Formal Informal Language

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  FORMAL AND INFORMAL LANGUAGE   Formal academic writing is quite different from informal spoken English The differences can best be seen from a number of examples In general, informal spoken English contains a number of colloquialisms (conversational expressions) that are inappropriate for formal written English It is important not   to mix the styles Written academic English will not  normally contain the following: INCORRECT   CORRECT   Contractions it didn’t they’ve it did not they have Hesitation Fillers   er, um, well Personal Pronouns I  think this is an effective plan You  put the chemicals in the test tube We  used two different methods of research This  could be an effective plan The chemicals are put  in the test tube There  were two different methods of research Personal pronouns are sometimes used, but are often avoided by means of a modal verb ( could , might  etc), an impersonal word such as it  or there , or a verb in the passive voice Informal / Imprecise Words lots of, nice, big, things, like many, excellent, pleasant, large, reasons, problems, such as  Abbreviated Forms it’s, they’re, eg, ie, etc it is, they are, for example, that is, and so on  A COMPARISON   Compare the following texts The first is informal and spoken, the second formal and written (from a journal article) Informal / Spoken This guy, Hewson, right, he says that people that speak English, like native speakers, don’t think about when to use words like ‘the’, they just do it Formal / Written Hewson (1972, p 132) has called the English article system a ‘psychomechanism’, through which native speakers use articles correctly but unconsciously (Miller, JL 2005, ‘Most of ESL students have trouble with the articles’, International Education Journal , ERC2004 Special Issue, vol, 5, no 5, pp 80-88) tudent   C   earning   L   S   entre   Formal and informal language 10/2012 © SLC 1 of 2 E XERCISE  1: The following sentences are mixed formal   and informal Tick the correct box:   Informal Formal a) The project will be completed next year b) I showed that his arguments didn’t hold water c) I wonder why he put up with those terrible conditions for so long d) Five more tests will be necessary before the experiment can be concluded e) It is possible to consider the results from a different viewpoint f) It has been proved that the arguments so far are without foundation g) He’ll have to do another five tests before he can stop the experiment h) It is not clear why such terrible conditions were tolerated for so long i) There are a number of reasons why the questionnaire should be revised  j) We’ll finish the job next year  Formal and informal language 10/2012 © SLC 2 of 2 S TUDENT  L EARNING  C ENTRE  R EGISTRY  B UILDING  A NNEXE  T EL : 61-8-8201 2518 E- MAIL : slcflinderseduau I NTERNET : http://wwwflinderseduau/SLC P OSTAL : PO B OX  2100, A DELAIDE , SA 5001 D EFINITE    AND   TENTATIVE   WAYS   OF   WRITING    A feature of written academic English is the need to be careful (ie to show that you may not be certain about something) The purpose of this is to show that one is generalising or desires to be cautious, or even that one might   possibly  be wrong (though it is not likely !) (The three preceding words in italics are examples of such language in use) The most usual ways of expressing caution or lack of certainty are by means of verbs and adverbs Verbs:   appears to, seems to, tends to, may, might  Adverbs: perhaps, possibly, probably, apparently, likely This sentence is a definite statement: Industrialisation is viewed as a superior way of life To make it more tentative  or cautious we can change or add some words: Industrialisation tends to  be viewed as a superior way of life E XERCISE  2: Now look at the following sentences taken from an economics book a)It is also likely to appear in the development of institutions b)The ideal of economic development tends to be associated with different policy goals c)Perhaps greater clarity can be brought to the meaning of economic development How would the above three sentences be written if we wanted to make them definite and not tentative ? 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