Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Writing Formally - Quick Checklist of Do's and Don'ts



The following are key points to remember about a formal, academic piece of writing, whether it is for an exam or an assignment, an essay or a letter. 

There are conventions that need to be followed so here is a short list of things to keep in mind when writing to someone who is not an acquaintance or the finished work counts towards a grade.


Be aware that these points are not absolute, and many would argue that some of them, depending on the situation, are acceptable.





Writing – Basic Things to Remember



The Traits of a Proper Formal Essay





  • Never use contractions (don’t, won’t, can’t should be written out as do not, will not) ["can’t" is written in one word = cannot].

  • Avoid using I, you, we. Keep yourself as much out of your writing as possible and don’t talk to the reader directly (this is appropriate in letters or articles, but not as much in formal essays).

  • Don’t use etc. / and so on. It shows laziness (it means you have more to say but don't feel like adding it).

  • Never write “. . . ” at the end of a sentence. Finish each sentence definitively with one full stop.

  • Write out numbers under 100 (twenty-five instead of 25).

  • Separate words at the end of a line:
          • between syllables
          • between double consonants
    • for example: be-cause, bal-loon

  • Use connectors / linking devices to make your writing logical and clear.


  • Don’t make your writing wordy: avoid beginning sentences with there is / there are too often

  • Use active verbs instead of nouns to express ideas (this will make your writing sound more English = more empirical rather than theoretical)

  • Avoid rhetorical questions: it's okay to have one rhetorical question in an essay for example, but for emphasis, not to restate the question.

  • Discuss both sides of a topic, even if you are writing an opinion essay (which means you are putting your view forward).

  • Question the strength of your arguments and, if necessary, alter them to make them plausible. This is possible only if you plan properly ahead of time by brainstorming.

  • Don't use exclamation marks or parentheses:  a) academic or formal pieces of writing are not meant to be sentimental
     b) parentheses can be avoided with proper organization of ideas

  • Never start a sentence with and, but, or (use In addition, However …)

  • Learn to write longer sentences, not choppy ones, linking similar ideas together with proper linking devices.

  • Avoid clichés (eg: “till the day I die”, “as strong as an ox”, “as pretty as a picture”).

  • Don’t use absolute terms (never, always, everyone, nobody).

  • Avoid ‘baby English’ words: big – little, good – bad
 
  • Don’t use colloquial (everyday) words:
          • a lot of / lots of
          • kid
          • things / stuff
          • well (to start a sentence)
          • big / great
          • ok / okay / alright / all right
          • –body (nobody, somebody, anybody): use someone / anyone
          • could of / would of / should of = use 'have' instead of 'of'
          • get = obtain, acquire, procure / understand , comprehend
          • let = allow, permit
          • like = as if, as though
          • real = really (sometimes not necessary at all)
          • so = very
          • till = until
          • use = utilize, employ, adopt, apply, operate, accept (according to context)


For formal sample essays or letters as well as general information on writing, click here.

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