There are certain things that can be done in spoken English or in written English in newspapers, magazines, or lecture notes or web pages which are not appropriate for formal writing.

Formal English follows the rules of grammar very strictly. Sentences tend to be longer and more complex. The vocabulary tends to be elevated, using big words and avoiding colloquial or slang vocabulary. It avoids split infinitives and prepositions at the end of sentences. 

In formal English you have to be aware of the following: 

  • Don’t start a sentence with ‘And’, ‘Also’, ‘But’, ‘So’, ‘Or’, ‘Even so’. Instead use ‘In addition’, ‘However’, ‘Hence’, ‘Consequently’, ‘Alternatively’, ‘Nevertheless’.
  • Don’t start a sentence with ‘Therefore’. Instead write, for example,‘We therefore…’.
  • Don’t start a sentence with ‘Then’or ‘Now’ unless it is a command.
  • Don’t use ‘don‘t’, or any other shortened negative such as ‘isn’t’, ‘hasn’t’, ‘wasn’t’, etc. Use ‘does not’, ‘is not’, etc. instead.
  • Don’t use ‘!’ or ‘&’ or ‘/’. It is also very unusual to see ‘?’ in a paper. Don’t put questions in a paper unless you really know what you are doing.
  • Don’t use e.g. or i.e. or etc.
  • When referring to the number of countable objects, use words rather than figures when the amount is less than twenty. E.g. Don’t write “we used 3 methods” – instead write “we used three methods”.
  • Don’t use ‘OK‘. Use ‘acceptably’, ‘permissible’, ‘satisfactory’, instead.
  • Don’t use ‘got‘. Instead use ‘obtained’.
  • If you can, try to use the passive voice for some of the time when describing your results. Using ‘we’ in every sentence is a bit boring.