Business Education

Difference between Formal and Informal Communication

Main Difference

The main difference between formal communication and informal communication is that formal communication is always backed by pre-defined channels of communication while there are no rules set for informal communication.


Comparison Chart

Basis of Distinction Formal Communication Informal Communication
Definition A communication that is made according to pre-defined channels set by organization is called formal communication A communication that is made without following any pre-defined channels is known as informal communication.
Purpose To exchange information among various divisions or departments of an organization To maintain the relationships inside and outside of an organization
Types Classified into two types: vertical, horizontal and diagonal No classification. Can be in any direction
Frequency It frequently occurs inside organization to perform organizational activities Occurs less frequently in internal communication environment
Reliability More reliable as backed by the standard procedures Comparatively less
Speed Slow Very fast
Evidence As it is generally written so, there is always documentary evidence No documentary evidence
Secrecy Level Secrecy can be maintained Difficult to maintain the secrecy
Time and Cost Take much time and cost Don’t rely on standard procedures so requires less time and cost
Importance Necessary to achieve organizational goals Necessary to improve personal relation

Formal Communication

Formal communication is a communication system where communication between sender and recipients is based on the officially designated channels and systems. In an organizational, business and formal environment, formal communication is described as the sending and receiving of official documents, letters, memos, reports, policy manuals, etc. It is backed by the authorized organizational structures and guidelines to ensure that everyone in the organization understands them. Three types of formal communication are vertical, horizontal and diagonal. Sensitive information that is only intended for the receiver should be communicated in a formal communication environment. One of the major advantages of formal communication is that it is always backed by the written document or any other documentary evidence. One of the major drawbacks of formal communication is that it took too much time in case of passing out the problems that need an immediate solution. Overall, it has a great influence on the organizational structure. Employees are bound to follow it while performing their duties.


Informal Communication

Informal communication that is also called as grapevine is typically used for personal communication with friends and family members. It is usually held in face to face communication or talking with someone over a telephone call or messaging. As compared to formal communication, it has no official recognition at all and not backed by any specified communication principles of an organization. However, it is said to be the best means to keep the mood and environment light and have everyone enjoying their time together. This type of communication is entirely based on the informal or personal relations with someone and for the same reason is free from all kind of organizational formalities and conventional rules. As compared to formal communication, informal communication has no proper classification, thus for the same reason, it freely travels in all directions. One of the major disadvantages of informal communication is that any written document does not back it, and evidence so cannot be proved in time of need. On the other hand, the major advantage of informal communication is that it travel at the fast speed of making a decision at the eleventh hour.

Key Differences

  • Formal communication requires adherence to organizational rules and regulations while in informal communication there is no requirement of following specific rules.
  • Formal communication requires officials’ recognition whereas informal communication doesn’t require any officials’ recognition.
  • A delegation of authority is possible in formal communication only.
  • In time of need, formal communication can be proved as it is always backed by the organization rules for communication. Informal communication can’t be proved.
  • The scope of formal communication is restricted to organizational environment only, while informal communication can be used in both professional settings with employees and with friends and family as well.
  • Formal communication doesn’t use slang words whose usage is common in informal communication.
  • The another name of formal communication is an official The another name of informal communication is a grapevine.
  • Formal communication always follows a proper chain of command. Whereas informal communication can move freely in any direction.
  • Formal communication is always written and in documented format. Consequently, informal communication is always oral.
  • Informal communication is rapid and quick as compared to the formal communication that is very slow.
  • Formal communication is more reliable as compared to the informal communication.
  • Formal communication rules are set by the organization while informal communication starts itself by the employees.
  • Formal communication is always backed by the documentary evidence whereas the supporting documents do not back informal communication.
  • In formal communication, long chain of commands exists that has no concept of informal communication.
  • The commons examples of formal communication are business letters, memos, contracts, agreements, and reports. The common examples of informal communication are face to face discussions and telephone calls.

Video Explanation