Formal Writing Rules I’ve Had to Unlearn

By My Web Writers

Formal Writing Rules I’ve Had to Unlearn

As a recent college graduate I have learned the specific art of writing an academic paper. Now that I have graduated there are some rules I need to learn how to break. I know I can’t forget my spelling and grammar rules no matter what I write. There are a few rules about my style that needed to change, though. Here are the top 10 rules that I have had to forget.

1.  Big Words. In academic papers using larger words was encouraged. They were a way to show off my knowledge. This is not the case in more informal writing. Now, I need to use the clearest words I can.

2.  Long Papers. Instead of writing pages on end to reach my point I need to be more concise. When I search the Internet I am looking for quick answers to my questions. I skip past articles that don’t answer my questions in the first few sentences.

3.  Long Paragraphs. There was a time where I was quite proud of my well-constructed, page-long paragraphs. Now I realize that no one wants to wade through that much support for my points. Now I just get to my point and then I move on.

4.  “You” and “I”. Formal papers never use the words you or I because it is a direct connection between the reader and author. Informal writing stresses that connection to the audience. You can’t create a connection to someone if you don’t talk to them directly.

5.  Contractions. This is a rule that I am grateful to break. Writing out contractions has always sounded too stiff to me. Contractions are everywhere in speech and now my writing can reflect that. Related to contractions I am now free to use shortened forms of words instead of feeling forced to write out the entire word.

6.   Passive Voice. This is another rule that I am grateful to break; I have no reason to use the passive voice. The passive voice only creates overly complicated sentences which increases the likelihood of misunderstandings.

7.   Conjunctions. The classic English rule that a sentence can’t start with a conjunction (and, but, or) is largely ignored in most writing. It is still seen as slightly unprofessional, but it is a great way to get a point across.

8.   Slang. In formal writing it was frowned upon to use clichés or slang terms. Now, that I have graduated I am free to use whichever terms will help me get my point across.

9.   Emotion. I am no longer restricted by having to remain objective. I am allowed to connect with my readers and show my empathy and emotions for them.

10.  Headings. In writing my school papers I often wrote headlines and sub-headlines to keep myself organized by they rarely made it into my final draft. Now that I’m writing online I use headlines frequently to emphasize my main points. Headlines and sub-headlines tell my readers the main points I’m trying to get across.

Writing for teachers and professors has helped me hone my writing skills. Most importantly I have developed good spelling and grammar skills. There are still some elements of my style that I have had to throw out the window if I expect people to read my writing online. What parts of formal writing have you forgotten, or ignored, now that you’re writing for the web?




Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Descriptive Writing, Editors, Education Strategy, Narrative Writing, Resumes, Revising & Proofreading, Web Writers, Writing Careers

3 responses to “Formal Writing Rules I’ve Had to Unlearn

  1. Andy Welfle

    That’s why I really loved getting a journalism education — it taught me almost all of these things! It definitely ruined me for writing those long, verbose lit crit papers. I was able to say what I needed to say in five pages instead of ten!

  2. Pingback: Are You Too Lazy to Write Better? | My Web Writers - Website Content & Editing Ideas

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