Which is correct?

Please submit your ideas in text form.

Please submit your ideas in text format.

Format looks like it's derived from form, so what is the difference between these two words?

I consulted a dictionary, but the definitions look somewhat similar to me — both seem to refer to the way things are organised / configured / presented.

I'm not asking for writing advice or suggestions to rephrase or substitute words, I'm simply curious about the difference between the two words.

  • Do you mean 'Word format', as in the software program published by Microsoft?
    – John Feltz
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 16:55
  • @JohnFeltz I meant the use of actual words, instead of pictures / audios etc.
    – light
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:05
  • 2
    Seeing your comment, I'd say "in written form".
    – John Feltz
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:10
  • 2
    - well, here's how things stacked up before format took off in relation to computer data file formats. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:10
  • 2
    What about saying "Please submit your ideas in writing"?
    – bookmanu
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:15

3 Answers 3


Both form and format have a wide range of meanings, some, but not all, having uses specific to computer files and documents.

Something in writing is not necessarily in “text” format. It may be handwritten (perhaps even cursive!). It may be in plain text or HTML, or MS Word. It matters if you have to put together contributions from several people.

One specific use of format is a file extension that indicates how a computer file is structured and therefore what applications will be able to view and, perhaps even more important, edit it.

Form, as another answer says, is more general. “The female body has a pleasing form”—-but no format that I know of.

Here’s Macmillan’s short list of “format” definitions:


▸the arrangement, design, or organization of something

▸the size, shape, and appearance of a book, magazine, or newspaper

▸the form that a movie, television program, music recording, etc. is produced in

▸the structure and design of a written document, especially a computer file, for example the size and type of the letters and the width of the written area of the page

▸the way that information is arranged and organized on a computer disk


▸to prepare a computer disk so that information can be stored on it

▸to arrange written material into a particular format, especially in a computer file

Provided by Macmillan Dictionary

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In my opinion format is a part/mode of presentation of a form. For example the application 'forms' for different entrance exams and job applications contains descriptions in word format and information regarding schooling details or qualifications etc. are in a specific table 'format'.

  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. Please take the tour and when you have a moment, read-up in the help center about how we work. Because we expect answers to contain linked referrences to authoritative sources, not opinions; what you've written here would have been better suited to being a comment, you will be able to leave those on other's posts as soon as you have sufficient reputation. Commented May 10, 2020 at 5:35

'Form' has a general reference than 'format.' That said, I should add that format means the extension, ie: Pdf, ogg, MP4, doc, exe, etc. But 'form' constitutes the whole part of the file being presented in a particular manner. Form is the difference between a spreadsheet and a word document, but they both can have the same 'format:' pdf. It's commonsense.

  • Your assertion that form refers to the file extension lacks support.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 4:34
  • Actually he doesn’t say that.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 1:36

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