One of the justifications for SPaG and the 'Guidance' on how teachers must get children to 'meet expectations' in their writing is that it teaches children 'formal writing'. We then say there are 'informal ways' to write as in tweets, texts, ads, signs, newspaper headlines and so on.
All nice and neat: two kinds of writing.
Ah, if only life and language could be so simple, then we could tidy it all up in the way that politicians and examiners would like.
One example of the way in which the distinctions between formal and informal writing have been broken down over the last few years is in journalism. Journalists in papers, magazines and on blogs increasingly use what used to be called 'informal' writing in their articles. You'll find one-word sentences, sentences without verbs, slang, colloquialisms without speech marks round them so that they are in the voice of the journalist and so on. So that, is if you like, in the field of 'popular non-fiction', often used for argument, recount, persuasive writing and the like. You could perhaps put it in a new category (that was always an old category anyway!) - 'modern formal'. Incidentally, politicians are often quite fond of it too.
Another way in which the distinction between formal writing and informal writing is blurred is in fiction. Frequently in fiction, the narrator 'speaks' in informal ways. This is what can make it so immediate and 'good'. It is also amongst the most popular forms of fiction enjoyed by the children doing the SPaG test! And even in the most formally written fiction, the writer may well need to represent speech. So the 'formal writing' of a novel has to include 'informal writing'. It has a powerful and important place in 'good writing'. Get the informal writing wrong, and it's crap writing. So, do children also 'need' to learn how to write informally? After all, it might help them become a journalist, write fiction, or indeed, communicate anywhere in accessible and interesting ways. Apparently not, because 'informal writing' won't win you marks in the writing that will 'meet expectations' nor of course in the SPaG test. Down with informal writing. It's bad. Naughty.
Meanwhile, as in the example I gave in an earlier post today - the statement from the DfE 'spokesman' - you can be 'formal', get all the DfE's own form of 'grammar' right, but end up with a clumsy, ambiguous sentence. How mysterious. How can that be?