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Formal and Informal Essays Essays fall into two broad categories: formal and informal.

The informal essay is often called the familiar or personal essay. It is useful to see the similarities between informal and formal essays, as shown in the comparison chart below. Characteristic Authors Viewpoint Informal Essay Usually uses first person; Directly addresses the reader Frequently drawn from life of the writer and everyday events Frequently more personal and subjective; may be ironic, amusing, thoughtful, angry, or serious ; Conversational and casual Formal Essay Usually uses third-person pronoun More commonly drawn from shared historical events or literature or other forms of knowledge Tends to be removed from the subject and appears to be objective; tends to hold emotions in check and express concerns through strong arguments and powerful rhetorical devices; Academic and often instructional Follow a fairly rigid structure that focuses on the development of one clear argument at a time to support a clearly stated thesis Usually stated explicitly, generally located in the first or second paragraph of the essay Technical words according to subject; No slang or contractions; Avoids you and I Provokes thought and sometimes action

Subject/Content: Sources of Evidence



Appears to be more loosely structured

Location of Thesis

May appear anywhere in the essay; may not be explicitly stated Everyday words; Slang and colloquialisms; Contractions; Uses you and I Entertainment; gentle reflection



The Formal and Informal Essay

ESSAY: FORMAL The formal essay is a serious written discussion through which a writer conveys a viewpoint on a designated subject. The purpose of the formal essay is to write about a significant subject by focusing on the ideas rather than the person speaking. Definite structural patterns are associated with different forms of the formal essay (literary essay, classical essay, research essay, report, review). The formal essay is tightly focused on significant subject matter that may be highly specialized or universal. A definite introduction-development-conclusion pattern is used with carefully organized paragraphs to present a thesis, discuss it, and end with a clear conclusion. It is designed to appeal mostly to an audience that is articulate and concerned. The voice of the writer may be strong to subdued, objective to subjective, individualistic to universal. The language used is specialized, controlled, precise, sophisticated and even artistic. The paper offers the reader a cohesive body of thought leading to a definite point of view. The prose used may employ devices or be straightforward and direct. Just as in the informal essay, narration, description, exposition, or argument and persuasion may characterize the writing. The seriousness of the matter and the distance stance of the writer usually dictate the use of third person. The formal essay is usually more serious than the light-hearted tone of the informal essay. The impact which the writer wants for the reader is to think about a subject, to respond to the writers view, and to reach a conclusion related to that subject.

ESSAY:INFORMAL The informal essay is a lighter approach to a selection of writing on topical ideas or issues. The purpose of an informal essay is to engage and involve the reader by writing in a casual, entertaining manner about a subject. The informal essay, such as an article or personal discussion of a subject, may be light-hearted or serious in tone. The content tends to address a topical or contemporary issue, often personal. The writer, whose own personality is often much in evidence, has a specific audience in mind e.g. a readership which will be engaged by such a style of writing. In terms of structure, the informal essay lends itself to the use of innovative approaches and organizational choices: for example, quotes, illustrations, opening anecdote, rhetorical questions, narratives, etc., that could lead to the point of the essay in an indirect fashion. The language of this essay is informal, even conversational, uses a variety of stylistic techniques to engage the reader. Still other devices used to reach the audience are personal anecdotes (narration), vivid images (description), elaborate ideas (exposition), arguments or pleas to create a case (argument/persuasion), satire or irony. All these language devices make the informal essay accessible to a broad audience. The voice is strongly personal. The informal essay is commonly written in the first person because of the immediacy between writer and topic.