Colloquial vs. Literary Type of Communication. Oral vs. Written Form of Communication
Language means which we choose for communication depend on several factors, the most important among them being the situation of the communication act. Indeed, depending on the situation (which includes the purpose of the communication and its participants) we adhere either to informal, or to formal manner. The former is observed in everyday non-official communication which is known as colloquial speech.
The literary communication, most often (but not always) materialized in the written form, is not homogeneous, and proceeding from its function (purpose) we speak of different functional styles. As the whole of the language itself, functional styles are also changeable. Their quantity and quality change in the course of their development. At present most scholars differentiate such functional styles: scientific, official, publicist, newspaper, belles-lettres.
Scientific style is employed in professional communication. Its most conspicuous feature is the abundance of terms denoting objects, phenomena and processes characteristic of some particular field of science and technique. Scientific style is also known for its precision, clarity and logical cohesion which is responsible for the repeated use of such cliches as: "Proceeding from..."; "As it was said above..."; "In connection with.." and other lexico-syntactical forms.
Official style, or the style of official documents, is the most conservative one. It preserves cast-iron forms of structuring and uses syntactical constructions and words long known as archaic and not observed anywhere else. Addressing documents and official letters, signing them, expressing the reasons and considerations leading to the subject of the document (letter) - all this is strictly regulated both lexically and syntactically. All emotiveness and subjective modality are completely banned out of this style.
Publicist style is a perfect example of the historical changeability of stylistic differentiation of discourses. In ancient Greece, e.g., it was practiced mainly in its oral form and was best known as oratoric style, within which views and sentiments of the addresser (orator) found their expression. Nowadays political, ideological, ethical, social beliefs and statements of the addresser are prevailingly expressed in the written form, which was labelled publicist in accordance with the name of the corresponding genre and its practitioners. Publicist style is famous for its explicit pragmatic function of persuasion directed at influencing the reader and shaping his views, in accordance with the argumentation of the author. Correspondingly, we find in publicist style a blend of the rigorous logical reasoning, reflecting the objective state of things, and a strong subjectivity reflecting the author's personal feelings and emotions towards the discussed subject.
Newspaper style, as it is evident from its name, is found in newspapers. You should not conclude though that everything published in a newspaper should be referred to the newspaper style. The paper contains vastly varying materials, some of them being publicist essays, some - feature articles, some - scientific reviews, some - official stock-exchange accounts etc., so that a daily (weekly) newspaper also offers a variety of styles. When we mention "newspaper style", we mean informative materials, characteristic of newspaper only and not found in other publications. To attract the reader's attention to the news, special graphical means are used. British and American papers are notorious for the change of type, specific headlines, space ordering, etc. We find here a large proportion of dates and personal names of countries, territories, institutions, individuals. To achieve the effect of objectivity and impartiality in rendering some fact or event, most of the newspaper information is published anonymously, without the name of the newsman who supplied it, with little or no subjective modality. But the position and attitude of the paper, nonetheless, become clear from the choice not only of the subject-matter but also of the words denoting international or domestic issues.
Belles-lettres style, or the style of imaginative literature may be called the richest register of communication: besides its own language means which are not used in any other sphere of communication, belles-lettres style makes ample use of other styles too, for in numerous works of literary art we find elements of scientific, official and other functional types of speech. Boundless possibilities of expressing one's thoughts and feelings make the belles-lettres style a highly attractive field of research for a linguist.
Speaking of belles-lettres style most scholars almost automatically refer to it prose works, regarding poetry the domain of a special poetic style.
Finishing this brief outline of functional styles observed in modern English, it is necessary to stress, again, two points. The first one concerns the dichotomy - written:: oral, which is not synonymous to the dichotomy literary:: colloquial, the former opposition meaning the form of presentation, the latter - the choice of language means. There are colloquial messages in the written form (such as personal letters, informal notes, diaries and journals) and vice versa: we have examples of literary discourses in the oral form (as in a recital, lecture, report, paper read at a conference etc.).
The second point deals with the flexibility of style boundaries: the borders within which a style presumably functions are not rigid and allow various degrees of overlapping and melting into each other. It is not accidental that rather often we speak of intermediate cases such as the popular scientific style which combines the features of scientific and belles-lettres styles,or the style of new journalism which is a combination of publicist, newspaper and belles-lettres styles etc.