Elevate Your (Writing) Style

WRITTEN October 13, 2011 Author: Rich Atkins

Having a higher-level writing style means being formal.

Formal writing (following form, custom, rule) shows the highest degree of respect for the audience. Remember, it’s easier to dress down from formal, rather than dressing up from informal.

For a formal writing style:

Address the “right people.”

  1. First person (I, me, my, we, us, our) recounts personal experience.
  2. Second person (you, your) is useful for direct instruction to a known audience.
  3. Third person (he, him, his, she, her, hers, it, they, them, their, etc.) is useful to generalize the message, sometimes to an undefined audience.

Avoid Colloquialisms, or terms like: gonna, wanna, gotta, b/c, w/o, hanging out, kids, cops, crooks, tots, & (instead of the word “and”).

Don’t use contractions. (That was funny.)

Avoid abbrev. (That was really funny.)

Never make generalizations. (Now that was hilarious!)

Be careful of stating opinion as fact– “This company is the best” Do you mean that you think it’s the best?

Use statistics only if they are researched. “Everybody drives too fast.” Is it accurate to say everybody? “I’m 99% sure…”

Follow Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language. Avoid exclusionary language. Choose inclusive alternatives – he/she, s/he, him/her, her/him, a person, people, firefighter, letter carrier, flight attendant, etc.

Avoid asking yourself questions in your own writing.




This information is from the Effective Business Writing
class. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.

Image courtesy of Pexels and Min An

Other Resources:

What does it mean to write in a formal style? – University of Technology Sydney

8 Tips to Make Your Writing Sound More Formal – Proofreading Pal

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