Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Formal vs. Informal English (Why and When Grammar Matters)

Formal vs. Informal English (Why and When Grammar Matters) Formal vs. Informal English (Why and When Grammar Matters) Lately, there’s been a lot of debate about whether correcting people’s grammar makes you a snob (or, in the words of one commentator, â€Å"patronizing, pretentious and just plain wrong†). As proofreaders, this puts us in a difficult position: On the one hand, we don’t want to be â€Å"patronizing, pretentious and just plain wrong.† On the other hand, we’re basically professional pedants, using our knowledge of English to help people communicate. Please dont call us grammar Nazis, by the way. Were very much against fascism, even the grammatical kind. Perhaps the real question is when it’s appropriate to insist on particular grammatical standards. First, though, we should consider the difference between formal and informal English. Formal English Formal English sticks to the prescribed rules of spelling and grammar. This is far more common in writing than speech, especially academic writing and in professional settings. In this kind of English, it’s typical to: Use conventional grammar and spelling Avoid contractions (e.g., â€Å"don’t† or â€Å"should’ve†) and slang Use academic or technical language Always use complete sentences, as well as longer or more complex sentences Require consistent use of terminology/punctuation This kind of writing can seem â€Å"snobby,† especially if the author uses very obscure words or complicated sentences. But a good writer will use formal English to ensure clarity and precision. The advantage of formal English is that it helps people in a particular field or subject area to communicate by providing a standard style of writing. This is why colleges use academic English, but being able to use formal language is valuable elsewhere, too. The important thing is knowing when to use formal English: e.g. at work, in college papers, when communicating with authority figures, etc. Its also useful for talking with the Queen of England. Admittedly, this isnt a daily issue for most people. Informal English Informal English essentially refers to forms of written or spoken English that don’t stick closely to conventional spelling and grammar or that use a lot of slang and informal words. This is the kind of everyday language we use when talking with friends or emailing someone we know well. There is, obviously enough, no standard form of informal English, since it simply refers to non-standard English, which can even encompass â€Å"txtspk†! Theres no such thing as formal txtspk. So far. Does Grammar Really Matter? When using formal English, yes, grammar and spelling are important. It’s not that formal English is inherently â€Å"better† regardless of the circumstances; it’s simply that using formal English in professional or academic settings aids communication and clarity. By comparison, mistakes like mixing up â€Å"their† and â€Å"they’re† in a college paper could imply a lack of care or attention, even if the reader can tell what you intended. However, if you’re just hanging out with friends and you feel an urge to tell someone off for splitting an infinitive, it could seem insulting or annoying to the person you’re correcting. Thus, if grammar matters more to you than your friends, feel free to be as pedantic as you like. Otherwise, it might be best to save formal English for when it really counts. If you already carry a red pen for correcting mistakes wherever you go, you might want to try a career in proofreading.

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