A note on style

Even though we work at a university, there really is no reason to express yourself in excessively complex or formal style. So don’t be pretentious, because people will not be impressed. Indeed, they may switch off altogether. The main thing is your message – the content of what you say.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the context? (internal/external, formal/informal, specialist/non-specialist etc).
  • What’s your main message?
  • What are you trying to achieve (instruct, persuade, explain)?
  • Who is your audience? How good are they at English? What are their needs?

Using contractions

It’s often entirely appropriate to use contractions in written English in an administrative or semi-formal context (isn’t, doesn’t etc. – instead of is not, does not etc.), although you should avoid an overly intimate or familiar tone.
For example, there’s no need for excessive formality in internal communication to students and staff or in internal newsletters – or in a staff style guide, for that matter.

Correct example Please don’t forget to register for your exams.
Correct example If you’re interested in learning more, please contact….

Politeness

Express yourself politely in written communication, especially when asking or directing other people to do something.

Imperative forms

Danish passives such as Feltet udfyldes… eksamensbeviset vedhæftes… translate to ’Please + imperative’:

Correct example Please fill out the form
Correct example Please attach your diploma..


Translating venligst

Venligst translates to ‘Please + imperative’ or ‘We kindly ask you to…’:

Correct example We kindly ask you to attach your resume.
Incorrect example Attach kindly your resume.

Nominalisation

In non-academic writing, avoid unnecessary nominalisation. When you turn a verb into a noun, you nominalise it (The word ‘nominalisation’ is actually a good example of a nominalisation!).

Like the passive voice, nominalisation shifts the focus of the sentence from the actor to the action, which can make your text sound overly impersonal, formal and/or wordy.

Correct example The recession caused the property market to collapse.
Incorrect example The recession was the cause of the collapse of the property market.

Correct example The committee investigated the case.
Incorrect example The committee undertook an investigation of the case.

Personal pronouns

It’s often entirely appropriate to use personal pronouns (I, you, we, he etc.) in administrative/official contexts, although again it would be wise to avoid over-using them.

Correct example I would be happy to send you more information.
Correct example You are welcome to contact us directly at xxxx.
Correct example We would like to emphasise that the deadline is final.

Active vs passive voice

The passive voice often produces an excessively formal style; the active voice is generally preferable unless you really want or need to conceal who the sender of the message is.
This is particularly important to keep in mind when translating Danish passives.

Du bedes venligst vedlægge...

Correct example We kindly ask you to attach…
Correct example Please attach
Incorrect example You are kindly asked to attach…


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