Style and register
Style and register
Once you know what you are going to write and who you are going to write to, you need to be aware of how you are going to write. In academic and technical writing, the style is often fairly formal. This is because it is important in both academic and technical writing to be as precise as possible. This film below discusses issues to do with formality, for example, the difference between formal and informal and how to change from one to the other.
The table below outlines what formal and informal English generally means in practice. However,the table is only a guideline. In the section "connecting words" for example, it states that "moreover" is more formal than "and". That is not to say though that "and " cannot be used as a linking word in a formal document. It would make writing quite difficult if that were the case! However, it would be strange to start a sentence with "and" in a formal document whereas this would be quite acceptable when writing to a friend.
Table 1: Differences between formal and informal English.
|More formal||More informal|
More precise numbers / hedging
Many students are challenged by academic writing.
80% of countries experienced urban growth.
Single word verbs - longer verbs (often with Latin origin)
Everyone hates academic writing!
Towns are growing everywhere!
Phrasal verbs (verb + preposition) / get
Take part in
Get in order
Formal connecting words (often at the beginning of the sentence)
Moreover, furthermore, in addition to
Informal connecting words (at the beginning of a sentence)
Objective constructions (passive voice)
It is said that.....
There is little doubt that...
I say that...
I don't think
Is happiness possible during unemployment?
X carries out error correction by retransmission of A and B.
Modal verbs, adjectives, clauses
Can people be happy when they haven't got a job?
X corrects errors by retransmitting A and B.
After placing the chemical in the fluid, it should be left for a short period.
Place the chemical in the fluid. Leave it for a short period.
I will, I would like
I'll, I'd like
It is important to estimate the costs..
The question of why this is relevant can be answered...
How much is it?
Why is this a relevant question today?
No colloquialisms / slang
As you might be aware, there are a number of poor children in that area.
Colloquialisms / slang
You know, there are a lot of poor kids in that area
Precise terms e.g. naming the tool
Hammer, telescope, oscillator
Vague collective terms
e.g. the thing, stuff
|Some punctuation : ;||Some punctuation !?|
For example, Note, and so on
e.g., N.B., etc.
- Find out what style is expected in your discipline area by reading articles. For example, in some disciplines, a personal style is preferred e.g. "we carried out the experiment" whereas in others, a more impersonal style is preferred e.g. "the experiment was carried out".
- Find a balance between being formal but not communicative. Sometimes, long words can complicate issues rather than clarify. Compare the 2nd example under abstract nouns: "X carries out error correction by retransmission of A and B" to "X corrects errors by retransmitting A and B." The latter is more concise, clearer and generally, easier to read.