What is Formal Communication: Example, Types & Characteristics

One form of communication that is particularly important in professional settings is formal communication. Formal communication is characterized by its official, structured, and professional nature, and follows established rules and protocols.

In this blog, we will delve into the concept of formal communication, exploring what it is, why it’s important, and how it differs from other forms of communication. We will also provide examples of formal communication in various contexts and offer tips for effective formal communication.

Definitions of formal communication 

1. According to Herbert Simon, an American economist, and Nobel laureate, “Formal communication is . . communication that takes place through the official channels of an organization and is concerned with the work of the organization.”

2. “Formal communication is a professional method of communication used in the workplace or in business settings, characterized by a clear, concise, and straightforward message conveyed through formal language and structure.” – J. Ashley Panter and William G. Howell, “Business Communication Essentials”

What is formal communication? 

Formal communication refers to the exchange of information or messages within an organization or between different organizations in a professional and structured manner. This type of communication usually follows a specific set of rules and protocols that are established to ensure clarity, accuracy, and formality.

 Formal communication can take many forms, such as official memos, letters, reports, emails, or presentations, and is typically used for important business-related matters, such as official announcements, proposals, instructions, or feedback. The language used in formal communication is typically more precise and formal, and the tone is often serious and respectful. 

Overall, formal communication plays a critical role in maintaining effective and efficient operations within an organization and ensuring that important information is communicated clearly and accurately.

Characteristics of formal communication

Formal communication usually follows a specific set of rules and guidelines. Some of the key characteristics of formal communication are:

1) Professional Tone: Formal communication is characterized by a professional and polite tone, and it is designed to convey information in a clear and concise manner.

2) Pre-defined Structure: Formal communication usually follows a pre-defined structure or format, such as memos, reports, or official letters.

3) Use of Formal Language: Formal communication often involves the use of formal language, which may include technical terms or jargon specific to a particular industry or profession.

4) Impersonal: Formal communication tends to be impersonal, as it focuses on conveying information rather than building relationships.

5) Official Purpose: Formal communication is designed to serve official purposes, such as providing instructions, making requests, or conveying important announcements.

6) Written Format: Formal communication is often in a written format, which can be archived and used as a reference in the future.

7) Follows Hierarchy: Formal communication usually follows a hierarchical structure, with higher-level managers communicating with lower-level employees.

8) Follows Guidelines: Formal communication follows guidelines established by the organization, including guidelines for formatting, tone, and language.

9) Requires Attention: Formal communication requires attention to detail and accuracy, as it is often used to convey important information or instructions.

10) Record Keeping: Formal communication is often recorded and stored for future reference, which can be useful in legal or regulatory contexts.

Examples of formal communication

Example 1.1  represent a formal communication conversation between top management and employees.

Example 1.1

Dear Team,

I would like to inform you that our company has scheduled a meeting on Friday, March 26th at 10 am in the conference room. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the upcoming project and share important updates related to the project.

We expect all team members to attend this meeting. It is important that we have everyone present to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of the project.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for your attention to this matter.



Below is the live conversation template for formal communication that can use while calling.

Example 2.2

Formal conversation:

Good morning, this is ………… May I speak to ………… please?

Good morning, hold on, please. I’ll put you through.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. I’m terribly sorry …….. is not available at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?

Yes, please. Could you tell him/her that ………… called?

Yes, of course.

Thank you very much, good day!



Process of formal communication

Formal communication is a type of communication that follows specific protocols and procedures, usually used in professional or business settings. Here is a general process for formal communication:


1. Define the purpose: Identify the reason for the communication and what you want to achieve.

2. Choose the appropriate medium: Select the appropriate communication medium, such as email, letter, memo, report, or meeting, that fits the purpose, audience, and message.

3. Prepare the message: Draft the message, including the content, tone, and structure, that conveys the purpose and meets the formal standards, such as clear and concise language, proper grammar and punctuation, and formal salutations and closings.

4. Review and revise the message: Check the message for accuracy, relevance, completeness, and appropriateness. Revise the message as necessary to ensure it meets the expectations of the audience and the organization.

5. Get approval and authorization: Obtain approval and authorization from the relevant parties, such as supervisors, colleagues, or stakeholders, before sending or presenting the message.

6. Deliver the message: Send or present the message using the chosen medium, following the formal protocols and procedures, such as using the correct format, addressing the recipient correctly, and including any necessary attachments or references.

7. Monitor and evaluate the feedback: Monitor and evaluate the feedback from the recipient or the audience, and adjust the communication as necessary to ensure it meets the desired outcome.

Overall, the process of formal communication involves careful planning, preparation, and execution to ensure effective and professional communication.

Types of formal communication

3 types of formal communication within an organization

1) Vertical Communication 

Vertical communication takes place hierarchically among different people in an organization. It is most direct, meaning that supervisors communicate with their direct employees or staff and vice versa.

On diving deeper, vertical communication can be further divided into two types- upward and downward communication.

A) Upward Communication 

Here, the direction in which the formal communication flows is upward. This involves the flow of communication starting from the lower levels of an organization or group and heading toward managers. It includes reviews, reports, and follow-ups. Upward communication mostly facilitates clear feedback in communication within an organization.

Must Read: What is Upward Communication: Examples, Objectives & Methods

Objectives of Upward Communication 

  1. Decision-making: Upward communication helps superiors in better decision-making by providing detailed information and crucial reports from subordinates.
  2. Employee Feedback: Communication that moves from bottom to top is helpful in the flow of genuine feedback and promotes the smooth and efficient working of a group.
  3. Motivation & Growth: Upward communication promotes healthy work spirit and motivation among employees and ultimately helps in the growth of an organization.

Advantages of upward communication: 

  1. Employee Participation: The upward flow of communication promotes the participation of employees by allowing them to put up their suggestions and ideas.
  2. Better Working Environment: It promotes harmony and develops an efficient working environment in an organization.
  3. Overall Growth: Benefits of upward communication also include better decision-making and future planning. It ultimately aids in the overall growth of individuals as well as the organization.

Disadvantages of upward communication: 

  1. Filtration of Information: There is a great possibility of only selective information being communicated by the subordinates to the higher levels.
  2. Fear of Negative Response: There can be the risk of receiving negative or unwanted responses from superiors or managers, leading to less participation from the end of subordinates in the process of upward communication.
  3. Willful Manipulation: Information or data could be manipulated or even completely changed to attain personal goals. This may not lead to fruitful decision-making in some cases.

Must Read: Check out our detailed article on the advantages and disadvantages of upward communication to know more.

B) Downward Communication

This is one of the forms of vertical communication where the flow is downward, that is starting from a manager or superior toward an employee. The channels of communication could be verbal as well as written here. It could be in the form of instruction, guidance, order, or an announcement. Conversations are usually focused on controlling, directing, and managing such types of communication.

Must read: What is Downward Communication with examples & Types

Objectives of Downward Communication

  1. Training & Education: A major objective of implementing downward communication in an organization is to educate and train employees for better outcomes and performance.
  2. Advice & Motivation: This flow of communication encourages employees to work better with pieces of advice and words of motivation from their superiors.
  3. The passing of Information: The basic objective of downward communication is to inform the employees about new decisions, implementation, changes, short-term and long-term goals, and other important information.

Advantages of downward communication:

  1. Informing of Decisions: An advantage of downward communication is that it helps managers pass any new plans, policies, or changes to their subordinates- ultimately keeping everyone in an organization informed about all important decisions.
  2. Work Efficiency: This type of communication motivates the employees to work better and ultimately promotes work efficiency in the organization or within a group.
  3. Bring clarity in Responsibility: Downward communication helps bring more clarity in the minds of employees about their individual responsibilities and limitations, ultimately helping in the efficient working of the organization.

Disadvantages of downward communication:

  1. Late Passage of Information: Since there are various levels of management in an organization, it may get too late for a piece of information to reach the lowest level in such type of communication- ultimately leading to late implementation of the instructions.
  2. Risk of Wrong Miscommunication: There are high chances of an order being wrongly interpreted or communicated in downward communication.
  3. Risk of Decreased Efficiency: Since the flow of communication is downward, there are lesser chances of receiving feedback from subordinates and higher chances of decreasing efficiency.

Must Read: Advantages And Disadvantages of Downward Communication

Example of vertical communication

Example 1.1

An example of vertical communication involves information being passed from top to bottom and bottom to up.

This includes when orders and instructions are issued by managers to subordinates in the form of vertical downward communication and performance reports/ feedbacks are sent by subordinates to the managers in the form of vertical upward communication.


2) Horizontal Communication

One another type of formal communication is horizontal communication. Here, communication takes place among people who work at the same level of organizational structure. However, it’s not necessary for them to belong to the same group. For instance, when managers from different segments of an organization communicate- this would be called horizontal communication.

Examples of horizontal communication

Example 1.1

The head of the marketing and sales department of a manufacturing firm needs to maintain continuous follow of horizontal communication among each other in order to strengthen the sales revenue and brand presence in the market.

Purpose of Horizontal Communication

  • Coordination of work: Horizontal communication promotes the coordination of work and goals between different groups of an organization.
  • Better work environment: This type of communication improves the working environment for employees by offering them better communication opportunities.
  • Enhanced Relationships: The relationship among employees from different departments gets enhanced formally as well as informally through horizontal communication.

Advantages of Horizontal Communication

  1. Improved work quality: Since horizontal communication allows employees to coordinate their individual efforts better, it improves the overall work quality.
  2. Elimination of misunderstandings: One of the biggest advantages of formal communication that takes place horizontally is that it eliminates misunderstandings or any negative feelings among employees and between different groups of an organization.
  3. Time-saving: When solving an urgent issue or conflict, horizontal communication can help save time with faster communication. This may not be possible in other types of communication.

Disadvantages of Horizontal Communication

  1. Information overload: There are high chances of information overload among employees when horizontal communication takes place through different formal channels of communication, ultimately leading to poor performance.
  2. Sense of demotivation: Both too much and too little horizontal communication may lead to negative feelings like demotivation, envy, or jealousy. Hence, a balance is very crucial.
  3. Decreased productivity: Horizontal communication can lead to wastage of time, leading to delays in decision-making, and gradually contributing to decreased productivity and growth within the organization.

Must Read: What Is Horizontal Communication: (Example And Types)

3) Diagonal Communication

Also known as crosswise communication, this type of formal communication takes place within the line of employees belonging to different groups and levels. This means that one has the liberty to communicate with anyone in the organization, irrespective of their level or department. Both formal and informal channels of communication could be used to execute such a flow. 

Example of diagonal communication

Example 1.1
When a talent acquisition head demands the list of additional manpower requirements from manufacturing department executives.
Example 2.1
The Operations head sends a message to field supervisors for creating a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for the new line of machinery attached.

Advantages of Diagonal Communication: 

  1. Rapid flow of information: Since there is no certain direction of communication here, diagonal communication helps boost the speed of traveling for a piece of information within the organization.
  2. Better problem-solving: With inter-level communication, problems can be communicated and solved efficiently as well as rapidly with the help of diagonal communication in an organization.
  3. Clarity in messages: Diagonal communication decreases the chances of a message being distorted or wrongly transferred. This is due to the direct communication between two individuals, which rarely happens in other types of formal communication in organizations. 

Disadvantages of Diagonal Communication: 

  1. Poor organizational environment: Diagonal communication may sometimes leave the direct superiors uninformed about the work their subordinates are doing and may create problems in the future.
  2. Disturbance in the chains of command:  Diagonal communication often disturbs the pre-decided lines of authority and leads to confusion and misunderstandings.
  3. Wrong interpretation: Since the flow of communication is not certain diagonally, it may be interpreted as interference or taken negatively in some cases.

Must Read: What Is Diagonal Communication: Examples, Advantages & Features

What is a Formal communication network?

Formal communication networks refer to the established channels of communication that exist within an organization. These networks are typically hierarchical in nature, with information flowing from top management down to lower-level employees. 

Formal communication networks can take many forms, including memos, company newsletters, reports, and meetings. They are designed to ensure that important information is disseminated to all organization members in a timely and efficient manner. 

Formal communication networks can also help to maintain consistency in messaging and ensure that employees have a clear understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives. However, formal communication networks can also be slow and bureaucratic, leading to delays in decision-making and a lack of responsiveness to changing circumstances.

Types of formal communication networks

  • Circle network: Information in this network, flows in the form of a circle between superiors and subordinates. This network offers two-way communication but often becomes unorganized and confusing.
  • Chain network: Information flows in a straight verticle line in a chain network. A superior gives orders to his employee, who further passes them to his subordinate, and the chain goes on in a vertical flow.
  • Wheel or Star network: This is the most centralized network where a superior communicates with all his employees but the employees are not connected to each other. The superior is the center of all communication.
  • Y-type network: When two subordinates report to a superior together, who further reports to a higher superior, is called a Y-type network of formal communication.
  • All-channel network: This is a network where a decentralized type of formal communication takes place. With no central positioning or restrictions, all the members of a group can communicate with each other freely.

Formal vs informal communication

Formal and informal communication are two types of communication that differ in terms of structure, language, setting, tone, and purpose.

 Formal communication follows a prescribed format and structure and uses standard language and vocabulary. On the other hand, informal communication does not follow a prescribed format or structure and uses colloquial or informal language. 

Understanding the differences between formal and informal communication can help individuals to communicate effectively in different contexts and situations.

Here’s a table highlighting some key differences between formal and informal communication:

Formal Communication

Informal Communication

-Follows a prescribed format and structure

-Does not follow a prescribed format or structure

-Uses standard language and vocabulary

-Uses colloquial or informal language

-Typically used in professional or official settings

-Typically used in casual or personal settings

-Often requires written documentation

-Often relies on verbal communication

-Usually involves a clear hierarchy of authority

-May not involve a clear hierarchy of authority

-Often involves a professional tone and demeanor

-May involve a more relaxed or informal tone and demeanor

-Typically focuses on conveying information or making decisions

-May focus on building relationships or socializing

-Examples: business reports, formal emails, official letters

-Examples: chatting with friends, social media messaging, casual conversations, Gossip network communication

Related Reading: Informal Communication Advantages And Disadvantages With Example

Where is formal communication used?

Formal communication is typically used in professional or business settings where there is a need for clear and precise communication that follows a particular set of rules and conventions. Some common examples of where formal communication is used include

#1 Business Correspondence: Formal communication is often used in business correspondence, such as emails, letters, memos, and reports. In such cases, it is essential to maintain a professional tone, use formal language, and adhere to specific formatting guidelines.

#2 Academic Settings: Formal communication is also commonly used in academic settings, such as when writing research papers, theses, and dissertations. The language used is expected to be precise, objective, and based on verifiable facts.

#3 Legal Proceedings: Formal communication is used in legal proceedings, such as when drafting legal contracts, agreements, and other legal documents. The language used in such cases is formal, specific, and precise.

#4 Job Interviews: Formal communication is used during job interviews, where the interviewee is expected to maintain a professional demeanor, speak clearly, and articulate their thoughts in a concise and structured manner.

#5 Government Proceedings: Formal communication is used in government proceedings, such as when drafting laws, regulations, and policies. The language used in such cases is formal, specific, and based on established legal and political conventions.

What is the importance of formal communication?

Formal communication plays a crucial role in various aspects of our personal and professional lives. Here are some reasons why proper communication is essential:

1. Clear and concise communication: Formal communication helps to ensure that messages are conveyed in a clear and concise manner while following effective communication principles in professional settings.

2. Professionalism: Formal communication adds a level of professionalism to any communication, whether it is a business letter, an email, or a presentation. It conveys a sense of seriousness and respect, which is important in professional relationships.

3. Legal and regulatory compliance: Many organizations that specifically follow formal organizational structures are required to use formal communication in order to comply with legal and regulatory requirements. For example, certain types of contracts or legal documents require formal language and specific formats.

Related Reading: Difference between formal and informal organization

4. Maintaining records: Formal communication provides a paper trail that can be used for future reference, which can be important in legal, financial, and administrative matters.

5. Consistency: Formal communication helps to ensure that messages are consistent and that everyone is on the same page. This is especially important in organizations where multiple people are involved in decision-making processes.

In summary, formal communication is important because it ensures clarity, professionalism, legal compliance, record-keeping, and consistency in communication.

Related Reading: Advantages and disadvantages of formal communication 

Important ethics of formal communication 

Ethics in formal communication refers to the moral principles and values that guide how individuals and organizations communicate in a professional setting. The following are some ethical considerations that are important to keep in mind when engaging in formal communication:

  • Honesty: It is essential to be truthful and transparent in all formal communications. Avoid misleading or misrepresenting information, and be clear about the purpose and intent of your communication.
  • Respect: Show respect for your audience by avoiding offensive language or behavior. Be mindful of cultural differences and avoid making assumptions about your audience.
  • Privacy: Be mindful of personal information and sensitive data when communicating. Respect individuals’ privacy and ensure that confidential information is protected.
  • Fairness: Treat all individuals fairly and equally in your communication. Avoid discrimination, bias, or favoritism.
  • Responsibility: Take responsibility for the impact of your communication. Ensure that your messages are accurate and do not harm or mislead your audience.
  • Professionalism: Maintain a professional tone and demeanor in your communication. Avoid engaging in personal attacks, offensive language, or unprofessional behavior.

By keeping these ethical considerations in mind, individuals and organizations can promote effective and responsible communication in a formal setting.

What are the different forms of formal communication?

Formal communication can take various forms depending on the context and the purpose. Some common forms of formal communication include: 

1. Memos: These are short documents typically used for internal communication within an organization. They are often used to convey information about policy changes, updates on ongoing projects, or to make announcements to staff.

2. Letters: Formal letters are used for external communication and are typically more formal than memos. They are used to convey information to customers, clients, or other stakeholders. Examples of formal letters include cover letters, business correspondence, and job application letters.

Related Reading: Comparison of formal and informal letter formats

3. Reports: These are detailed documents that are used to provide information on a specific topic. Reports can be used to summarize the findings of research studies, evaluate the performance of an employee or department, or provide updates on the progress of a project.

4. Emails: While emails are often considered a more casual form of communication, they can be used for formal communication as well. Formal emails should use proper salutations and address the recipient respectfully. They can be used to convey information, provide updates, or request information from colleagues or clients.

5. Presentations: Presentations are often used to share information with a larger audience. They can take the form of a slideshow or a speech, and are often used to communicate information about a new product, service, or idea.

Overall, the form of formal communication chosen will depend on the context and the audience, as well as the purpose of the communication.

What are the social factors affecting communication?

Social factors can greatly impact communication between individuals or groups. Some social factors that can affect communication include:

1. Cultural differences: Different cultures have their own unique ways of communicating, and misunderstandings can occur when people from different cultures interact. For example, some cultures value direct communication, while others prefer indirect communication.

Related Reading: Cultural Barriers To Communication

2. Language barriers: Language differences can cause communication problems, especially when communicating with people who speak a different language as a first language. Translation and interpretation may be necessary to facilitate effective communication.

Related Reading: What are language barriers to communication 

3. Social status: People from different social classes may communicate differently and have different expectations about how communication should occur. For example, a manager may communicate differently with a subordinate than with a colleague of equal rank.

4. Gender: Gender can also influence communication, as men and women often have different communication styles. Women tend to use more emotional and relational language, while men tend to use more directive and assertive language.

5. Age: Age differences can also impact communication, as younger and older people may have different communication styles and preferences. For example, older people may prefer face-to-face communication, while younger people may prefer texting or social media.

6. Technology: The use of technology can also affect communication, as different generations may have different levels of comfort with using technology to communicate. Additionally, the use of technology can create new forms of communication that may not exist in traditional face-to-face interactions.

Related Reading: Benefits and limitations of face-to-face interaction 

Overall, understanding the factors that can affect communication can help individuals and organizations to communicate more effectively across cultural, linguistic, and other barriers. 

How to improve formal communication?

Here are some ways to improve formal communication:

  • Be clear and concise: Use clear and concise language to convey your message. Avoid using technical jargon or complex sentences that may be difficult to understand.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation: Proper grammar and punctuation are important for conveying your message clearly and effectively. Use spell-check and proofread your communication before sending it.
  • Be mindful of your tone: Tone can greatly affect how a message is received. Be mindful of the tone you use, and ensure that it is appropriate for the intended audience and the purpose of the communication.
  • Use appropriate formatting: Use appropriate formatting for the type of communication you are using. For example, use headings and bullet points in a report to make it easier to read and understand.
  • Use active voice: Use active voice to make your communication more engaging and easier to understand.
  • Use examples: Use examples to illustrate your points and make your communication more relatable.
  • Ask for feedback: Ask for feedback on your communication to ensure that it is effective and that it has been understood.
  • Practice good listening skills: Good communication is a two-way street. Practice good listening skills, such as active listening and asking clarifying questions, to ensure that you understand the message being conveyed to you.

By following these tips, you can improve your formal communication skills and ensure that your messages are clear, concise, and effective.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What is formal or informal communication? 

Ans: Formal communication is a type of communication that adheres to a specific format and structure, employs standard language and terminology, and is generally utilized in official or professional settings. On the other hand, informal communication is a type of communication that doesn’t follow any set format or structure, employs casual or colloquial language, and is generally used in personal or relaxed settings. 

Q2) Why is communication formal? 

Ans: Communication can be formal or informal, depending on the context and audience. Formal communication is generally used in professional or official settings because it allows for clarity, professionalism, and structure. It helps to ensure that messages are delivered accurately and efficiently, and can also help to establish and maintain a professional reputation.

Q3) Which is the most formal form of communication? 

Ans: The most formal form of communication is typically written communication, specifically letters, memos, or emails. Written communication allows for careful crafting of language and precise conveyance of information however merits and demerits of written communication should be checked before drafting the message. 

Q4) What is formal communication in the workplace? 

Ans: Formal communication in the workplace refers to communication that is official, professional, and follows a set of established rules or protocols. It is often used in business to convey information that is important, sensitive, or legally binding. 


Aditya Soni

Aditya is the head of content at clearinfo and is responsible for improving the site's organic visibility. He is a certified SEO trainer and has worked with SaaS companies and startups to enhance their digital marketing presence. He is also an ahref fanboy. Click to connect with him on Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

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