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Time and time again, I've faced situations in which I have to talk about being on time, avoid delay and suchlike. Well, there are many useful verbs which you can use to express your thoughts, however sometimes it becomes tricky, at least for me. In this question, I've aggregated some related questions with each other to avoid asking many very similar questions. All in all, between the following sentences which ones are natural and formal or informal? In each sentence I've highlighted the controversial[!] part by showing it in bold.

  1. "We should always make sure we never allow/let any delay in finishing our homework/project."
  2. "I never procrastinate with my study/project/job/homework"
  3. "I never delay/defer my study/project/job/homework"
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Idiomatically, you'd be most likely to use...

I never put off doing my homework.

Note that put off is (very slightly) "informal" by comparison with procrastinate, but mostly that's because the latter is a relatively unusual usage in this context (it might be better described as "facetious" and/or "pseudo-intellectual/pretentious" here).

It's grammatically valid to say you don't procrastinate with/over/about/regarding/etc. homework, but there's no particular standard as to which preposition works best there. Usually the specific activity being deferred is contextually implied, not explicitly stated and linked to the verb procrastinate.

I often put off my homework.
I often defer my homework.
*I often procrastinate my homework. (not valid English)
I often procrastinate when it comes to my homework. (or with/over etc.)

...but...

I often put off. (unlikely English)
I often defer. (unlikely English)
I often procrastinate. (normal English - I habitually put off doing many/most things)


In OP's context, including an extra (negated) verb such as don't let/allow simply implies that the thing counselled against (procrastination, here) would be likely to happen if you didn't actively make an effort to prevent it (plus of course it implies you have the ability to prevent it happening, by making that effort). The syntax of the two verbs is different...

Don't allow any delay in finishing your work
Don't let there be any delay in finishing your work

...but further details on that should probably be addressed as a separate question.

  • Thanks in advance; however, still some questions remained unanswered. First, is the first sentence valid, especially in written/formal English? Second,is "delay" of any use here? By the way, is "put off" formal? – mok Dec 21 '14 at 14:36
  • @mok: I'm not sure what you mean by "formal" there. The phrasal verb to put off = to delay, defer is certainly not "slang", if that's what you're asking. It's normal English, and it's syntactically simpler in your context than any of your alternatives. So why not use it? – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '14 at 14:58
  • By "formal" I, simply, mean what you can use in written English, such as a letter to a professor, an academic essay and suchlike. – mok Dec 21 '14 at 15:01
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    @mok: Just use put off. It's "normal" English, whereas procrastinate is likely to sound pretentious rather than "formal" in your context. But it sounds a bit obsequious to explicitly tell your university professor that you always complete your assignments promptly - why would he expect anything less? Any "informality" attaches to the actual fact of making any such claim, since your professor would expect nothing less anyway. – FumbleFingers Dec 21 '14 at 15:09

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