How to Write More Formally for Competitive Exams – the First Seven Rules

Various exams ranging from IELTS and PTE to GRE and GMAT lay emphasis on formal writing. And that’s for a reason. It is important for you, students and professionals, to effectively communicate in business settings. That requires formal English written communication.

Rule 1: Do not write contractions. I’m, we’re, he’s, don’t, won’t – are strictly prohibited.

Rule 2: Do not use abbreviations or short forms such as “info” or “asap”.

Rule 3: Reduce the usage of PASSIVE voice. Prefer active voice while writing a sentence. The active voice always consumes fewer words than the passive voice. For instance:

Active voice: Wright brothers created the first successful airplane in 1903. (nine words)

Passive voice: The first successful airplane was created by Wright brothers in 1903. (eleven words)

Note that in active voice the sentence starts with a subject (Wright brothers).

However, there may be situations when you may not be able to communicate the message in an active voice. For example, when there is no subject in a sentence. Then you’re forced to use passive voice.

The temples of Ajanta and cave paintings of Ellora in India were made in fifth century AD.” (We don’t know who made them.)

Rule 4: Prefer sophisticated intensifiers to make your nouns more expressive. These include extremely, entirely, exceptionally, usually, remarkably, etc.

Rule 5: Before you write, create a structure outlining what each paragraph will communicate. Break your essay or letter into introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. Remember, each body paragraph must communicate one idea only. You can see this practice in all the writing task 2 I have written so far.

Rule 6: Do not start a sentence with “but” and “and”. I have seen numerous student commit that blunder.

Wrong: But the best way to solve the problem is to avoid it.

Correct: We need to solve the problem, however, is to avoid it.

Rule 7: Follow parallelism principle.

Now, this requires an article in itself, but here is a short explanation. Compare APPLES to APPLES and ORANGES to ORANGES. Do not compare your shoes with me, as WRONGLY written in the sentence below.

Wrong: Your shoes are better than me.

Correct: Your shoes are better than my shoes./ Your shoes are better than mine.

There’s a LOT more to this principle and I’ll soon explain this in a fresh article.

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