Although some readers may often have heard the term formal, they may not have a firm idea of what it means. This is understandable because it has taken on many meanings over time. Formal may be associated with the practice of doing something for appearance’s sake as in a formal wedding. Or it may convey a feeling of primness and stiffness. Maybe readers harbor an unconscious feeling that formal means fixed, authoritarian, and inflexible. All these meanings have in common the notion of an arrangement that gives something its essential character or what Aristotle described as “the inward shaping of an object.” The etymology of the word substantiates this. Formal is based on the idea of form or shape. ...

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