What is Formal Communication and Informal Communication A Perfect Elaboration with Examples

Formal and informal communications

What is Formal Communication and Informal Communication A Perfect Elaboration with Examples

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What is Formal Communication?

Formal communication happens when information is transferred from different levels of conventional hierarchies, all the while following the standards, rules, and way of doing things particular to the organization.

Alternate name for formal communication?

An alternate name for formal communication is official communication.

Categories of formal communication.

The three categories of formal communication include upward, downward and horizontal.

Upward formal communication happens when subordinates within the organization communicate with their superiors.

Downward communication is when the superiors communicate with their subordinates.

Horizontal communication is when people at the same level within an organization communicate with each other.

Pros of formal communication.

Here are some pros of formal communication:

  • Organized
  • Reliable
  • Systematic
  • Well structured.
  • Written proof present most of the time.

If you’re going for a more professional and by the book communication method, then out of the two, formal and informal communication, formal communication would best suit your needs.

Being organized and structured is excellent as it eliminates the possibility of misunderstanding and unintended errors.

Another significant advantage of formal communication is that it is reliable, meaning that the person across the room will understand precisely what you want to say.

In addition to that, most formal communication is done over traceable channels, including emails and on corporate letterheads, meaning that you always have proof with you.

Cons of formal communication.

Here are some cons of formal communication:

  • Slow
  • It can be inefficient.
  • Time-consuming.
  • It can act as a barrier.
  • It might lead to disdain among people at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy.

Now for some not so ideal traits that formal communications have.

Most notably, they are slow. Pretty slow.

So, it can take a while before a message can be communicated using formal channels and is acknowledged.

It is also time-consuming, meaning that a minor update that could have been given in person took an hour to draft and then some to get relevant feedback on.

People at the very end of the organizational hierarchy might not be particularly thrilled about using formal communication. In most cases, these people are cut off from top management and a barrier between them.

Typical structures of formal communication.

Let’s discuss some common structures of formal communication:

  • Single Chain.

single chain

Single chain communication happens when a superior person in the organization communicates with their immediate subordinate. The subordinate then does the same with their direct subordinate, and the chain goes on.


  • Wheel.

wheel communication

The wheel is a formal communication structure where the superior officer communicates with every subordinate, but individual subordinates cannot coordinate.


  • Circular

Circular communication

Circular communication takes place when every member can effectively correspond with immediate members. Generally, communication is very slow in this sort of structure.

Examples of formal communication.

Here are some examples of formal communication:

  • Press releases.

A press release is when an organization or an individual wants to disclose certain information to the general public, usually via media or the internet.

In most cases, press releases need to have a specific structure or tone to convey information adequately.


  • Legal documents.

Legal documents need to follow a particular structure and tone, along with legal language.


  • Business emails.

Business emails are one of the most concrete examples of formal communications. There are certain expectations from both the sender’s and receiver’s end.


  • Academic papers.

To make sure that scholars and students worldwide can digest new information and breakthroughs, academic papers need to follow formal communication.


What is informal communication?

Informal communication is how people communicate at work or outside of work without following rules or specific organizational procedures.

A lot of informal communication is done verbally, but it can be done in written or through body language as well.

Informal communication

Alternate name for informal communication?

An alternate name for informal communication is grapevine communication.

Pros of informal communication.

Here are some pros of informal communication:

  • Relaxed.
  • Fast.
  • It saves time.
  • It eliminates barriers.
  • Information moves freely.

Using informal communication makes people approachable.

It’s fast and gets the job done almost instantly. You don’t need to worry about the proper greeting or font size when you’re being informal.

Information is also able to spread more rapidly. Since you’re not going through tedious channels and procedures, people can acquire information more easily.

Another pro of using informal communication is that organizational barriers are eliminated to a great extent, which means that people within the same organization but at different positions can easily exchange thoughts and ideas.

Cons of informal communication.

Here are some cons of informal communication:

  • Less reliable.
  • Unstructured.
  • It can be a source of disinformation.
  • Lack of written proof.
  • Hard to maintain secrecy.

Unlike formal communication, informal communication can be inaccurate at times. This might not matter if the discussion was not relevant, but it can be the potential start of a huge corporate fiasco.

Also, if proper communication channels are not followed, company secrets and data can be put at risk. Additionally, there is a lack of proof or written evidence that a conversation was ever held.

Being less reliable than formal communication and being unstructured, informal communication is not the best choice when you would like to prioritize security, effectiveness, and organizational hierarchy.

Typical structures of informal communication:

Let’s discuss some common structures of informal communication:

  • Gossip.

Gossip communication

In a gossip structure, as you can imagine, there is a single source of information, meaning that multiple people, regardless of their rank and standing, get access to the information indiscriminately.


  • Probability

Probability Communication

The probability structure in informal communication is when an individual communicates with other individuals at random.


  • Cluster.

Cluster Communications

Clusters are pretty common informal structures. You can even consider them to be the most common happenstances of informal communication within an organization.

A person receives some information and keeps it to the people they trust. Other people are not aware of this information.


Examples of informal communication.

Here are some examples of informal communication:

  • Social media.

Most people don’t use social media to engage people formally. People are on social to make connections, and that’s done best when there is no pressure to remember what fonts and colors you’re supposed to use or not.


  • Personal phone call.

Personal phone calls are informal.


  • Spam/non-serious emails.

Unlike business emails, spam emails are poorly written and carry no value to the person receiving them.


  • Text messages.

The text messages you get on your phone or most places online like Skype are considered to be informal by the majority of people unless you’re explicitly using these channels for business communications.



Both formal and informal communication have their distinct purposes and use cases. It would be unwise to say that you can do well with just one.

Remember, when you’re at work, it’s better to go with formal communication channels. But be active. Read the mood in the room and adapt accordingly.

As for informal communication, it is best to use it when you’re in a casual setting, and the conversations you’re having will not have any residual impact on your position and status at work.

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