English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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English: skills for learning

3.1 Comparing formal and informal language

In this activity you will look at how similar ideas can be expressed using formal and informal language.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Part 1

Below, Text 2 and Text 3 have some phrases highlighted in bold italic font.

Look at Table 1 below and the using the table [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   provided, match the highlighted expressions of formal language in Text 2 to the informal phrases in bold italics in Text 3 that have a similar meaning or function. Some words and expressions have already been placed in the table as examples.

Text 2

Studies in organizational behavior support the position that organizational structure affects performance, employee satisfaction, and job related stress. Kerr et al. (1974) observed that rule oriented structure adversely affects employee satisfaction but improves productivity. In general, it has been observed that high autonomy and broad job scope are directly related to employees’ intrinsic job satisfaction (Fleishman, 1973; House, 1971; Hunt and Liebscher, 1973). Contradicting the mainstream trend in literature, Zeist (1983) reported a greater degree of job satisfaction in more highly structured roles since role clarity reduced anxiety and served as a basis for reward seeking activities. The size of the organization is also a factor in determining employee satisfaction. Porter and Lawler (1964) observed that although satisfaction is greater in relatively flat organizations with 5,000 or fewer employees, satisfaction was also found to be greater in large organizations with more than 5,000 employees and many hierarchical levels. Senatra (1980) observed significant relationships between organizational climate, role perceptions, job related tension, satisfaction, and propensity to leave.

(Source: Zanzo, 1995, p. 2)

Text 3

I started this job a year ago. There are very strict rules andI can’t make any decisions. I like to do my job well and come up with lots of ideas but my boss only cares to check how well or badly I do routine jobs.

He doesn’t care about anything other than me doing my work fast and on demand, but I would really like to make my own decisions and get involved in different tasks and in different departments. I think that there are more opportunities and staff should be more satisfied in big companies like ours. But at the end of the day, because of the way I am managed, I don’t really enjoy what I do at work.

I have noticed that there isn’t much to be learnt from the environment I am working in. More often than not I’m nervous about failing my tasks and everything that goes on at the office and so, like many others in this department, I’m frustrated with my surroundings.

So it’s obvious that many of us want to quit.

Table 1 Comparing formal language with informal language

Formal languageInformal language
performance

to do my job well

doing my job fast

I don’t really enjoy what I do at work
job related stress
There are very strict rules and I can’t make any decisions
adversely affects employee satisfactionBut at the end of the day, because of the way I am managed, I don’t really enjoy what I do at work.
It has been observed
to make my own decisions
get involved in different tasks and in different departments

Porter and Lawler (1964) observed that…

….was also found to be

I think that
large organisations
many of us want to quit

Answer

Table 2 Answer to Activity 6
Formal languageInformal language

performance

productivity

to do my job well

doing my work fast

employee satisfaction

job satisfaction

I don’t really enjoy what I do at work

job related stress

anxiety

job related tension

 

I’m forever nervous about failing my tasks

I’m frustrated with my surroundings

rule oriented structurethere are very strict rules and I can’t make any decisions
adversely affects employee satisfactionBut at the end of the day, because of the way I am managed, I don’t really enjoy what I do at work.
It has been observedI think that
high autonomyto make my own decisions
broad job scopeget involved in different tasks and in different departments

Porter and Lawler (1964) observed that

was also found to be

I have noticed that…

so it’s obvious

large organisationsbig companies
propensity to leavemany of us want to quit

Part 2

When you have finished, compare the two lists. In what ways do each set of phrases differ?

Make some notes in the box below before comparing your answer to mine.

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Answer

The formal phrases express similar meanings or functions in a more concise way. This is done by using either one technical term, such as ‘performance’ or ‘satisfaction’, or a group of terms, such as ‘broad job scope’.

More informal phrases tend to use full sentences such as ‘get involved in different tasks and in different departments’. While these phrases may sound more familiar, their more formal equivalents are able to express specific and technical meanings that are commonly used and understood by specialists.

The language used in the formal text indicates that the writer draws on research (Porter and Lawler found (1964) that…) and discusses the topic in an objective way. Conversely, the language used in the informal text shows that its author takes a subjective approach as they draw on personal experiences and views (I have noticed, I think).

SWE_1

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