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WRITING / Formality

 Formality

This page discusses some of the key points and areas to be more formal in Academic English Writing. Although there is no set rules on formality at university, this information on academic style is generally accepted throughout most universities.

Contractions (it’ll, there’s)

All contracted forms need to be in full forms

E.g: it’ll, it will / it’s, it is / there’s, there is

please note – can’t, cannot (one word, not two)

 

Informal adjectives (hard, easy, big,)

Some adjectives are seen as informal

Hard: alternative more formal synonyms:

difficult, complicated, harsh, complicated, intolerable, unpleasant, undeniable.

 

Easy: alternative more formal synonyms:

effortless, elementary, manageable, simple, uncomplicated

 

Big: alternative more formal synonyms:

considerable, extensive, immense, substantial, tremendous  

Idioms

These are often seen as informal and personal

(every coin has two sides… / on the other hand…)

Metaphors:  (a rocky road ahead… / the bottom line…)

 

No Personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, you, they)

Try to avoid personal forms

Use ‘There‘ as a subject; e.g. ‘There is a serious risk of…’

Use ‘It’ as a subject; e.g. ‘It is impossible to…’

Use ‘One’ as a subject; e.g.

‘One may ask whether…’ (‘One’ is a formal version of ‘You’ [plural] in general)

Use Passive constructions

Passive construction help to make your writing less personal

They can learn English effectively…

English can be learnt effectively…

They analysed the data and they discovered

The data was analysed…

 

Use Gerunds (ing forms)

Present participle or gerunds help to create more complex forms

They have to speak English

Speaking English is necessary

If we understand the reasons behind…

Understanding the rationale indicates…

Noun phrases

Long noun subjects or objects are common in academic writing

We analysed the data and we found evidence….

Analysis of the data provided evidence….

 

They have many exercises to fill in the missing words available to learn from.

The availability of gap fill exercises enhance learning

Use Academic Word list (540 academic words)

High frequency academic words taken from a academic literature  

[academic word list]

establish / acquisition / analysis / strategies / validity / beneficial / assumption / criteria / hypothesis / fundamental / initiative / presumption / differentiation / controversial / inevitable / intrinsic / exploitive / etc..

Use fixed academic phrases

Fixed phrases can be incorporated easily into your writing

It can be said / it could be argued that…

One major drawback of this approach is that ……  

One of the most significant current discussions in …

It is important to note that…

[Academic phrases]

 

Colloquial / informal words expressions

Beware of using slang, and general English terms

Examples of informal / colloquial words are gonna / stuff / a lot of / things /

 

Stuff: alternative more formal synonyms:

effects, equipment, gear, goods, individual, kit, luggage, objects, paraphernalia, possessions, substances.

 

A lot of: alternative more formal synonyms:

abundant, adequate, considerable, plenteous, sizeable, substantial, sufficient, significant.

Things: alternative more formal synonyms:

aspects, areas, elements, facts, figures, materials, points, situations, subjects, information

 

Not sure use a synonym website: www.Thersaurus.com 

Phrasal Verbs / Two word verb forms / Multi-word verbs

A verb + preposition are often considered informal

Examples of these are put off  / look into / come across – there is usually a formal alternative;

put off: alternative more formal synonyms: postpone

look into: alternative more formal synonyms: investigate

come across: alternative more formal synonyms: discover 

 

 

Informal Verbs

Some verbs are considered informal and there are more formal alternatives

For example; ‘get

alternative more formal synonyms:

acquire , accomplish, attain, become, capture, compass, draw, effect, elicit, evoke, extract, gain, obtain, realise, receive, secure, apprehend.

 

A chart of formal and informal verbs

informal

formal 

informal 

formal

seem

climb

help

stop

begin

use

shorten

show

go

want

ask

end

tell

get

keep

say no

free

mend

need

live

keep

appear

ascend

assist

cease

commence

consume

decrease

demonstrate

depart

desire

enquire

finish

inform

obtain

preserve

reject

release

repair

require

reside

retain

whole

wrong

worse

dim

enough

better

clear

understanding

lack

chance

in charge

lucky

sight

in the end

at once

at first

on and off

mainly

next

so

 

complete

incorrect

Inferior

Indistinct

sufficient

superior

transparent

comprehension

deficiency

opportunity

responsibility

fortunate

vision

finally

immediately

initially

intermittently

principally

subsequently

therefore

 

Check how academic your essay isclick here 

 

 Academic Style: 20 key features to writing [updated 2020]

This lesson brainstorms academic style / formality in writing. Teacher conducts feedback by using visual highlighting and explaining the concepts. There are also 10x practice exercises from informal to formal. It includes a PowerPoint. PPT Link in download. (Example) Time: 60mins.  Level ***** [B1/B2/C1] / Webpage link. / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP

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Academic Style 2: Paragraph analysis, comparison and discussion [new 2020]

This lesson compares two paragraphs on CSR (informal and formal), discusses the conventions of academic style and finishes with a sentence re-writing activity.. (Example) Time: 60mins.  Level ***** [B1/B2/C1] / Webpage link. / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP

 

Academic Style 3: Vocabulary (AWL & Nominalisation)  [new 2021]

This lesson focuses on two key areas of academic writing: AWL and nominalisation. There are three worksheets comprising of a number of different activities to practice categorisation and reformulation at sentence and paragraph level. (Example) Time: 60mins.  Level ***** [B1/B2/C1] / Webpage link. / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP