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A closer look (3): The register of newspaper articles

herr-stritt 27. November 2021

A closer look (3): The register of newspaper articles

When speaking about the register of a language, we generally refer to three individual „levels“ of formality:

The informal level

This is a level that we use in conversations with close friends and family. It can also be called "casual" or "intimate".

The neutral level

This one is non-emotional and sticks to facts. We use the neutral level in reports and technical descriptions.

The formal level

We use the formal level when writing letters in a professional context (i.e. your job) or to strangers. It is rich in sophisticated vocabulary and phrases.

Typical characteristics of the three different levels

When analysing these three levels further, you find these typical aspects:

Informal examples

In informal writing, you can use slang, clichés and a language that is figurative ("He screams like a child!"). Emojis and abbreviations can be used here as well as acronyms. Sentences can sometimes be incomplete or short. You don't absolutely have to use paragraphs, can include jokes and use ellipses, dashes, exclamation marks and other sentence markers.

Neutral examples

The neutral register is "in between" as it can use both informal and formal language. However, no emotions are shown and only the pure "facts" are displayed. In a semi-formal, neutral register, we tend to avoid contractions (see: "formal examples"). You are usually not writing to any friends or family in a neutral register, so avoid using slang, emojis or incomplete sentences.

Formal examples

Here we use vocabulary considered as "formal", often with a French background. No contractions are used; that means "isn't" becomes "is not", "can't" = "cannot" and so on. We spell out numbers and do not use "I" or "You" unless absolutely necessary. Slang and abbreviations are to be avoided. The sentences are rather complex and long, never incomplete.

What do we use in our newspaper articles?

In your newspaper articles, you aim for a neutral writing style. It should not be too formal, or your readers will find reading your article difficult. On the other hand, if you are too casual, readers of a newspaper might feel as if you do not treat them with respect. Find ways to express the facts in an interesting way – and if you want to be emotional, do it over a selection of interesting facts rather than through overly emotional language.