Colleen Hoover, the author of the popular novel It Ends With Us, once said, “Sometimes not speaking says more than all the words in the world.” The quote sums up the crucial role communication plays in our personal and professional lives.

Workplace conversations constitute formal communication—from team meetings and email trails to client conferences and more. But the importance of informal communication can’t be ignored. In fact, during the recent lockdown, we’ve all had a part of formal communication as well as informal communication, even professionally.

Let’s explore the difference between formal and informal communication with the help of examples of formal communication to help you understand.


  1. Formal And Informal Communication

  2. Differences Between Formal And Informal Communication

  3. Types Of Formal And Informal Communication

Formal And Informal Communication

Formal communication is, typically, conveyed from the top leadership to various departments and employees. Usually, every organization follows a procedure for formal conversation. Think about the annual meetings or even team meetings that your manager calls for. These are examples of formal communication.

However, there is no predetermined structure for informal communication in any organization. So what is informal communication all about? To start with, it helps create and maintain a relationship among colleagues. For instance, consider those chats with your coworkers about the latest movies over a cup of coffee.

Informal communication can also play a much larger role than just generating friendly chatter. This form of communication can be very useful in resolving a conflict between the employees and the management.

Differences Between Formal And Informal Communication

Both formal communication and informal communication are crucial for maintaining a clear and cordial work culture. Examples of formal communication include minutes of a meeting as well. But what makes casual conversation different from official meetings? Let’s discover the difference between formal and informal communication.

  1. As we know it, formal communication is also called official communication. Formal communication often follows a specific structure or channels such as emails to the clients, whereas informal communication can often flow freely in any direction.
  2. Formal meets must maintain secrecy for the messages shared. But when you are having a casual chat, maintaining confidentiality gets tough. In fact, it will be safe to say that most rumors or gossip start through the route of informal communication.
  3. Formal communication is time-consuming. On the other hand, informal communication is usually quick and easy to navigate.
  4. Formal communication is more reliable, as it follows a pattern set by the organization. In contrast, informal communication takes off on its own and sets its own course.

Examples of formal communication such as email exchange, video conferencing and Zoom calls have certain procedures and processes in place. From the greeting to the sign-off, the tone and style is completely different from informal communication. The difference between formal and informal communication will also depend on the audience and  your message.

Types Of Formal And Informal Communication

There are different types of formal and informal communication. This depends on the purpose, place and context of the communication. 

Let us look at the types of formal and informal communication with examples of formal communication.

Types Of Formal Communication:

  1. Vertical

Here, the communication is held between different organizational levels. So the message is either transferred from the juniors to the team leads to the manager or vice-versa.

  1. Horizontal Or Lateral

This is the communication that happens between peers from different departments.

  1. Crosswise Or Diagonal

As the name suggests, here the conversation takes place between two employees working at different levels in different departments. For example, a website developer discussing a project with a sales manager can be categorized as crosswise or diagonal communication.

Types Of Informal Communication:

  1. Single Strand Chain

This is the type of communication where A shares an idea or information with B, who then passes it to C, and so on.

  1. Cluster Chain

Have you ever noticed how a social media challenge becomes viral? People start something unique and tag, say, three friends for the challenge. They complete the challenge and tag three more people each, and so on. That’s how a cluster chain communication is formed and continues.

  1. Gossip Chain

Think of the college canteen conversations, where one person vividly describes her recent adventures to a group of friends gathered around the table to listen. That’s how the gossip chain works. One person initiates the conversation and shares information with a group of people, who then pass on the information to more people.

Nowadays, most organizations attempt to efficiently blend formal and informal communication channels. The result is improved efficiency, productivity, and trust among the employees. Effective communication skills play a crucial role in advancing anyone’s career, from a fresher to a team leader to a manager. 

So, start developing and honing your formal and informal communication skills now. One way to do that is by enrolling for Harappa’s Speaking Effectively and Writing Proficiently courses. These courses will help you learn the PREP model and Aristotle’s Appeals of simple yet effective communication, among others. Learn with examples of formal communication for contextual learning.

The PREP method has four stages: P or Point or stating the main point briefly; R or Reason or providing reasons to substantiate the point; E or Example or Evidence or providing examples to validate the reasons, and P or Point or adding a concluding point while re-emphasizing the main point.

Greek philosopher Aristotle’s three appeals of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos hold the secret to being a persuasive speaker and get the right message across. Logos or appealing to the listener’s logic, Ethos, or the appeal of the speaker’s credibility, and Pathos, or emotional appeal, help one to be an effective speaker.

Add the Active Listening course to the bouquet and you will be on your way to mastering the art of communication. So make the most of this work-from-home period and master the skills of effective communication.

Explore blogs on topics such as business communication, the communication flow, and the types of business communication in our Harappa Diaries section and learn how to deliver information effectively.

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