Important Differences Between Formal and Informal Communication

Formal Communication

Formal communication is a type of communication that follows a prescribed set of rules, conventions, and formats. It is typically used in professional or official settings and is often governed by organizational or institutional policies.

Formal communication is typically written, although it can also be oral. It is used to convey official information, such as policies, procedures, guidelines, and decisions. It can also be used to request or provide information, make inquiries, or report on progress.

Formal communication can take many different forms, including:

  1. Memos: Memos are written documents used to communicate information within an organization. They are typically short and to the point, and are often used for internal communication.
  2. Reports: Reports are written documents that provide information on a particular topic or issue. They are often used to inform decision-making within an organization.
  3. Letters: Letters are written documents that are typically used to communicate with individuals outside of an organization. They can be used to make requests, provide information, or respond to inquiries.
  4. e-mails: Emails are a common form of formal communication in modern organizations. They are often used for internal communication and can also be used to communicate with individuals outside of an organization.
  5. Newsletters: Newsletters are written documents that provide regular updates on the activities and progress of an organization. They are often used for internal communication.

The formal communication is of four types:

  • Upward Communication: This type of formal communication flows from subordinates to superiors or from lower-level employees to higher-level employees. It is often used to provide feedback, report on progress, and make suggestions or recommendations.
  • Downward Communication: This type of formal communication flows from superiors to subordinates or from higher-level employees to lower-level employees. It is often used to communicate policies, procedures, goals, and other important information.
  • Horizontal Communication: This type of formal communication flows between employees at the same level or in the same department. It is often used to coordinate activities, resolve conflicts, and share information.
  • Diagonal Communication: This type of formal communication flows between individuals or groups at different levels and in different departments or areas of an organization. It is often used to coordinate activities, share information, and resolve issues that affect multiple parts of the organization.

Informal Communication

Informal communication refers to the communication that occurs without following any formal rules, conventions, or formats. It is often used in personal or social settings and is less structured than formal communication. Informal communication can take many forms, including conversations, chats, text messages, emails, and social media posts.

In informal communication, the language used is often more casual and personal, and the content may be more subjective and emotional. The communication may also be less structured, and there may be fewer rules or guidelines to follow. Informal communication is often used to build relationships, share personal experiences, and provide emotional support.

Some examples of informal communication include:

  1. Water cooler conversations: These are informal conversations that take place in the workplace, often around the water cooler or coffee machine. They may be used to share news, gossip, or personal experiences.
  2. Text messages: Text messages are a form of informal communication that is often used to stay in touch with friends and family. They are typically more casual and personal than formal emails or letters.
  3. Social media: Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are often used for informal communication. Users can share personal updates, photos, and thoughts with friends and followers.
  4. Instant messaging: Instant messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Slack, are often used for informal communication within groups or teams. They may be used to coordinate activities, share news, or provide support.

The informal communication is of four types:

  1. Grapevine Communication: This type of informal communication refers to the rumor mill or gossip network within an organization. It is often spread through word of mouth and can be based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
  2. Single Strand Communication: This type of informal communication occurs when one person communicates a message to another person, who then passes it on to someone else. This can result in a game of telephone, where the original message becomes distorted or changed as it is passed along.
  3. Cluster Chain Communication: This type of informal communication involves a group of people who share a common interest or concern. The message is passed along through the group, with each member adding their own perspective or interpretation.
  4. Probability Chain Communication: This type of informal communication occurs when a person communicates a message to multiple people, but not all of them pass it on. The message is more likely to spread if the person who receives it sees it as important or relevant.

Key Differences Between Formal and Informal Communication

Formal Communication Informal Communication
More structured and planned Less structured and spontaneous
Follows set communication channels and procedures Does not follow set communication channels or procedures
Uses professional language and tone Uses casual language and tone
Typically written or spoken communication that is documented Often oral communication that is not documented
Used in official business settings, such as meetings or presentations Used in personal or social settings, such as casual conversations or social media
Typically involves communication between superiors and subordinates or in a business setting Typically involves communication between peers, friends, or family members
Often used to convey important information or decisions Often used to build personal relationships or to convey casual information
May involve legal or contractual implications Generally does not involve legal or contractual implications
Generally focuses on work-related topics Can cover a wide range of topics, including personal interests and feelings

Important Differences Between Formal and Informal Communication

  1. Structure: Formal communication is structured, with a defined set of communication channels and procedures, while informal communication is less structured and more spontaneous, with no set channels or procedures.
  2. Tone and Language: Formal communication typically uses professional language and a serious tone, while informal communication uses more casual language and a relaxed tone.
  3. Setting: Formal communication is typically used in official business or professional settings, such as meetings or presentations, while informal communication is used in personal or social settings, such as casual conversations or social media.
  4. Purpose: Formal communication is often used to convey important information or decisions, while informal communication is often used to build personal relationships, convey casual information or to just have fun.
  5. Documentation: Formal communication is usually documented, such as in written reports or minutes of meetings, while informal communication is often not documented.
  6. Type of Information: Formal communication generally focuses on work-related topics, such as projects, objectives, and tasks, while informal communication can cover a wide range of topics, including personal interests and feelings.
  7. Legal or Contractual Implications: Formal communication may involve legal or contractual implications, such as a formal agreement or contract, while informal communication generally does not.

Similarities Between Formal and Informal Communication

There are some similarities between formal and informal communication, including:

  1. Both involve the sharing of information: Whether it’s in a formal or informal setting, communication involves the sharing of information between individuals or groups.
  2. Both are necessary for effective communication: Both formal and informal communication play important roles in the exchange of ideas, opinions, and feedback, and are necessary for effective communication in any setting.
  3. Both can occur within the same setting: In many cases, both formal and informal communication can occur within the same setting, such as a workplace, where formal communication may occur during meetings or presentations, and informal communication may occur during casual conversations or lunch breaks.
  4. Both can be verbal or written: Both formal and informal communication can take the form of verbal or written communication, depending on the situation and the preferences of the individuals involved.
  5. Both involve understanding the audience: Effective communication, whether formal or informal, requires an understanding of the audience and their needs, interests, and communication styles.

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