Formal Writing: Everything You Need to Know

This is an organized form of writing which is used for serious and extended project types. These projects are usually assessed using scoring guides. A common example of such projects is academic research.

The main features of formal writing include the following:

  •         Formal writing often utilizes longer sentences. However, this style is changing slightly with an increasing understanding that clarity is important. Here, one can generally see a more structured approach, with points clearly explained, introduced, and concluded. These writing pieces are often thoroughly planned and revised several times to ensure they’re as clear as possible and mention all the necessary points.
  •         Here, the writer utilizes a more objective approach. Key points are generally mentioned and then supported with arguments. Formal pieces of writing are less likely to be emotional in style. Therefore, they avoid emotive punctuation like ellipsis or exclamation points unless they’re being cited from another source.
  •         As a rule of thumb, the writer shouldn’t use contractions to simplify words in formal writing. However, there’re a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, where it’s part of the language (for instance, AIDS) or when the acronym is more popular than the full name (for instance, NATO and BBC).
  •         Formal writing isn’t a personal writing style. The writer generally tries to sound dispassionate about the subject. It’s generally not appropriate to utilize the first person or second person. However, there’re some exceptions to this. For example, it was conventional to use the passive voice and third person in academic writing. However, this type of writing is quite difficult to read. Therefore, many academic journals now support the use of the first person and the active voice, but within a style that’s considered formal.

A formal writing style isn’t necessarily “worse” or “better” than an informal writing style. As they come with very different purposes, the writer should carefully choose the appropriate style to use. Two of the main factors defining the choice of a formal or informal approach are the writer’s audience and medium. Generally, writing for work or professional purposes is likely to require a formal approach. However, the writers may utilize a more informal approach if they’re writing to someone they know in person. If in doubt about how formal one’s writing should be, it’s generally better to err on the side of caution. Almost no one is offended by excessive formality. However, it’s certainly possible to offend by being excessively informal in one’s approach.

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