As I should write essays and other kinds of writings in an academic style, I was wondering whether reduced relative clauses are formal or I had better opt for a non-reduced relative clause so that I should keep writing in a formal style.

Just to give an example:

1) Look at the man who is sitting...

2) Look at the man sitting...

Obviously, the meaning is the same, but I'm more concerned about the style of my writing, as aforesaid, theoretically speaking, I should write essays in a formal context.

  • 3
    Don't worry too much about being formal. If you're writing English the way you do here, word choice is a bigger concern than syntax. Go right ahead and reduce those clauses. But don't use aforesaid in English conversation -- it's strictly a legal term; and don't use comma splices to get in every qualification you can think of. Just say what you want to say clearly, and let the audience figure out how formal it needs to be. May 18, 2017 at 19:08
  • A much less formal way of saying "as aforesaid", which as JL says is only used in legal documents, is to say "as mentioned".
    – WS2
    May 18, 2017 at 19:15
  • Above-mentioned as well, tho. Well, actually, I do worry about being formal, since one of the main part of the writing for which I will be given marks refers to style, which means that if I use the wrong kind of "words" (informal ones), it would be a tremendous disaster. Anyway...i'm getting off the point...I was wondering if reduced clauses were formal as I they are explained on my CAE book, but whether they are formal isn't specified. May 18, 2017 at 19:19
  • 1
    Go ahead and use "the man sitting there" often, as it is natural sounding, neither formal nor informal. May 18, 2017 at 20:04
  • All the phrasing for aforesaid and mentioned amount to the same thing in your question, that you just said something and imagine the reader cannot remember it. If you trust your reader and the clarity of your writing, you may also trust that what you just said is easily remembered. May 18, 2017 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


For the specific example you gave, there is no difference in formality. Both are formal (or at the very least not informal). The only difference is the slightest nuance of connotation.

Look at the man who is sitting on the throne.

has the connotation that it is not a defining quality of the man, but of many men, notice the one that happens to be, at the moment, on the throne. The sentence tells you which man to look at.

Look at the man sitting on the throne.

has the connotation that the man, the only one that is of concern at the moment, is intentionally there on the throne doing some sitting. This is a connotation in addition to pointing out one man among many.

The change in syntax is not a transformation, not a dropping of words out of informality, but instead an alternative of equivalent formality.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.