Formal writing expressions

Accurate and fluent formal writing is important in an advanced-level exam. This post presents some expressions to help you organize your arguments and ideas in an essay

First and foremost

A more emphatic form of first

E.g. First and foremost, it must be emphasised that there are several reasons for this change.

On balance / by and large / in the main

Used to draw a conclusion after evaluating several different facts or opinions

E.g. On balance / By and large / In the main, the general public seems to be in favour of the proposal.

On no account

An emphatic way of saying not. Remember to invert the subject and verb when the phrase is used at the beginning of a sentence

E.g. On no account should there conclusions be accepted. / Their conclusions must on no account be accepted.

On the one hand + on the other hand

These phrases are used to present two contrasting ways of looking at the same problem

E.g. On the one hand, there is some published evidence to support the theory. On the other hand, that evidence has been questioned by some recent studies.

Last but not least

Is used to emphasise that even though something is mentioned last, it is still important

E.g. Last but not least, the impracticalities of the proposal created many problems.

In the final / last analysis

Is used to emphasise that you are talking about what is most important or true in a situation

E.g. In the final analysis, although this is an innovative idea, it is not one that we can consider.

The conventional wisdom

Something that people generally believe is true when in fact it is often false

E.g. The conventional wisdom is that children can learn a second language to a really high level.

A contradiction in terms

An expression that is confusing because the words in it seem to have opposite meanings

E.g. Many people claim that a good adult language learner is a contradiction in terms.

Not the whole picture

Not taking all facts into consideration

E.g. Young children can be excellent learners, but that is not the whole picture.

A case in point

An example of something just described

E.g. Adults can also master a foreign language. My sister is a case in point.

As a matter of course

Describes what normally happens and what normally is done

E.g. However, adults, as a matter of course, have more difficulties with pronunciation.

To point the way

To show how something can be done better in the future

E.g. Recent medical discoveries are already pointing the way to more efficient vaccines.

To set the stage

Used to mean that conditions have been made right for something to happen, or that something is likely to happen

E.g. This weekend’s talks between the two leaders have set the stage for a peace agreement to be reached.

To beg the question

To cause you to ask a particular question

E.g. Spending the summer travelling around Asia is a great idea, but it begs the question of how we can afford it.

To set in motion

To start a process

E.g. We filled in a form to set the whole process in motion.

To open the door to smth

To let something new start

E.g. These discussions may well open the door to a peaceful solution.

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