What is the Difference Between a Formal and Informal Letter?

Letter writing is an important part of many competitive exams. In descriptive papers, candidates in examinations such as the SSC test, Bank exam, RRB exam, or other Government exams are asked to compose a letter to assess their writing skills. Letters are a type of verbal and written communication in which information or a message is sent from one party to another in order to communicate the message. It is delivered from one party to another to convey critical information. Letters are written in two formats, i.e. formal letter and informal letter format.

Let’s discuss two types of letters in detail along with their differences with a few tips to write quality letters and score full marks in the descriptive papers of a particular examination.

Definition of Formal Letters

A formal letter is any letter written in professional language and following a prescribed Formal Letter Format for formal purposes, such as a recommendation letter, inquiry letter, complaint letter, cover letter, and so on. Such letters are used for a variety of purposes, including formal invitations, proposals, references, filing a complaint or inquiry, and applying for a job.

The following points should be kept in mind while writing formal letters:

  • It must follow a specific format.
  • It should avoid using superfluous words.
  • It should be succinct and direct.
  • It must be both relevant and objective.
  • It should be sophisticated and comprehensive.
  • Even if it is a complaint letter, it should be polite.
  • It should be error-free in both grammar and spelling.

Business letters, letters outlining civic problems, and job applications are the three types of formal letters.

Definition of Informal Letters

An informal letter is one written to someone we know reasonably well. The letter can be used for a variety of purposes, including communicating messages or news, providing advice, congratulating the receiver, requesting information, asking questions, and so on. It is a personal letter written to someone you know, such as friends, siblings, parents, or another close relative. This letter does not have a set standard format.

When writing an informal letter, it is acceptable to be pleasant and to utilise a personal or emotional tone. Slang or colloquial phrases, codes, abbreviations, and so on can also be used when writing it, depending on the recipient's familiarity.

Important Differences Between Formal and Informal Letters

The following are the significant differences between formal and informal letters:

  • A formal letter is one that is prepared in formal language and format for official purposes. When a letter is written in a friendly manner to someone you know, it is said to be informal.
  • Formal letters are used for business or formal correspondence. In contrast, informal letters are used for casual or intimate communication.
  • Formal letters must be written in a specific style. Unlike informal communication, which has no established format.
  • Formal letters are typically written in the third person; however, business letters are written in the first person. Informal letters, on the other hand, are written in the first, second, and third person.
  • Formal letters are used when writing to businesses, such as partners, suppliers, customers, clients, and so on, colleges or institutes, employers, professionals, and so on. In contrast, we use informal letters to write letters to friends, relatives, acquaintances, and so on.
  • We utilise the passive voice when drafting official letters. In contrast, an aggressive and demanding voice is employed.
  • A formal letter should be brief, with no unnecessary information included. In contrast, an informal letter can be short or long.
  • Contractions and abbreviations are not used in formal letters; instead, full forms are used. Unlike informal letters, which use contractions, abbreviations, idioms, phrasal verbs, and even slang and colloquial terms.

So, before you begin drafting a letter, you should first determine who your recipient is. If you have a professional relationship with the recipient, a formal letter is appropriate; but, if the recipient is someone close to you or you know the recipient well, an informal letter is appropriate.