An expert in English language, a practitioner and researcher in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English as a Second Language (TEFL/TESL), Professor Bolanle Akeredolu-Ale, has identified common mistakes that people make while communicating in English. The University Don, who is also the Chairperson, Committee of Deans and Directors (CODAD), as well as the Dean, College of Agricultural Management and Rural Development (COLAMRUD), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), made this observation while delivering the 12th English Language Clinic Lecture of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, themed, “Differentiating Formal and Informal English in Writing”.
According to Professor Akeredolu-Ale, people speak and write in a variety of ways, saying students and individuals in the academia, should be able to differentiate between formal and informal writing styles, as well as know when to make use of a particular style. She decried a development such that students were fond of applying the informal style while making academic presentations, pointing out that formal writing styles were commonly used in textbooks, official documents, business letters, newsletters, reports, articles, dissertations, annual report, inaugural lectures, conferences, as against the informal or casual writing style, which were often used in the course of writing or making conversations with friends.
She stated further that both styles were important in communicating, depending on the situation and circumstances, disclosing that “the way we write in academic and scientific settings, differ greatly from the way we write to a friend or close one. The tone, vocabulary, and syntax, all change as the occasion changes. This difference in the styles of writing is the difference between formality and informality, or the difference between formal and informal writing. You need to know formal English because you want to be able to read a book, give a business presentation or write an official letter. You also need informal English, because you want to be able to understand and communicate with other English language users or speakers in everyday situations”.
Emphasising on the importance of the English Language Clinic Lecture, Professor Akeredolu-Ale said, it was aimed at examining some of the common types of errors students often make during formal and informal usage of English language. “The first step is to be aware that errors can emanate from the usage of formal and informal English, the second step is to be able to recognise or identify the possible areas of problems, and the third step is to be able to correct the error by distinguishing between the two. The main objective of the Clinic is to create this awareness for proper usage. This exercise is expected to help students learn and understand the differences between the different levels of formal and informal English that are appropriate and inappropriate for different circumstances”, she added.
Highlighting the common errors to be avoided when adopting the formal writing style, Professor Akeredolu-Ale said they included the use of slang, Internet and texting substandard languages, abbreviations, colloquial words or phrases, contradictions, first person pronouns, clichés, short and simple sentences and the use of imprecision, as she made case for a policy that would ensure that students in tertiary institutions are properly assessed based on the structure, tenses, lexis and grammar of their articles, rather than the contents.