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Hints for writing

There are a number of hints that are very important for most forms of formal writing that you will use in class.

  • Never use first person. That is to say, do not use 'I' or 'we'.
  • Refer to authors and composers by their last name and characters by their most commonly used name.
  • Never start your conclusion with 'In conclusion,'. A better way is to simply restate your answer to the question or, if you must, begin with 'therefore'.
  • At all times avoid the use of colloquial language or slang.
  • Do not use idioms such as "The novel was as good as gold".
  • Avoid gendered language.
  • Carefully check and edit your work. Make sure that it matches your plan, answers the question and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. (Note: spell checks are far from perfect - consider hare and hair, or and ore.)
  • Try not to repeat yourself.
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS PLAN AND EDIT.

Useful words

It is important to build up a diverse vocabulary of formal language. The following list is not exhaustive, but will provide you with some ideas for words to use in formal writing. They are words that can be used to link ideas. This will help your composition flow logically.

Words that can be used to contrast two points:

However...

In contrast to...

In spite of...

Whereas...

Words that can be used to demonstrate effect:

Hence...

Thus...

Therefore...

Thereby...

As a result...

Words that can be used to demonstrate a progression:

Firstly...

Subsequently...

Consequently...

Finally...

Ultimately...

Words that can be used to show addition or accumulation:

Further...

Furthermore...

Moreover...

In addition to this...

Similarly...

Register

Register is an important concept for composing text. It is a concept that refers to particular types of language that are used for particular purposes. To achieve a formal register, a composer needs to use formal language. This means that the composer will use correct grammar and avoid any colloquial language, slang or jargon. The types of texts where you will find a formal register will be in essays, expositions, discussions, letters to the editor (with some exceptions), newspaper reports (with some exceptions), speeches and documentaries. This list is by no means exhaustive. The best way to determine whether or not a text that you compose should have a formal register is to consider the audience and the purpose. For example, would you use a formal register when talking to your friends on the phone? What if you were making a speech at your school's presentation night? Most texts, (unless specifically stated otherwise) that require you to express your knowledge and understanding will use a formal register.

Tone

There is sometimes some confusion as to the exact meaning of tone in writing. Here are some examples of words that you could use to describe tone (again this list is not exhaustive):

  • Funny, serious, angry, exciting, personal, affecting, informed, knowledgeable, intelligent, interesting, engaging, conversational.

Tone works in texts much in the same way as it does in real life. As a real-life example you will have heard people say something like, "Don't use that tone of voice with me!". What tone of voice were you using? Were you angry? Sarcastic? If you have heard that phrase it is doubtful that your tone at the time was engaging or particularly polite. When you talk to people you should be able to tell what tone they are speaking with. Of course, it will be conversational, but what else? Think to yourself, "Are people talking with a cheerful tone? An exciting tone? A serious tone? A sad and depressed tone?" You can tell a lot about how a person is feeling, or their opinions on different issues, are according to their tone.

This is acceptable for conversations with your friends and family but what about in a text? When composing a formal text, you need to ensure that you use a tone that is serious, informed and objective.

Consider the animation Tone and register example for a more detailed look at how tone and register works.


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