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For example:

Stein’s avant-garde collection challenges the reader to think of ordinary, everyday objects and concepts in ways that they hadn’t before. This is in direct contrast to...

I was told that in this case, "this" should be followed by a noun, as it is an adjective. I know that "this" can be substantive, but is that just informally, or is it acceptable in formal writing?

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You were misinformed. Almost all of what most contemporary students call “determiners” (a class distinct from “adjective”) may be employed as pronouns with propriety in any register, formal or casual: this, that, each, every, some, quantifiers like some, few, many, and their comparatives (more, less) and superlatives (most, fewest), ordinal numbers, and possessives. The only ones I can think of offhand which cannot be employed this way are the articles and every.

Indeed there is a burgeoning school of thought which holds that these words should be reclassified as pronouns.

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  • This is interesting to know, and sounds reasonable to me. What I don't understand in the OP's question is what This refers to--maybe the whole sentence?
    – Xanne
    May 16 '17 at 1:18
  • @Xanne Exactly. May 16 '17 at 10:08

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