The 5 Different Types of Speech Styles

Human beings have different ways of communicating. No two people speak the same (and nor should they). In fact, if you’ve paid any attention to people’s speeches around you, you might have already noticed that they vary from speaker to speaker, according to the context.Those variations aren’t merely coincidental. 

The 5 Different Types of Speech Styles

Martin Joos, a famous german linguistic and professor, was the first one to organize the speeches according to their variations, having come up with 5 speech styles, depending on their degree of formality: 

1. Frozen Style (or Fixed speech)

A speech style that’s characterized by the use of a certain grammar and vocabulary that is particular to a certain field, one in which the speaker is inserted. The language in this speech style is very formal and static, making it one of the highest forms of speech styles. It’s usually done in a format where the speaker talks and the audience listens, without actually being given the space to respond. 

Application: It’s generally reserved for formal settings such as important ceremonies (for instance a ceremony at the royal palace or one in which a country’s president is present), weddings, funerals, etc. 

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Examples: a presidential speech, an anthem, school creed.

2. Formal Style

This style, just like the previous one, is also characterized by a formal (agreed upon and even documented) vocabulary and choice of words, yet it’s more universal as it doesn’t necessarily require expertise in any field and it’s not as rigid as the frozen style. 

The language in this speech is respectful and rejects the use of slangs, contractions, ellipses and qualifying modal adverbials. Oftentimes the speaker must plan the sentences before delivering them. 

Application: Although it’s often used in writing, it also applies to speaking, specially to medium to large sized groups. It’s also the type of speech that should be used when communicating with strangers and other single heares such as older people, elders, professionals and figures of authority. 

Examples: meetings (corporate or other formal meetings), court, class, interview, speech or presentation. 

types of speech styles
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3. Consultative Style 

The third level of communication, it’s a style characterized by a semi-formal vocabulary, often unplanned and reliant on the listener’s responses and overall participation. 

Application: any type of two-way communication, dialogue, whether between two people or more, where there’s no intimacy or any acquaintanceship. 

Examples: group discussions, teacher-student communication, expert-apprentice, communication between work colleagues or even between employer-employee, talking to a stranger. 

4. Casual Style (or Informal Style) 

Like the name says, this style is characterized by its casualty, with a flexible and informal vocabulary that may include slangs. It’s usually unplanned, pretty relaxed and reliant on the fluid back and forth between those involved, without any particular order. 

Application: used between people with a sense of familiarity and a relatively close relationship, whether in a group or in a one-on-one scenario.

Examples: chats with friends and family, casual phone calls or text messages. 

5. Intimate Style

This is the speech style that’s reserved for people who have a really close connection. It’s casual and relaxed and it goes beyond words, as it incorporates non verbal communication and even personal language codes, such as terms of endearment and expressions which’s meaning is only understood by the participants, besides slangs. 

Application: used between people who share an intimate bond. 

Examples: chats between best friends, boyfriend and girlfriend, sybilings and other family members, whether in messages, phone calls or personally.  

The 5 Different Types of Speech Styles (Table)

Types of Speech StylesDescriptionApplicationExample
Frozen/Fixed Style-Formal rigid and static language, reliant on expertise;-Particular vocabulary, previously agreed upon, that rejects slang.-Formal settings and important ceremonies.-Speaker to audience without response. -Presidential speech;-Anthem;-School creed;-The Lord ‘s prayer.
Formal Style-Formal language; -Particular, previously agreed upon vocabulary yet more allowing of slang, contractions, ellipses and qualifying modal adverbials;-Writing and speaking. -Speaking and writing in formal and professional settings, to medium to large groups of people;-Speaking and writing to strangers, figures of authority, professionals and elders. -Formal meetings;-Corporate meetings;-Court;-Speeches and presentations; -Interviews;-Classes.
Consultative Style-Semi-formal vocabulary;-Unplanned and reliant on the listener’s responses;-May include slang, contractions, ellipses and qualifying modal adverbials.-Two-way communications and dialogue, between two or more people, without intimacy or any acquaintanceship.-Group discussions; -Teacher-student communication; -Expert-apprentice communication; -Work colleagues communication;-Employer-employee communication; -Talking to a stranger. 
Casual Style-Casual, flexible and informal vocabulary;-Unplanned and without a particular order;-May include slang, contractions, ellipses and qualifying modal adverbials.-Relaxed and casual environments; -Two or more people with familiarity and a relatively close relationship.-Chats with friends and family;-Casual phone calls or text messages.
Intimate Style-Casual and relaxed vocabulary. -Incorporates non verbal and personal language codes (terms of endearment, new expressions with shared meaning). -May include slang, contractions, ellipses and qualifying modal adverbials.-Intimate settings, relaxed and casual environments; -Two or more people with an intimate bond.-Chats between best friends, boyfriend and girlfriend, sybilings and other family members, whether in messages, phone calls or personally.  

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Factors That Influence Speech Styles

Although knowing the definition and some examples of situations in which each speech style might apply is helpful, there are three important factors that are key in speech styles. These factors help the speakers understand when it is appropriate to use one style instead of the other. They are: 

The Setting 

The setting is essentially the context in which the speech shall take place. It’s probably the most important factor to be considered when choosing which speech style to use as nothing could be more harmful than applying the wrong speech style to the wrong setting. 

Although it’s a factor that’s exhausted and diverse,  to make things simple for you, I’ve divided them in three main categories: 

  • Formal Settings: 

Like the name states, this is usually the type of setting where the people should present themselves with a degree of formality because there’s little to no familiarity or even intimacy between those inserted in this context. The most appropriate speech styles for this type of setting are fixed and formal styles and, in  some circumstances, consultative style. A few examples of formal settings include: conferences, business meetings, etc

  • Casual Settings: 

In these settings people are more relaxed and less uptight than in formal settings. Since there’s a degree of familiarity between those speaking, even though people are not necessarily intimate, the speaker can apply either consultative or casual styles of speech. Some examples of these settings include: weddings, company or team meetings, school classes. 

  • Informal Settings: 

These settings are more open than the casual ones as there are almost no rules to how people should interact. Everyone in it either has a deep degree of familiarity or intimacy. Styles of speeches that are used with these settings are Casual and Intimate. A few examples of these settings are family and friends gatherings, private conversations, etc. 

Misreading the setting can be really embarrassing and have devastating consequences. If for instance you make inappropriate jokes in a work meeting or use slang words, you could be perceived as unprofessional and disrespectful, and that could cost you your job. 

The Participants 

Your audience, the people to whom your speech is directed at or the people with whom you’re interacting are a decisive factor when choosing your speech style. 

To put it simple: 

  • Reserve Frozen and Formal styles for people whom you respect and are not intimate or even familiar with,  either because of their position in society or because of their position in relation to you. These can be: authority figures or even superiors in your workplace and strangers.
  • Use Consultative and Casual speech styles with people who even though they are familiar to you (either because you both know each other or interact often) you still owe them a certain level of respect. These can be people in your workplace such as your colleagues and business partners, people in school, elders and older family members, neighbors, acquaintances and even strangers
  • Feel free to use Intimate speech styles with anyone who you share an intimate bond with. These can be your friends and your immediate and extended family members.

The Topic 

Speech styles can give appropriate weight to serious topics, just as they can help alleviate the heaviness of certain topics. There’s no specific rule of which style to use with each topic, actually when it comes to topics the choice should be more intuitive and keeping in mind the other factors. 

For example, sometimes when making a presentation about a serious topic, in a conference, you might want to mix formal speech with a more consultative or casual speech, by sliding in a joke or two in between your presentation, as this helps lighten up the mood. 

The Purpose of The Discourse or Conversation 

The purpose of your discourse is your main motivation for speaking.  Just like with the topic, when it comes to choosing the speech style taking in account the purpose, the choice is mostly intuitive and keeping in mind the other factors. 

What you should remember is to never mix a business centered discussion, where the purpose is mostly professional and formal, with a mainly informal speech of speaking. 

Speaker Styles

 Just like there’s more than one speech style, there’s more than one speaker style:

  • Content-rich speaker: 

A content-rich speaker is one whose aim is to use the speech to inform. He is factual and very objective and focused on providing all the information the audience or receptor of the message needs.

A man speaking in a presentation could be an example of this, or even a lawyer defending a case in court. 

  • Funny or humorous speakers:

Like the name already suggests, this type of speaker uses humor as a tool to help them deliver their message. Even when delivering facts, they make jokes to lighten things up and break the tension. 

Stand up comedians are a great example of this type of speaker. 

  • Storyteller: 

This type of speaker usually relies on the story format to deliver his message, whether it’s factual or not is not relevant, as long as the main message behind the story is relevant to the receptor. 

Most TED talkers or motivational speakers are great examples of this type of speaker. 

Usually the type of speaker is not fixed in each speech style, one person can be many types of speakers depending on the speech style that they are using and keeping in mind the factors that influence the choice of the speech style. 

Make sure you weigh all factors equally before choosing a speech style. You don’t want to be THAT person bringing up an intimate subject to a friend, in front of a group of strangers during a business meeting where the subject has nothing to do with whatever you’re talking about.

Types of Speech styles
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What’s The Importance of Speech Styles In Communication 

Using and knowing speech styles is the key to effective communication. Choosing the right way to communicate at different settings and to different people is what seperates a good communicator from a bad communicator. 

Knowing the speech styles and the rules that apply to each one of them saves you from embarrassment, and positions you as someone of principles and someone respectful, especially in formal  and conservative settings. 

Besides that, people tend to gravitate more towards and get influenced by good communicators, therefore learning something new in that area and improving the quality of your speech and presentations will only benefit you. 

Further Readings

Speech Styles- ELCOMBLUSOpens in a new tab.

Types of Speech Styles | PDF | Sentence (Linguistics) | Cognitive Science- SCRIBDOpens in a new tab.

Emidio Amadebai

An avid seeker of knowledge, and passionate about sharing the lessons he picks up in life. Emidio is passionate about public speaking, teaching, and helping others develop critical soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and other interpersonal skills which are in high demand in today's rapidly evolving market.

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