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Applying Formal Writing to Academic Writing

Updated on February 2, 2016

Why is it important to be able to write well? Writing has commonly been more formal and speech more informal. Most people feel that they cannot write well formally however, these dissimilarities are beginning to change. Formal English is well-thought-out to be wisely worded as a serious tone, attention to the appropriate choice of words, longer sentences etc. without sounding worn or stale. Formal writing paragraphs usually contain six to seven sentences.

The use of ‘I’ in individual letters is a sign that the writer is keen to take accountability. ‘We’ on the other hand, is used to refer to the firm or a business. The personal pronouns I and we are now acceptable in business letters. In the age-old days beginning a sentence with the conjunction and, or, but was considered a serious crime; now they have become acceptable too. Contractions should be avoided in academic writing such as I’d, She’ll, they’ve, It’s etc. however they are acceptable in emails and personal business correspondence.

Types of Writing

A. Opinion Writing

  • Journal
  • Personal Feedback
  • Autobiography

B. Supported Writing

  • Biography
  • Article /Essay
  • Term Paper
  • Paragraphs and Compositions

C. Business Writing

  • Resume
  • E-mail
  • Business Letter
  • Business Report
  • Memo

D. Other Types of Writing

  • Creative writing
  • Letter
  • Narrative/book report
  • Short story/ Story Problem
  • Scientific/technical writing
  • Summary / Description
  • Poetry

Features of formal writing

  • Avoid using contracted forms of verbs such as don’t, wouldn’t or can’t try and try to write the full form.
  • Do not use abbreviations like ASAP, info, afa etc.
  • Minimize and limit the use of passive voice
  • Keep a watch on the vocabulary
  • Use more sophisticated intensifiers such as extremely, highly, entirely etc.
  • Avoid or limit the use of phrasal verbs, express the same idea using standard verb forms.
  • Do not leave out words. Write ‘I hope to see you soon’ instead of ‘Hope to see you soon.’
  • Avoid words like fix, begin, start, OK, thanks etc. in formal writing. Instead use repair (for fix), commence (for start / begin), and thank you (for thanks).

Academic Words that can Help Writing

There are academic words that can help your writing that are rarely used in everyday speech. These words help connect your ideas together and help the reader understand what the writing is all about. For example, we are more likely to say "what's more”, " as well" or "also" when we speak, whereas in formal writing we would write "furthermore", " likewise" or "moreover".

Academic writing is about communicating opinion but this opinion needs to be presented as an unbiased, educated situation based on sound evidence.

Look at the examples below:

  1. To add an idea: In addition, moreover ,furthermore
  2. To introduce a contrast: Compare this with, although , in contrast, in spite of, however
  3. To introduce a result: As a consequence, due to , as a result
  4. To introduce a logical conclusion: Thus, therefore, it could be concluded that
  5. To give an example: for example, an example of this is, for instance
  6. To conclude: In conclusion, to sum up

Professional Business Writing should be written in a more clear, concise, and formal manner. Avoid buzzwords and technical jargons as much as possible. It’s best to keep the sentences simple and avoid vague ambiguous statements that are difficult for the readers to interpret. Slangs and offensive language are a strict no-no in business writing. The worse thing that anyone can do is to make grammatical errors and spelling mistakes this sure will make you look unprofessional causing confusion and waste of time. Knowledge and training are essential scaffolding for students to advance to acquisition of academic English.


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