Write Better Texts – 6 Tips on semi-formal writing.

Hello Exam Seekers,

How do you feel about your writing? Do you feel that you can write any type of text? Or… Do you feel that you lack some guidance towards this subject?

These are important questions when you are taking any of the CELTA Courses, or the ICELT and the DELTA courses. After all, this is the kind of writing style you are required to use when writing the assignments.

I believe it is a bit presumptuous to assume that we are ready to write anything at any time. However, I can understand where these kinds of thoughts come from. If you are following a pathway to teaching which includes a Language Degree, you probably have had to write a thesis to conclude the course, or you had to write a few essays along the way. Well, these types of texts are not easy; moreover, you need guidance to write them. You go through so many drafts, write and rewrite things, which by the end of the presentation of your thesis – or your essays and articles -, you come to the conclusion that you are the best writer ever.

And maybe you are! I’m not here to judge, but it is important to know where you are stepping when you start a course like the ones I mentioned. Moreover, it is relevant to know that, even though your writing is great, you are still going to go through some other piles of drafts.

Well, at the center that I took my CELTA and ICELT courses, there were a few requirements for people to be able to enroll in either of them. One of the requirements to enroll in the ICELT course was that people were not only at a C1 level of the CEFR (CAE) but also that they had taken the CELTA.

It actually makes sense, even though Cambridge English did not require that. Actually, if you take a look at Cambridge requirements for the ICELT, they were pretty lower than what you used to find in some centers. These centers did that because they were very rigid about the texts an ICELTee should be writing. In addition to that, they wanted to prepare people for the following courses/certificates. Most people when they finished the ICELT, they wanted to take the DELTA, a DIPLOMA course, which means that you are required to write long and complex texts.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that my first ICELT input session was about writing assignments. It was a session on SEMI-FORMAL WRITING.

What is semi-formal writing?
Usually, a semi-formal type of writing is more polite than an informal one. You avoid some styles of writing and some vocabulary and try to use language that is more specific. A semi-formal style is used for communicating with people you do not know well or who are outside your regular working relations.

Notebook writing texts

Some examples are: letters parents send to the school principal, or to teachers, texts you write to your landlord or boss, etc. They are similar to business letters: they are concise and informative.

So, here are some tips on this style of writing:

  • CONTRACTIONS:

There is no room for contractions when you use this language style. However, it is not a bad thing, if you lack in word count in the assignments, writing “it is” instead of “it’s” helps quite a lot. Moreover, the use of “there’s,” “I’ve,” etc. sounds too informal for these kinds of texts, like a conversation in real life.

  • BUT/AND

You can use these connectors; however, when you want to sound posher, you should avoid these two and use others. Especially if you are trying to impress other people with your text. There are many examples of other similar connectors:
> But: however, on the other hand, nevertheless, etc.
> And: moreover, in addition to, furthermore, etc.

  • GENERALIZATIONS

When you are writing an assignment, you are usually writing a report on a situation and presenting solutions, so, you should be very specific about the types of things you write. Instead of a broad statement where an idea can be applied to groups of people, try to narrow the focus of the writing, it shows that you did intense research. So avoid using: all, everyone, always, probably, might, etc.

  • PASSIVE VOICE

Whereas in some countries Passive Voice is a synonym of formal language, in English, if you are writing something more formal, the passive should be avoided. ;P When we use the passive, we put the object in focus, while in an assignment you should give the subject its purpose: they are doing the action, so let them do it! Use the active voice, started the sentences using “I”, meaning that you actually did the job, researched it, is acting on it, etc.

  • PARENTHESIS

A text should express precisely what is written, so avoid using parenthesis. Whatever you want to say, you should say it straight away. If you really need to write, a side comment between parenthesis, first try using subordinate clauses and work on punctuation, leaving the parenthesis as a last resource.

  • INFORMAL LANGUAGE

If you are writing a semi-formal text, avoid informal language. There are many ways to avoid informal language: First, you should avoid the connectors “and” and “but”, there are more formal connectors than these two. Second, you can use synonyms of common words, which you can find at Thesaurus.com, which is a great help. Another possibility is to avoid using two words instead of one (when one of them is “very”. For example, when you say “It was very cold“, you can improve your writing by saying “It was freezing“.

Check the list below, there is a good number of words to help you write better.

clip_image004
These are some tips that might help you find your way to better semi-formal writing. If you are still in doubt about whether your text is well written, you could ask a peer to read it and help you. Usually, when I write, my impression of the text stays intact, and I don’t see mistakes I wouldn’t miss when reading a student’s text. Therefore, having fresh new eyes to check your text is a great way to spot mistakes and the use of informal vocabulary in semi-formal writing.

Another way to avoid bad writing is to use Grammarly!!! Check my post about Grammarly. It usually helps a lot by suggesting improvements to your text or to tell you how to restructure your text avoiding lousy punctuation, repetition of words, and passive voice. However, you have to remember to choose the correct style of writing when using Grammarly:

writing style

Well, I hope that I was able to clear up some questions about this subject. And whenever you have questions, check these tips out!!! 🙂

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That’s it for today! Please like the post and follow the blog on:

You can also listen to this post at Anchor!!!

Have a great week,
Patricia Moura

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