Some Conventions of Standard Formal Written English

Some Conventions of Standard Formal Written English
The written English language that is used in academia and business is not the same language that most
Americans use conversationally in daily communication. Formal English differs in several ways—the
following are some of the more common differences, and the ones you are expected to use in writing
college level papers for English 1010 College Composition and Rhetoric.
Refer to the use of formal and informal diction on page 139 in Four in One.
Formal English is always grammatically correct.
It is written literally and does not use slang words, clichés, idiomatic expressions, and other
conversational conventions, without putting them in quotation marks to acknowledge they
are knowingly being used.
The words in formal English are intended in their most literal, denotative meanings, and not in
their second or third dictionary, connotative definitions as they are often used in casual
Contractions are written out.
Do not use most abbreviations like pg. for page, St. for street, TV for television—refer to
page 687 in Four in One for more examples of the correct usage of abbreviations.
Also, refer to page 686 in Four in One for guidelines on the correct use of numbers in writing.
Avoid the use of absolutes like “always,” “never,” and “everyone” and so on—as an adult you are
responsible for your words and an overstated, absolute claim that cannot be proven and one that
will almost surely have an exception, creates a weak and unsupportable argument.
Avoid using vague language and assumptions; your word as your authority requires specific
detailed (names, numbers, colors, sizes, costs, amounts) evidence as proof for your claims.
Instead of saying “many bright colors . . . say “scarlet, lemon yellow and orange.
Avoid wordiness and self referencing-- “In this paper I will…,” “In today’s society” or “In this
essay . . .”
All your essays should be written in the 3rd person pronoun (she, him, their, her, them, he etc.)
objective point of view in formal writing.
Refer to pages 112-3, 182-3 in Four in One.
The first person pronoun point of view (I, me, my, us, we, mine, etc.) is used for the very rare
personal experience that may occasionally be appropriate in formal writing, but because all of us
are very practiced at writing about ourselves, in this class—
All your essays should be written in the 3rd person pronoun objective point of view.
Absolutely no use of you/your/yours/yourselves, the 2nd person pronoun point of view.
In college level writing, the 2nd person point of view is usually reserved for describing a process
and/or giving instructions like in some types of reports and papers required in the sciences—not
in formal English essays.
Avoid the excessive use of pronouns altogether, vague pronouns, and indefinite pronouns.
Identify specifically who you are referring to—write “students are angry” instead of “they,” or use
“people,” “retail workers” and so on. Use pronouns only when necessary to avoid sounding
repetitious and redundant.
And finally, do not ask overt questions in your paper—ask questions in your prewriting, and when
analyzing research materials—provide answers in your writing as information, reasons, analysis,
and evidence.