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Formal Formulations


The "Formal" of Formal Formulations

When someone accomplishes something which is useful, people want to remember how it was accomplished. If they can remember what they did, and how they did it, then they can do it again. There are two advantages to this strategy:

    1. It is possible to cause a specific desired effect;
    2. The desired effect will be accomplished within a fixed time frame.

In other words, "something gets done" and "time is left for other stuff." The logical result of this strategy is usually called a Formal Procedure. But there are several intermediate steps between the "I am a leaf in the wind, the world is a mystery" level of consciousness, and the level of Formal Procedures.

First off, it is necessary to understand what was actually necessary, in order to do what was accomplished. If something is lacking, the lack will prevent the Procedure from being completed. If something is superfluous, the Procedure will be encumbered with unnecessary considerations, and require a longer time frame to accomplish.

Secondly, what was done and how it was done is remembered as a Recipe. In this sense, a recipe is a "half-baked" Formal Procedure. It is a common practice to experiment with a given recipe, to suit your own subjective tastes. Creativity, diversity, and experimentation are appropriate at this level, where time is not a consideration.

Thirdly, when time is a consideration, and a specific effect is desired, the formality of "neither more nor less than needed" is absolute. Any deviation from an established Formal Procedure will either prevent or encumber the Procedure so that "nothing gets done" or "no time is left for other stuff."

The above discussion of how "something gets done" and "time is left for other stuff" may serve as a genesis for "Formal" activities, but there are several other connotations for "Formal". Consider the formal dictionary definition of "Formal":

formal (f˘rmel)


  1. a. Relating to or involving outward Form or structure. b. Being or relating to essential Form or constitution: a formal principle.
  2. a. Following or being in accord with accepted Forms, conventions, or regulations: had little formal education; went to a formal party. b. Executed, carried out, or done in proper or regular Form: a formal reprimand; a formal document.
  3. a. Characterized by strict or meticulous observation of Forms; methodical: very formal in their business transactions. b. Stiffly ceremonious: a formal manner; a formal greeting; a formal bow to the monarch.
  4. Having the outward appearance but lacking in Substance: a formal requirement that is usually ignored.


  1. Something, such as a gown or social affair, that is formal in nature.

formal - Definitional Commentary
  1. Both parts (a.) and (b.) contain the word "Form" as in "outward Form" and "essential Form".
  2. Both parts (a.) and (b.) contain the word "Form" as in "accepted Forms" and "proper or regular Form".
  3. Part (a.) contains the word "Form" as in "Forms". Part (b.) formally introduces a connection to "ceremony".
  4. This item formally introduces a connection to "Substance". Notice how they are portrayed as distinct concepts which may or may not be present.

On a primitive level, all these items relate to the creation of things, and how they are created. Yet, for each item there is a desire to know the true Substance of a procedure and why it works. There is a sense of reverence and awe in these definitions, something beyond "making things". In a universe filled with uncertainty, a Formal Procedure provides as much of an absolute certainty as possible.

The "Formal" of Formal Formulations affirms a reverence and dedication in focusing attention and consciousness on the Formulation being performed.

formal - Related Usage

form - noun
1. a. The shape and structure of an object.
form - verb, transitive
1. a. To give form to; shape: form clay into figures.
1. b. To develop in the mind; conceive: form an opinion.
formed - verb, transitive
forming - verb, transitive
forms - verb, transitive
form - verb, intransitive
1. To become formed or shaped.
formability - noun from form
formable - adjective from form
-form - suffix
Having the form of.

formal - adjective
1. a. Relating to or involving outward form or structure.
1. b. Being or relating to essential form or constitution:
formally - adverb from formal
formalness - noun from formal
formalism - noun
1. Rigorous or excessive adherence to recognized forms, as in religion or art.
formalist - adjective from formalism
formalist - noun from formalism
formalistic - adjective from formalism
formalistically - adverb from formalism

formality - noun
1. The quality or condition of being formal.
formalities - plural from formality

formalize - verb, transitive
1. To give a definite form or shape to.
formalized - verb, transitive
formalizing - verb, transitive
formalizes - verb, transitive
formalizable - adjective from formalize
formalization - noun from formalize
formalizer - noun from formalize

format - noun
1. A plan for the organization and arrangement of a specified production.
format - verb, transitive
1. To plan or arrange in a specified form:
formatted - verb, transitive
formatting - verb, transitive
formats - verb, transitive

formation - noun
1. The act or process of forming something or of taking form.
formational - adjective from formation

formative - adjective
1. Forming or capable of forming.
formatively - adverb from formative

former - noun
1. One that forms; a maker or creator: a former of ideas.
formerly - adverb
At an earlier time; once.

formless - adjective
1. Having no definite form; shapeless.
formlessly - adverb from formless
formlessness - noun from formless

formula - noun
1. a. An established form of words or symbols for use in a ceremony or procedure.
formulas - plural from formula
formulae - plural from formula
formulaic - adjective from formula
formulaically - adverb from formula

formulary - noun
1. A book or other collection of stated and fixed forms, such as prayers.
formularies - plural from formulary

formularize - verb, transitive
To express as or reduce to a formula; formulate.
formularized - verb, transitive
formularizing - verb, transitive
formularizes - verb, transitive
formularization - noun from formularize
formularizer - noun from formularize

formulate - verb, transitive
1. a. To state as or reduce to a formula.
1. b. To express in systematic terms or concepts.
1. c. To devise or invent: formulate strategy.
formulated - verb, transitive
formulating - verb, transitive
formulates - verb, transitive
formulation - noun from formulate
formulator - noun from formulate

formulize - verb, transitive
To formulate.
formulized - verb, transitive
formulizing - verb, transitive
formulizes - verb, transitive
formulization - noun from formulize
formulizer - noun from formulize

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Updated 95/11/04.