the differences between a formal letter and an informal letter. It is important to understand the peculiarities in the format of the both types of letter because you cannot continue to be getting it wrong, as letter writing is not in anyway moribund.
In determining whether to write a letter by way of formal or informal format, the relationship between the sender and the recipient must be considered, and secondly, the capacity of which the writer writes on and the capacity on which the recipient receives.
If the sender writes in his on her official capacity, informal letter format will be employed and if the recipient receives in his official capacity, the writer should also consider employing the formal letter format, but if otherwise, then informal letter format should be considered.
If the relationship of the sender and recipient is friendly and or based on family relationship or close familiarity, informal letter format should ne considered. Hence, there are two basic types of letter writing which are Formal and Informal letter writing.
Formal Letter – Formal letter is also known as an official letter. A letter is said to be formal if it is written to another in an official capacity. Formal letter is written in a professional and conventional language.
Formal letter may include business letters, application letters, insurance claims, and letter of recommendation, etc and includes any letter written by and to one who stands in less familiarity with the other.
Informal Letter – Informal letter is also known as an unofficial letter or friendly letter. It includes letter written by and to family, friends, relatives, etc in their unofficial capacity. The language and tone of an informal letter is relaxed, free and friendly as opposed to the format formal letter which has more regulations.
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Differences between Formal Letter and Informal Letter
The major factors that differentiates both type of letter are the Purpose, Language and Format.
a. Purpose: the purpose of the letter determines whether it should be written as a formal letter or informal letter. Formal letter is written for official purposes whereas informal letter is written based on personal relationship.
b. Language: informal letter is expected to sound conversational. The language of an informal letter is free and friendly. This is because of the presumed personal relationship that exists between the sender and the recipient. Slangs and colloquial can be employed. For formal letters, the language use is professional.
c. Format: format is simply the form of presentation. The format of formal letter differs from that of informal letter, although they still maintain almost the same structure of letter writing, yet the format of each must be strictly observed. The formats of the both types is discussed and differentiated hereunder.
d. Address: address is a simple and direct description of location. Address in the context of letter writing is the location from which the letter is either emanating from or going to. In formal letter, there must be two addresses.
These are the sender’s address and the recipient’s address, whereas for an informal letter, only the sender’s address is required. For both formal and informal letters, the sender’s address is located at the same position which is at the top-right corner of the writing page, and it is the very first information to be contained in a letter.
e. Date: A letter must bear a date, usually the date it was written or the date it is to be sent. This applies whether it is a formal or informal letter. A letter without date is defective and consequently, lesser value may be attached to it if it is a formal letter.
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f. Recipient Address: this is the address of the receiver. A formal letter must include the recipient address whereas it is not required in an informal letter. Recipient address comes after the date and is positioned by the left end of the writing page. Recipient address includes the name of the recipient (If the name is known to the writer) and then the portfolio or office of the recipient.
g. Salutation: salutation is a simple greeting. It is a requirement for both formal and informal letter, however, the language and the manner of its writing differs. The language and tone of salutation in an informal letter can be friendly, for example; the writer can use “Hi Jane, Hello Jane, Dear Jane, Jane”.
From the example above, the writer addressed the recipient by her first name because it is an informal letter. The writer can as well salute the recipient by nickname. This is not so in a formal letter.
The salutation in a formal letter must be official, example; “Dear Sir/Madam”. If the name of the recipient must be mentioned in the salutation in a formal letter then it must be the surname, and the title must be prefixed to it. Example, “Dear Mr./Mrs/Ms Okeke.
h. Title: title is simply the subject of a writing, usually a short phrase capturing the subject. Title is one the components of a formal letter, while this is not so with an informal letter. An informal letter does not require title. The title must convey the purpose of the letter. Title comes immediately one space after the salutation and it should be centered.
The title when written with a “capitalize each functional word” it format, must be underlined. If it is written in block letters throughout, then the writer must not underline. However, the title should not be presented in small letters.
Formal letter must present the title or subject of the letter, while for an informal letter, this is not a requirement and should not be included.
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I. Body of the Letter: This is the substance of the letter. In an informal letter, the language of the letter should be informal, friendly and free. Slangs and colloquial can be employed. The language and tone should be conversational.
The content of an informal letter can flow into pages; it can be long and engaging, elaborate, narrative and even descriptive. There could also be an exchange of pleasantries in an informal letter.
Nonetheless, In a formal letter, the language is strict and professional. The content of the letter should be as concise as possible. The language should be humble and respectful. In a formal letter, there is no exchange of pleasantries.
j. Complimentary Close: for an informal letter, the writer has the freedom to close with any suitable phrase, such as: Regards, Best Wishes, Kind Regards, Loves, etc.
For a formal letter, the writer can use formal phrases such as: Yours Faithfully, Yours Sincerely, Yours Respectfully.
For both formal and informal letter, comma is to be used after the complimentary close.
k. Name and Signature: When writing an informal letter, there is no prescribed way of signing off, whereas in a formal letter, the sender is to append his or her signature immediately after the complimentary close.
More so, in an informal letter, the writer need not write his or her name in full. One can write nicknames or a name known to the recipient.
However, in a formal letter, the sender’s name is to be written in full. It must follow the prescribed format. But this is not necessarily so for an informal letter because except for academic or examination purposes, an informal letter need not follow the prescribed format.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.