While there might be moments of informal conversations between colleagues and business associates, business communication takes place, by and large, through formal expressions.
The word formal relates to or involves etiquette, ceremonial or conventional procedure. Words such as a formal dress, a formal speech, a formal agreement convey an organized and methodical approach.
A formal language is described as that which is strictly correct with regard to grammar, style and choice of words, as distinct from the conversational language. Formal communication is also stiffly polite, official, explicit and rapid.
Formal expression is organized and methodical. Informal is just the opposite of formal. There is nothing official about it. Informal is that which is relaxed and friendly.
In the context of business communication, it is indeed formal communication that assumes significance. Formal communication, whether it is oral or written, often gets recorded. Even meetings and discussions are minuted and taken note of.
As such, extra care should be taken while writing formal letters, memos, agreements, etc., and also while making formal speeches. Often, the person making formal expressions may be quoted. Denial becomes awkward.
While any informal talk is generally accepted as an off the cuff and not a very well thought out statement, statements made in the organizational context and business-related forums are taken seriously. The speaker has to own up full responsibility for the statements he or she makes.
When speakers want to say something that is not to be taken formally, they state beforehand that what they wish to say would be ‘off the record.’ Given the world of difference between a formal expression and an informal conversation, business communicators should be fully aware of the context in which each of them is made.