Formal vs Informal Communication - How They Differ

Formal vs Informal Communication  - How They Differ

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.
Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications

A lot of people are looking for information on formal vs informal communication. They are particularly looking for the difference between the two.

Both informal communication and formal communication take place in any organization whether it be business or personal. But how does informal and formal communication differ? First, let's take a look at informal communication.

Informal communication:

Informal communication is casual and spontaneous.  Informal communication comes from communication activities outside of those formally learned through discipline or at school through education, or in business through related experiences and formal training.

It comes from the social communication of home family culture, casual conversations and grapevines, rumors, inter-relational activities outside of the formal or public arenas.

We do not behave the same way at work as we do at home or at play. I always say that people are at their best at work. We really don't know someone until we've stayed with them outside of work for a few days -- or even a few hours with some people.

Informal communication may not be as reliant as formal communication.  Informal communication may be vulnerable to being deceptive and imprecise in its casualness - -consciously or unconsciously.

In an informal setting, the quality of communication may be affected by the more relaxed or careless attitude or behaviour.  Informal communication is what takes place without the formal addition of conventions and ceremonies.

In order to understand the difference between formal and informal communication, we need to look at both and compare some of the variances between the two. So let's now take a look at formal communication.

Formal communication:

Formal communication is more thought-out and prepared from learned experiences or organized training that present rules and conventions authoritated by business and formal etiquette.

With formal communication, more accountability is expected. In an organizational setting, such as business, corporations or associations and the like, communication is connected with official status-quo or protocols of the formal channels of structure and company culture which the line of manager/subordinate reporting system is expectedly accepted.

In business, the different forms of formal communication including departmental functionality, activities taking place within meeting and conference settings, verbal and written communication through telephone, memos, letters and bulletins, etc., all add up to the formality.

In a formal setting, people take the time to recognize the consequences of transmitting any wrong or incomplete information.

However, both formal and informal communication is found in an organization, depending on the level of business experience and training one possesses in his or her personal life. An organization can make efficient use of informal communication by confirming and affirming that which is being communicated by the less trained individual.

Both informal communication and formal communication can be expressed verbally or non-verbally by words, tone of voice, signs such as glances and gestures and even silence. For the purpose of effective communication, one needs to identify and affirm anything that may be communicated formally or informally, if and when unsure of the true meaning behind the communicator./dmh

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and the web site which is the home of her e-books "Improve Communication: Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication: Organization and Training" as well as her 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". You may reprint this article making sure to include this bio with no changes.

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