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The concept of registers has been around for a long time. We use registers consciously or subconsciously in our everyday language. Register refers to the variations we use in language which reflects the particular situation, the expressed goal of the communication or the relationship between the speakers. The following are Martin Joo’s five communication styles or Speech Registers.
Printed, unchanging language, ultra-formal, almost scripted phrases that do not vary. This is standard business and educational language which features complete sentences and specific word choice, often contains archaisms. This style of communications RARELY or NEVER changes.
Examples: The Bible, Pledge of Allegiance, Preamble to the US Constitution, Lord’s Prayer, laws, “set” speech which is often scripted.
One way communication, no interruptions, used in impersonal, formal settings, one-way in nature, follows a commonly accepted format – complete sentences, more complex syntax and specific word usages, exact definitions are important, technical vocabulary; often used to show respect. It is often used to show respect. Word selection is more sophisticated and certain words are always or never used depending on the situation. Informal register, the story structure focuses on the plot: it has a beginning and ending, and it weaves sequence, cause and effect, characters, and consequences into the plot.
Examples: Rhetorical statements and questions, standard for work, school, public offices and business settings, speeches, pronouncements made by judges, announcements, introductions between strangers
This is a standard form of communication. Users engage in a mutually accepted structure of communications. It is professional discourse. Formal register used in conversation. Societal expectations accompany the users of this speech. This register can be described as two-way participation, professional setting, background information is provided (prior knowledge is not assumed), interruptions and feedback fillers allowed (“uh-huh”, “I see”), more complex syntax, longer phrases. Sentence structure need not be complete, since non-verbal assists, hand movements and body language, are often used to convey meaning.
Examples: Doctor: patient, lawyer: client, lawyer: judge, teacher: student, superior: subordinate, counselor: client, colleagues, peers, when strangers meet.
The language used in conversation with friends. The casual register is characterized by a 400- to 500-word vocabulary, broken sentences, and interruptions common. Very informal language, idioms, ellipsis, and slang are common, no background information provided, “group” language – must be a member to use, interruptions common, context and non-verbal communication important, word choice in general, and conversation is dependent upon non-verbal assists. The focus of the story is characterization. It is an episodic, random approach with many omissions and does not have a sequence, cause, and effect, or consequence. Casual Register for a group of white suburban teenagers is quite different from the casual register of a group of African Americans, or a group of Native Americans. There would be differences in vocabulary (slang), grammar, intonation and usage and the differences might be quite fluid, changing often.
Examples: conversations, chats, and blogs with friends and acquaintances, family, teammates.
These communications are private. It is reserved for close family members or intimate people. It is non-public, intonation as important as wording and grammar, often a private vocabulary full of codewords. Interesting to note: this is the language of sexual harassment as well.
Examples: husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, twins (siblings), pets