Change your writing hat

composed.admin Writing style

Like throwing on a cap for the beach but a fedora for the races, you need to change your writing hat for informal and formal occasions.

Casual writing sounds much different from writing that travels formal channels or conveys serious content. In fact, it often sounds like a spoken conversation. Sentences tend to be shorter (because you assume a certain level of knowledge). You can use colloquialisms, and it’s okay to contract your words. You might even throw in an exclamation mark!

By contrast, formal writing (which is probably much of your writing at work) may use longer, more complex sentences and paragraphs. You do not use contractions, you spell out abbreviations and shortened forms, and you probably avoid emotive punctuation.

One style is not necessarily better than the other—each serves a purpose. Before you start writing, you need to know:

  1. Your audience—are you writing to a friend, a work colleague, a member of the general public, a government agency? The closer your relationship with your reader, the less formal your writing may be.
  2. Your medium—are you writing an email, a letter, a blog post, an inquiry submission, a media release, an annual report? Web content and personal correspondence can be more informal than business correspondence, reports and academic papers.
  3. Your voice—are you writing as yourself or for an organisation? In the latter case, you have to protect and uphold the brand and its values. So, your level of formality will depend on that brand.

In other words, one writing hat does not suit all occasions. Mix up your styles to suit your content and readers, the delivery medium and any responsibility to properly represent others.