Difference Between Formal Vs Informal Communication - Formal Vs Informal Communication
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Difference Between Formal Vs Informal Communication - Formal Vs Informal Communication

23 Mar,2021


5 minutes read

What is formal Communication?

As the term signifies “ Formal communication” is particularly used officially following a series of rules or we also say it is controlled and commanded chain of conversation. Formal communication is usually confidential. The main aspect of formal communication is to directly flow the information from the sender to the target receiver without any breach or hindrance. To maintain a formal conversation, the message(information) sent by the sender must flow through a direct channel following a deliberate path to reach the receiver.

Therefore, written sets of documents are recommended to enable a direct flow of communication. In a scenario, where the path is not direct, it might be possible that the information can get breached or modified uncertainty by the external force. Also, another point we should not miss is that communication should be accurate in terms of facts and policies. The main aim of formal communication in an organization is to maintain formal terms and relations.

Examples of Formal Communication:

(i) Memorandums

(ii) Meetings and Conferences

(iii) Bulletin-Boards

(iv) Handouts

(v) Letters

(vi) Speeches

(vii) Presentations

(viii) Drafts and Emails 

(ix) Speeches

What is an Informal Communication?

An Informal form of Communication is also known as “Grapevine”, due to its nature as this form of communication has no specific path, flow, or agenda. This is an effortless form of communication where the sender can share any information regarding the subject. Unlike formal communication, here maintaining secrecy is not necessary. This is a free form of conversation where the sender is free to subject the conversation.

It is a convenient way of maintaining relations with your friends and relatives but Informal communication is highly neglected in Organizations to maintain a healthy work environment and avoid any conflicts between the employees. This is an oral form of communication so there is no supporting documentation available to prove the information’s credibility.

Examples of Informal Communication:

(i) a text message or a phone call 

(ii) a private journal

(iii) A small conversation about some random subjects



Follows a direct path from Sender to the receiver ( Through Proper Channel Communication)

No certain path is followed,  Indirect flow of information.

Also known as Grapevine.

Ideal for Organizational Use to maintain formal relations.

Not recommended in organizations.

Accuracy and Credibility of Information

Credibility and accuracy of information is not guaranteed.

Efforts and time consuming

Effortless and convenient .

Written form (Supported Documented proof )

Mostly an Oral conversation

Highly effective in organizations.

Ineffective in Organizations.

What are the types of formal and informal communication?

So, As we already know that Formal communication is rather a complex form of communication, some limitations and terms should be followed. To learn about the types of formal and informal communication conversations, first, we need to learn about the direction of the flow of information and its structure. In a particular formal conversation, the flow of information can be in any direction, either it is from a higher authority to the lower ones or it can be between two co-workers. So, the formal conversation is classified into 4 different forms according to the direct flow of information.

  1. Downward Communication - Here the flow of information is in the downward direction for example a superior authority addressing those who are inferior. It is assumed that in an organization a senior executive giving orders/tasks to his/her juniors, can either be in a mail, drafts, memos, or oral command. This form of conversation helps in strengthening the authoritarian structure in an organization.
  2. Upward Communication - Upward communication can help an organization to create a healthy working environment for its employees as this form of communication is usually used by the subordinate sections to reach their higher or senior sections to address the complaints, grievances, suggestions, or requests. In modern organizations, upward communication is said to be necessary to create a friendly and peaceful working environment for its employees.
  3. Horizontal - When there is an exchange of information between two individuals of similar levels with the same or different responsibilities ( may or may not be from different departments) for eg- The HOD of different departments. This is the most transparent conversation as it enables the individuals to report and review the development of activities all over the organization. The best point about this form is that it enables to maintain coordination between concerned team members and helps the organization's inefficient functioning.
  4. Diagonal Communication - Diagonal Communication happens when individuals from the same or different levels communicate with each other irrespective of the chain of command and beyond the limitations of roles and responsibilities. For eg- The Team Leader interacting with the other team. This is an ideal form of communication to boost the morale of the employees and encourage teamwork. 
What are the types of Informal Communication?

 The informal form of Communication is classified into 4 forms which are as follows:

  1. Single Strand: This is when one person communicates with another and then passes the information to another person leading to the distribution of information from a single individual to another. It is a linear process of flow of information, “one at a time”, its nature is like a relay race.
  2. Gossip Communication: The transmission of information directly from one source to a number of individuals. It entirely depends on the source that either they are spreading the information to all the individuals at once or periodically.
  3. Probability Communications- In this form of communication the source decides to pass on the message/information to the selected individuals of his/her choice and then those individuals take over the table to spread the information to the people of their choice and the cycle goes on. We can take the example of Whatsapp spam messages we regularly receive from our friends or acquaintances on a regular basis and we forward them to our other acquaintances. This form of conversation works exactly like Whatsapp spam messages. This form of communication can cause the alteration of information and can cause conflicts between individuals. The source mostly remains unidentified in this form.
  4. Cluster: Here, the person receives a piece of information and it is his or her own will, either he wants to spread the message further to a pre-selected no. of people or he/she wants to keep it to himself/herself. In case, he passes on the message to a preselected set of people, those people carry the message to the other set of pre-selected individuals. This method is much more convenient than the probability network of communication as it enables the flow of the information only to the target receivers.


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