If formal communication is viewed like dressing for a black tie affair, informal communication is like dressing casually and wearing slippers around the house. Much informal communication occurs on a person-to-person basis, in a face-to-face manner, without ceremony or fanfare. Other ways to communicate in an informal manner may include texting, post-it notes, an informal drop in visit to another person, or a quick and spontaneous meeting.
Informal communication includes all the various methods of relaying information or messages between people. It often is called “the grapevine” as messages weave back and forth and around people. There are none of the trappings of formal messages, such as company letterhead, planned meetings or specific introductions of guests. Everyone is relaxed and casual, eager to chat about many things, as there is no specific agenda to follow.
This type of communication frequently is oral, and works easily for small groups. The scope of the conversation may be broader than a formal presentation, and include topics that are diverse in nature, free flowing and loose rather than scripted carefully. Unfortunately, informal communication is subject to creating rumors and misinformation due to its loose nature and lack of substantiating evidence.
This is the type of interaction that occurs in the workplace as banter between employees, or idle chatting. It is seen as blog entries on the Internet. At colleges, students are encouraged to drop by their professors’ offices as needed, informally. Other informal web communication is seen in diaries, personal email letters, instant messaging, emoticons, online chat rooms and cyberspace bulletin boards.
Informal communication also may take a non-verbal form as facial expressions, sign language, or manner of dress. In spoken language, the informal communicative style incorporates the use of the second and first voices. This is in contrast to the use of the third person voice in formal communications.
One of the visible signs of informal communication is its natural and easy style, as opposed to being formally regimented. There may be the use of colloquialisms and local slang in the course of speech. It is unconventional and without rules, which is just the opposite of formal.
Informal communication is used to help put people at ease. This can be seen in an interview situation where an interviewer such as a paralegal needs to make a little small talk to help get clients to relax, feel welcome and open up verbally. The use of informal language is far more prevalent in society than the use of formal language.