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Formal vs Informal Writing – O Level Situational Writing

by | Apr 29, 2023 | 0 comments

Introduction | Formal vs Informal Writing – O Level Situational Writing


Having good writing skills is crucial for success in many areas of life. This is particularly true for students, where the ability to write clearly and effectively is key in achieving a distinction. In O Level Situational Writing, students are to write an essay to suit the purpose, audience and context of a given task. To do this well, students must have good understanding of formal and informal writing styles and apply them appropriately depending on the situation.

In this article, we will first highlight the differences between formal and informal writing. Subsequently, we will provide you with sample introductory paragraphs written for past-year O Level papers.


1. Key Differences in Formal and Informal Writing


In this section, we contrast between formal and informal writing using the context of an internship application. While we provide illustrative examples of both styles, we also highlight an inappropriate, overly casual example that is unsuitable for a formal application.


1.1 Tone


Tone refers to the attitude or emotion conveyed in writing. In formal writing, the tone is often objective, serious, respectful, and polite. In informal writing, the tone often friendly, casual, and relaxed. The tone helps to convey the writer’s intention and can affect how the reader responds to the writing.


Formal Informal
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to a favourable response. Thanks for checking out my application! Can’t wait to hear from you!



1.2 Contractions


Contractions are shortened forms of two words, such as “can’t” instead of “cannot”. In formal writing, contractions are avoided. However, in informal writing, contractions are used because they make writing sound more natural and conversational.


Formal Informal
I regret to inform you that I am unable to attend the interview. Sorry, I can’t make it for the interview.



1.3 Vocabulary


Formal vocabulary is often more precise and serious. Informal vocabulary is more casual, colloquial, and relaxed. When writing for a formal audience, it is important to use appropriate formal vocabulary to show respect and professionalism.


Formal Informal
I am writing to enquire about the internship opportunities available at your company. I was wondering if you have any positions for me?



1.4 Sentence structure


Formal writing tends to have longer, more complex sentences and follow traditional rules of sentence structure. Informal writing often uses shorter and simpler sentences.


Formal Informal
Please find attached to this mail my resume and cover letter for your review. Here’s my resume and cover letter. Take a look when you have time!



1.5 Use of jargon and slang


Jargon refers to specialised language or technical terms that are used in a specific field or profession. Slang refers to informal words or phrases that are commonly used in a specific group or culture. In formal writing, the use of jargon may be appropriate and necessary to convey precise meaning or show expertise. However, in informal writing, jargon is rarely used, if at all, because it can be confusing and alienating to the reader. Slang can be used to create a more casual or playful tone, but should be used judiciously and with consideration for the audience.

In the exam though, slang should be avoided altogether. After all, an exam is for assessment purposes, and using slang can prevent the marker from accurately evaluating your language ability.


Formal Informal
I am particularly interested in the opportunity to work on projects related to data analytics. I want to work on data stuff and I know I’ll slay it.



1.6 Personal pronouns


In formal writing, personal pronouns are often avoided or used in a limited way because they can make the writing sound too personal or subjective. For example, second person pronouns like “you” are often avoided in formal writing because they can sound accusatory or presumptuous. In informal writing, personal pronouns are often used to create closeness between the reader and writer.


Formal Informal
I would like to highlight my skills and experiences that make me a strong fit for the position. I want to tell you why I’m awesome for your job and why you should choose me.



1.7 Phrasal verbs


Phrasal verbs are combinations of a verb and a preposition, such as “check in” or “figure out”. In formal writing, the use of phrasal verbs may be appropriate if they convey the intended meaning clearly and accurately. However, in general, formal writing tends to use more precise and technical vocabulary, while phrasal verbs are more commonly used in informal writing to create a more conversational tone.


Formal Informal
I would like to enquire about the status of the selection process. I want to check in on how things are going.



1.8 Passive voice


In informal writing, active voice is often used because it is more direct and engaging. In contrast, passive voice is often used in formal writing because it can make the writing sound more objective. However, take note that overuse of passive voice can make writing sound vague or confusing.


Formal Informal
I am writing to express my interest in the internship opportunity offered by your company. I’m interested in the internship your company offers.



2. Sample O Level Essays (Introductory Paragraph)


In this part of the article, we will use past-year O Level Situational Writing papers to demonstrate how you can apply your knowledge of formal and informal writing styles to craft an introductory paragraph that is appropriate to the given task.


2.1 An extract from O Level 2022 (Formal)


Your school is offering students the opportunity to go on an overseas learning journey. For your year level, there are three residential trips available. As places are limited, the school will select the most suitable students for each trip. Students must write a letter to the Principal to indicate which trip they would like to be considered for.


Sample Introductory Paragraph:

I am writing to express my interest in the upcoming overseas learning journey that our school is offering for our year level. The prospect of exploring a new country and immersing myself in a different culture while gaining valuable knowledge and experience is truly exciting. I understand that there are three residential trips available and that the most suitable students will be selected for each trip. As such, I would like to indicate my preference for a specific trip and provide reasons why I believe I am a suitable candidate.



I heard that our school is offering this cool overseas learning trip for our year level. I’m legit keen to go check out a new place! But I heard there are only three spots and the school will pick the best students. Not gonna lie, I think I’ll be the best choice you can ever get.


2.2 An extract from O Level 2019 (Informal)


Your brother and sister-in-law will celebrate an important wedding anniversary next year, and your aunt and uncle would like to pay for an overseas trip as a gift for them. They have seen a travel website and have asked you to advise them about which trip your brother and sister-in-law would like best. Write an email to your aunt and uncle to explain your views.


Sample Introductory Paragraph:

How have you been? I hope you’re in good spirits! I was absolutely thrilled to hear that you’re planning to surprise Josh and Reena with a special trip for their upcoming wedding anniversary. How exciting! I’d be more than happy to lend a hand in making their celebration unforgettable. As you mentioned, you’ve been browsing a travel website and are looking for suggestions. Count me in! I have some great ideas and recommendations that I believe will make this a truly magical and memorable experience for this pair of newly-weds. Let’s work together to create an anniversary celebration that they’ll never forget!



I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to provide advice on selecting the most suitable overseas trip as a gift for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding anniversary. As per your request, I have conducted a thorough examination of the travel website and collated relevant information pertaining to each trip. After much deliberation, I would like to present my recommendations.


Conclusion | Formal vs Informal Writing – O Level Situational Writing


As a final note, understanding the differences between formal and informal writing styles and knowing how to apply them appropriately is essential for success in O Level Situational Writing. Bear in mind the key features of both styles of writing, and practise using them in various situations to hone your skills. Get feedback from an experienced teacher on your writing, and you will soon be on your way to mastering O Level Situational Writing.

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