GED Writing: Formal Writing

Mandy wrote:

im going to go take my GED test again tomorrow, i only have to do the writting part and social studies. When i write any kind of paper, i write as if i was talking to the person face to face. i dont mean to but i guess a cant grasp that i have to make it sound “pro.”

Sounding like a pro can be hard, especially if you spend a lot of time reading stuff on the internet. There’s so many blogs and journal posts out there, and they’re all written pretty informally. Most of the time, when I’m writing something myself, it’s a letter to my kids or a journal entry that’s meant for my friends or something. I don’t think too much about sounding formal. So, just like with math, it’s difficult to do something you’re not practicing all the time.

First of all, why should you sound professional when writing an essay? Is it just ’cause the GED judges are snobs? I don’t think so. It’s more about making sure people can understand you. I mean, that’s what writing and talking is about in the first place, letting people know what you think, right? Sounding professional just means getting your ideas across in the best possible way by using a straight version of English that everyone can understand.

Here’s my list of a few things to avoid in order to make your writing sound a little better:

Avoid Slang

You shouldn’t use slang when writing a formal essay. Even words like, cool or lame are slang.

“I think that snowboards are sick ’cause you can tear up the mountain like a maniac.”

This could be something you’d say to your friends, but is it going to make sense to everyone? Maybe you could write more like this.

“I think that snowboards are great because you can slide down mountains at neck-breaking speeds.”

Keep to Traditional Contractions

The internet has created a lot of new contractions that seem normal, but might not be appropriate for an essay. Words like gonna, ’cause, I’mma, and shoulda don’t seem wrong ’cause you see them online a lot. In fact, the first three words in that list didn’t even come up as “wrong” in my spell check! But they might not be the best choice for an essay. Stick with traditional contractions like it’s, you’re, don’t, and I’ll. If you’re not certain what’s “official” and what’s not, just don’t use the contraction. You’re not gonna be docked points for saying “I will” instead of “I’ll.”

Leave out Filler Words

When you talk, you use a lot of filler words. You say things like so, like, well, and anyway. These words just fill an essay up with fluff and can usually be left out all together. If you want to join two thoughts together, it’s ok to put words like, “however” or “therefor” when the ideas connect to each other. However, saying, “anyway” is more like you got off the topic and are trying to get back to it, which doesn’t make for a very well constructed essay in the first place.

Write with Certainty!

Writing prompts often ask you what you think about something. Formal writing should sound certain about its answer. Starting an essay with, “I think that snowboards are great…” is immediately less certain than just saying, “Snowboards are great.” Leave out words like maybe, and possibly.

Avoid the Second Person

What’s the “second person?” It’s one of the “points of view.” The “first person” is I, the “second person” is you, and the “third person” is he, she, or it. When you’re writing a formal essay, the word “you” kinda makes it informal ’cause you’re suddenly talking directly to the person who’s reading it. I’ve found that using “we” is a good substitute. For instance:

“If you find it difficult to sleep at night, you can take a sleeping pill to help.”

This is kind of like getting into the private life of the reader. It’s making assumptions about the reader’s sleeping habits. If you just replace you with we then it immediately takes a step back and makes it feel a little more formal.

“If we find it difficult to sleep at night, we can take sleeping pills to help.”

Just remember that “we” is plural while “you” isn’t, so make sure to make any changes necessary, like how I changes “pill” to “pills.” After all, we all can’t take one pill between us!

Here’s a prompt and answer from CanTeach:

What is a good neighbour?

I think a good neighbour is someone who’s friendly, but not overly friendly, you know? Like, it’s ok if a neighbour comes over for a cup of sugar or something, but if the neighbour’s coming over all the time and using up all your sugar, then that’s way too friendly. A good neighbour has to be like a yin-yang. They have to keep to their space, but also not only keep to their space. ‘Cause then they’re just a recluse, and not really a neighbour at all. And if you’re like, “Hi neighbour!” and they just ignore you, then that’s just rude!

So, how could you fix this paragraph? I’ll see if I can clean it up myself in my next blog. Good luck with your GED! And keep writing!

For more information about the GED test and GED test preparation, visit the GED Academy at

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