Avoid informal writing

A few informal writing tendencies appear in student papers, and contractions and common informal phrases are among the most common.


A contraction is indicated by an apostrophe that joins two words by replacing some letters in those words. These are very common in conversation and acceptable in informal writing, but are usually too informal for academic writing. Here are a few examples:

  • Instead of it’s, use it is.
  • Instead of won’t, use will not.
  • Instead of can’t, use cannot.

Informal phrases and slang

Informal phrases, like contractions, appear in academic writing because they are so common in spoken English. The problem with these phrases is that they tend to be obscure or figurative, and in academic writing we should prefer precise and literal language. Here are few examples:

  • Instead of a lot, use much or many.
  • Instead of He is chomping at the bit, say He is anxious.
  • Instead of cut down on, use reduce.
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Shane Bryson

Shane finished his master's degree in English literature in 2013 and has been working as a writing tutor and editor since 2009. He began proofreading and editing essays with Scribbr in early summer, 2014.

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