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Hints for choosing more formal words

In academic writing you should aim to be succinct, thus:


1. When picking a word, choose the most relevant and specific one for the point
you wish to make; for example:
(match the colours across the examples to see the alternative words)

Informal

Formal

Lots of job
loss is just one
thing resulting
fromautomation.

Widespread unemploymentis one


consequence of automation.

The common owl


is active at night.

The common owl isnocturnal.

Want to practise this skill? You can go to a skill development exercise based on the
information contained in hint 1.
2. Also try to use the most formal way of expressing your point (this may mean you
use a more technical word); for example:

job loss
T.V.
workers
the
same as

unemployment
television
employees
equivalent

HINT: although you aim to use more formal words in academic writing, you should
not aim to obscure your meaning behind a lot of impressive words. Ultimately you
should try to achieve succinct, clear prose.

2a. Avoid using phrasal verbs such as 'get up', 'put into', 'find out' that are often used
in spoken English. Replace these verbs with more formal single verbs such as 'rise',
'contribute' and 'discover'; for example:
Informal
Formal
Researchers looked at the Researchers examined the
way strain builds up round way
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a geological fault.

strain intensifiesaround a
geological fault.

Technology
Technology companies got
companiesmerged with
together with stockbroking
stockbroking firms in order
firms in order to dominate
to dominate internet
internet trading.
trading.

Want to practise this skill? You can go to a skill development exercise based on the
information contained in hint 2.

3. Make sure the description you provide is as specific as possible.


Look at the colour coded words and phrases to see the differences in word choice in
the following examples. The exactness of the description has been increased by
including more specific adjective (fiscal) as well as additional descriptive words
(highlighted); for example:

Informal

Formal

The government
The AustralianGovernment has
has made progress madeconsiderable progress
in economicpolicy. inimplementing fiscal policynationwide.

3a. A specific description means you also need to avoid using unsophisticated
adjectives such as 'good', 'bad', 'big', 'little'; for example:

Informal

Formal

One of the bad aspects of


chemotherapy is the side
effects.

One of the negativeaspects


of multi-drugchemotherapy
is theuncomfortable sideeffects.

Also avoid using adverbs such as 'really', 'very', 'just'; for example:

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Informal/ Spoken

Formal

It caused a really
bigreaction.

It caused
a considerablereaction.
It caused a dramaticreaction.
It caused
an explosivereaction.

Notice that in the previous three examples, a more comprehensive description has
been achieved because unsophisticated and non-specific words have been replaced
with more formal descriptive words.

Prepared by: Pradeep Tamang

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