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Formal writing might not come as second nature to many, but there are some simple tips to get rid of these writing woes as far as basic formatting is concerned. Not being able to format your writing would probably leave the reader uninterested and annoyed. The lack of standardization might also imply the disregard towards the target audience as well as the nature of the document or report. It is important to be consistent once you have adopted a particular style of formal writing. This allows the reader to better understand and retain the content of your document. Below are some useful points to take note before you begin to produce or edit a formal document.

1)      First and foremost, whole numbers which are smaller than 10 should be spelt out. In other words, numbers one to nine should not be written as 1 or 7 in formal writing.

2)      If whole numbers are to be spelt out, numbers which do not belong to this category do not have to be spelt out. Values such as 3.5 or 0.5 do not have to be spelt out like three point five or zero point five.

3)      However, as mentioned earlier on, it is important to stick to a particular formal writing style from the beginning to the end of the document. There is really no standard spelling rule for numbers. For example, some writers or editors might adhere to the first rule above, however some might feel otherwise – one-word number should be spelt out instead. For instance, twenty instead of 20 or thirty instead of 30.

4)      Please use a comma if your document involves huge values. For example, in English, the comma is regarded as a thousands separator (886, 000 “eight hundred and eighty-six thousand”) while the period is understood as a decimal separator. However, take note that in Europe, this is exactly the other way round – the comma acts as a decimal separator while the period acts as a thousands separator!

5)      Centuries and decades should be spelt out. For example, seventies or twentieth century.

6)      Values which have been rounded off should be written in a numeral-plus-word format. For instance, about 5 billion or an estimated 20 million.

7)      When two numbers are written next to each other such as 2 15-year-olds, it can appear a tad odd and confusing. In this case, write 2 as two and the phrase becomes two 15-year-olds.

8)      When addressing people formally such as sir or madam, the first letter only needs to be in upper case when it is placed before the addressee’s name or when it appears at the start of a sentence.

9)      In formal writing, please refrain from using the percent sign %.  It should be spelt out as percent. For example, 20%  becomes 20 percent or twenty percent, depending on your preference (this brings us back to the third rule).

10)   Last but not least, please ensure that there is consistency once you have adopted a particular formal writing style. For instance, please do not write 20 boys at one point and then witch to writing twenty days somewhere else in the same document.

We hope these 10 tips have shed some light on adopting an appropriate formal writing style! Please feel free to share more formal writing tips. Happy writing or editing!  🙂

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