English Writing Help Center
Important Style Rules for All Formal Writing Tasks

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This section contains:
1) A list of important style rules.
2) Exercises 1 / Exercises 2

A list of important style rules

1) Do NOT plagiarize.
It is very important to write while using your own words. Plagiary is defined as copying another person's vocabulary expressions, or using another person's ideas without giving that other person credit. If you like another person's vocabulary expression (even two words together), then put quotation marks around the expression and cite the source. If you like another person's unique or interesting idea, then you must give that person credit. If you interview another person, write about something unique seen on Internet or TV, or use another person's charts or pictures, then you must clearly give that other person credit in your own writing. In addition, asking or paying another person to write parts of texts may be interpreted as a form of plagiarism.

A writer must cite research sources for everything that is not "common knowledge." If you have seen vocabulary expressions or ideas in several different places where no sources are cited, then it is probably common knowledge. Sometimes researchers are fired and graduate students are expelled from universities for committing acts of plagiary.

In summary, if you want to use another person's "unique phrase" or ideas, you must give that other person credit. For details on making references, see the section of this Internet site which concerns writing research papers.

2) Always have a friend check your paper before giving it to the teacher.

3) Always put a space between lines so the teacher or a friend can make corrections.

4) Avoid personal "I", "you", and "we",
except for the thesis statement. So, instead of: "As I mentioned above...", write" "As was mentioned above..."

5) Avoid asking questions. Readers want answers!
So, instead of: "Do you know where the origin of tea is?" Write: "Tea originated in southern China near the border with India."

6) Do NOT use contractions "it'll", "he's", "they've" etc.

7) Do NOT begin a sentence with numerals.
For example, instead of writing: "400 people..." write: "Four hundred people..."

8) Always write out numerals under 10.
But use numerals 10 or above. Instead of writing: "There were 9 people...", write: "There were nine people..."

9) The word "recently" usually requires present perfect tense.
So: "Recently the government has researched the amount of dioxin."

10) Write "most people, instead of the incorrect "most of people"
Likewise, "most women", "most animals", etc. But "most of the people" is OK.

11) Avoid beginning a sentence with "because", "and" or "or."

12) Avoid the grammar "came to (be, understand, etc.) Instead use present perfect tense.
So, instead of: "Students came to be hard to deal with."
Write: "Students are hard to deal with."

13) Use non-sexist language. Avoid the word "man" and "he/his/him" when referring to general phenomena. When writing sentences, there are two ways to do this:

A) Make it plural.

Sexist Language

Good Alternative

Give each student his paper

Give students their papers

as soon as he is finished.

as soon as they are finished.

The average student is

The average student is

worried about his grade.

worried about grades.

B)If necessary, use ONE, HE/SHE.

Sexist Language

Good Alternative

If a student got an A, he did not

Anyone who got an A, did not

have to do the extra work.

have to do the extra work.

Anyone who wants to go to the

If a student wants to go to the

game tomorrow should bring

game tomorrow, she/he

his money.

should bring money.

Also, see this table:

Usually Inappropriate

Good Alternatives


humanity, people, human beings

man’s achievements

human achievements


synthetic, manufactured, machine-made

the common man

the average person, ordinary people

man the ship

staff the ship

six man-hours

six staff-hours


coordinator (of a committee or department), moderator (of a meeting), presiding officer, head, chair


business executive





steward and stewardess

flight attendant

policeman and policewoman

police officer


congressional representative


14) Do NOT use dialog (conversation) in a formal essay! For example, instead of writing: "Will you come?" You should write: He asked me if I would come. (See the Exercise II below.)

15) Do NOT use the expressions and so on or etc, Instead use such as.
The expression and so on is too unclear for formal writing. Thus, instead of the informal "Japan imports potatoes, corn, wheat, and so on," write "Japan imports food such as potatoes, corn and wheat."

16) Note that cannot is one word.

17) Do NOT write "Students are increasing." Instead, write "The number of students is increasing."
People, problems, cars, and other countable objects cannot physically increase, decrease, go up or go down. Instead, write "The number of ... is..." Likewise, for noncountable objects such as water, beer, happiness, and money, write "The amount of... is..." So, for example, write "The amount of trade is going up."
    例:The amount of trade is going up.

18) Indent every paragraph 5 spaces.