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Drop the verbs - use nouns! Tips for formal writing.

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Have you ever wondered what the difference between formal and informal writing is? Probably the first things that come to mind are complex grammar structures and advanced vocabulary.

Yet, what may surprise you is that one of the main differences is the fact that formal writing uses noun phrases rather than the more normal subject + verb structure.

Let's look at an example:

Tom's letter resigning from his job surprised his boss a lot.


Tom's resignation letter caused great surprise.

This is obviously a simple example but the idea is the same if you want to write a more complicated paragraph. Groups of nouns are used to show the idea instead of a more narrative informal style.

Take the next example of a formal sentence:

A lack of government oversight has led to a culture of complacency.

As you can see this is quite a formal sentence which you might find in a newspaper article or even a report published by a commission looking into a scandal. If the same idea was to be written out using a more conventional subject + Verb format it would seem far less professional, as shown below.

The fact that the government is not overseen has led to it feeling that it can do whatever it wants.

I have put together a handout to practice this. Please find below a downloadable PDF with key.

Noun sentance Handout PDF
Download PDF • 459KB

Key to Noun sentances PDF
Download PDF • 451KB

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