06 April 2010

MCA - ELCS - NOTES - Informal Conversations Vs Formal expression


Informal Conversations Vs Formal expression


What is conversation? As a starter we can think of it as two or more people talking and listening. They may be doing this either face-to-face or at a distance. It can be done via the spoken word or via sign or symbol (the most obvious case here is the use of chat rooms on the internet). This may sound a bit obvious, but as soon as we begin to think about conversation we can see it is a sophisticated activity that we often take for granted. Here we will start by listing some important qualities.

Conversation is a social activity. Apart from talking to ourselves, or to animals, we engage in it with others. To do this we need to think about their feelings, thoughts and needs. In turn, they too must think of us. We have to consider, for example, whether our words could upset or offend others; or whether they will help us in dealing with the matter in hand. Thus, if two or more people are to communicate, then they must:


Think about others' feelings and experiences.

Give each other room to talk.

In other words, talking - conversation - is a reciprocal process.

Informal conversations happen in multiple ways.

  1. Sometimes they are between two people (or sometimes a small group) that just happen as the opportunity presents itself. Let's say, for example, that a small group of parents/guardians are having a small get-together. During the course of conversation, someone brings up the fact that the police department recently busted up an underage drinking party in the neighborhood. That's a teachable moment -- a time at which a person is attuned to a topic and more likely to take away from the scenario key points about an issue or concern. That is, awareness can be raised, and new concepts can be learned.
  2. Sometimes they are more deliberate--planned events where a small group of individuals come together for the purpose of discussing the issue. Let’s say, for example, that the community has just passed a social host ordinance and a few parents come together to discuss the implications that it has for property owners in the community. Or, an employee might choose to hold a brown-bag lunch at work on the issue of underage drinking as a way to lower employee benefit costs related to adolescent substance abuse treatment.
  3. There area multitude of other scenarios and one thing they all have in common is a single individual--someone willing to bring up the topic.

Formal and Informal English

The difference between formal and informal English is not a difference between correct and incorrect, but a difference of what is known as register. A register is a variety of language related to a particular subject matter or area of activity, a set of words and expressions as well as syntactical features that may be said to characterise that specific area of language. There are many registers: technical, academic, mathematical, scientific, etc. Very broadly speaking, we can also speak of a “formal” and “informal” register in English. In writing academic reports and the like, it would be normal to draw most of the vocabulary and expressions from the formal register, and few, if any, from the informal. This entails avoiding colloquial (everyday) or slang expressions in your writing assignments. The question of register is far more complicated than indicated here; for example, there are many degrees of formality and informality. However, below are listed a few examples which may be of practical assistance.


They did an experiment

Then the Drive Manager goes through some steps to install the programme

One after the other

They found out what the important things were

You can find out all about the survey on page 7

We think you should discuss the research findings at the next departmental meeting

Doctors have come up with a new method of….

Safety officers are looking into the problem

The cost of cleaning services has gone up 25% over the last three years


We do not think it is a good idea to do anything at the moment

Many thanks to the staff at “Computers R Us” for their help on the technical side

You need to get the patient’s help when doing these hearing tests

There were no big differences between the three different groups we tested

A lot of

This seemed to fix the problem


This shows that …

Numbers are going up

They put the plan into action

This let them keep the same temperature during the whole experiment

These results are because of factors like weight, age …


The experiment was carried out / performed

The Drive Manager then performs / executes a series of functions / operations in order to install the programme

At regular intervals

They determined / discovered / established / identified the important properties / characteristics / issues

Details of the survey are to be found on page 7

It is recommended that the research findings are discussed at the next departmental meeting

Doctors have created / established a new method of….

Safety officers are investigating the problem

The cost of cleaning services has risen by 25% over the last three years


It is suggested that no action should be taken at this stage

Thanks are extended to the staff at “Computers R Us” for their technical support

(Slightly less formal: We would like to thank ….)

When conducting these audiological tests, the active participation of the patient being tested is required.

No significant differences emerged between the three different groups tested

Many / much / a great deal of

This appeared to rectify the problem


This demonstrates…

Numbers are increasing

The plan was implemented / carried out

This allowed / permitted / resulted in / ensured a constant temperature throughout the experiment / for the entire experiment

These results are dependent on factors such as weight, age …