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Grammar, Writing & Notetaking Guide

Formal Writing

Formal Writing Tips


We use words like good, bad, great, and big all the time in everyday conversation. But when they show up in your writing, these vague words may not always reflect your exact meaning.

Try using a thesaurus, to find more specific words.

For instance:

  • effective, beneficial, fortunate, or advantageous are all possible alternatives to good.
  • influential, immense, or even large provide more concrete substitutions for the word big.

Slang Language

We use slang terms every day in conversation. Like the vague words listed in the previous section, these cannot always match your intended meaning, and better alternatives are usually available.

Here is a list of words and their more formal substitutions:

THINGS: items or elements


A LOT: much or many

We use contractions in speech all the time, but try to avoid them in formal essays. Your instructor might be okay with a few here and there, but spelling out won’t, aren’t, don’t, can’t, etc. can help lift your language out of the conversational level.

This content is adapted from Using a Formal Writing Style, The Writing Studio, University of South Florida.