Formal Tone in Academic Writing: Tips to Achieve It

When writing for academic or professional purposes, such as writing a research paper or a professional email to the CEO of a firm, people use diction that is far more objective, complex, and meticulous than their everyday language. In other words, they use “formal” language or, to be precise, language that carries a “formal tone.” This article will peruse the definition of “formal tone,” albeit in the context of academic writing. In addition, it will give some helpful tips to aid writers in writing more formally.


Formal Tone in Academic Writing: Tips to Achieve It

When writing for academic or professional purposes, such as writing a research paper or a professional email to the CEO of a firm, people use diction that is far more objective, complex, and meticulous than their everyday language. In other words, they use “formal” language or, to be precise, language that carries a “formal tone.”

This article will peruse the definition of “formal tone,” albeit in the context of academic writing. In addition, it will give some helpful tips to aid writers in writing more formally.

What is a formal tone?

Consider the following two sentences:

  • I believe there are high chances that it will rain tomorrow evening.

  • According to the data presented by the meteorological department, the probability of precipitation tomorrow evening is high.

Both sentences essentially divulge the same meaning. However, the second sentence is more thorough and carries with it a complementary earnestness. The difference, here, lies in the “tone” of these sentences. The tone of the first sentence is informal while the tone of the second sentence is formal.

Within the scope of academic writing, a formal tone refers to the usage of words and language rules that exude elegance, respect, explicitness, and an overall scholarly seriousness in a text. As such, formal language omits certain idiosyncrasies of its informal counterpart, such as contractions, unnecessary abbreviations, and overuse of simple sentences.

Achieving a formal tone: 4 pointers

Formal writing is more sophisticated than vernacular. Hence, there are certain unspoken edicts that one needs to abide by in order to write formally. Mentioned below are some such rules that cover most of, if not all aspects of formal writing.

Writing in the third person

Writing formally entails one to write from the third-person viewpoint. This is so because formal writing is, in a general sense, impersonal. Authors write in third-person to make their documents seem more credible and less conversational to the readers.

Hence, when writing for formal purposes, one should make it a rule of thumb to avoid using first-person and second-person pronouns such as “I,” “we,” “you.” However, the third-person rule does not apply to citations.


Informal: I think this experiment is unethical in nature.

Formal: The nature of this experiment is supposedly unethical.

Formal Tone in Academic Writing

Ruling out any instance of colloquialism (including slang)

A hallmark of formal writing is that it is devoid of any instance of colloquial words and language features. Writers do not use words such as stuff, thing, and crazy when writing formally as they fall into the informal category.

This also implies that formal writing rules out slang, inappropriate contractions, and unspecified abbreviations.


Informal: He pissed off the crowd with his actions.

Formal: That person angered the crowd with his actions.

Informal: They can’t perform tonight.

Formal: They are unable to perform tonight.


They cannot perform tonight. 

Writing objectively to ensure a consistent formal tone

Formal writing is about objectivity, i.e., it is less emotional and does not propose the idea of including personal feelings and opinions in the text. Instead, writers, when writing formally, present their arguments in a detailed and unambiguous manner.

Thus, in order to achieve a formal tone, writers should abstain from using phrases such as “I think” and “I believe” and prominently use words backed with sound logic. Additionally, any usage of punctuations signifying emotional attributes should be discouraged.


Informal: In my opinion, climate change will be bad for future generations.

Formal: Reports suggest that climate change will be detrimental to future generations.

Circumventing informal phrasal verbs

According to the (general) consensus, the usage of phrasal verbs should be shunned in the context of formal writing as they render a sense of “informality” to a formal text. However, not all phrasal verbs are unfit for use in formal writing. Certain phrasal verbs such as “carry out,” “bring about,” “put forward,” are appropriate for use in formal documents.

Therefore, instead of entirely eliminating phrasal verbs, exclude only those that are informal.


Informal: The detectives were checking up on the activities of three teenagers.

Formal: The detectives were investigating the activities of three teenagers.

Informal: A massive power outage put off the election rally.

Formal: The election rally had to be postponed due to a power outage.


Writing in a formal tone takes considerable practice as one needs to keep in mind several language rules, grammar rules, writing etiquettes, social conventions, and pertinent vocabulary. As such, writers should refrain from trying hard to sound formal by including a lot of jargon and complicated terms in their works. Formal writing is not about being complex but about relaying a message while keeping in line with the “formal” writing customs.

If you need us to make your manuscript shine, contact us unhesitatingly!

Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering manuscripts with proper tone, content, and style of academic writing, and also provide an upscale editing and proofreading service for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized writing styles. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.

Formal Tone in Academic Writing

English manuscript formatting service

You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the particular styles for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g., APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.

Get a free quote for editing and proofreading now!

Visit our order page if you want our subject-area editors or language experts to work on your manuscript to improve its tone and style and give it a perfect academic tone and style through proper editing and proofreading. The process of submitting a paper is very easy and quick. Click here to find out how it works.

Our pricing is based on the type of service you avail of here, be it editing or proofreading. We charge on the basis of the word count of your manuscript that you submit for editing and proofreading and the turnaround time it takes to get it done. If you want to get an instant price quote for your project, copy and paste your document or enter your word count into our pricing calculator.

Formal Tone in Academic Writing

24/7 customer support / Live support

Contact us to get support with academic editing and proofreading. We have a 24/7 active live chat mode to offer you direct support along with qualified editors to refine and furbish your manuscript.

Formal Tone in Academic Writing

Stay tuned for updated information about editing and proofreading services!

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn,  Facebook, Instagram, and Medium.

For more posts, click here. 

This article discusses formal academic tone in academic writing and tips to achieve it. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

They Also Read

Academic Writing
6 Common Mistakes Made by College Students in Academic Writing Projects

Embarking on an academic work is obligatory for every college student who wants to graduate one day. Such an academic work is considered one of the final and most fundamental practices in the curriculum for college students. Some students who embark on their academic writing projects may not actually be aware of the mistakes (whether trivial or vital) that may delay their graduation or cause them to lose marks, or points in their assignments. So, college students should pay attention to these tips to avoid making the errors herein discussed.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing
How to Formulate Research Questions

A good part of any research depends on the right questions asked. If you are asking wrong questions, your entire research may go off track. Therefore, understanding what questions you need to ask is essential for your research. If you are on the way to your research but don’t know how to start framing the right research questions, we have just the right information for you. This article discusses the process of formulating research questions.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing Academic Publishing
How to Choose the Right Research Design

There are various types of research designs that researchers can opt for. However, to opt for the right design, you first need to know the differences. Also, do not forget that the type of design depends on various variables from your research. Therefore, understanding these variables is of importance. If you are new to academic work or are just here to refresh your memory, this article has just the right content for you. Today, we will focus on the different types of research designs.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing Academic Publishing
Your Detailed Go-to Guide for Chicago Style Citation

When you enter the academic field or just begin writing a thesis, a dissertation, or an article for e peer-review journal, you will fumble upon countless new writing styles, fonts, formats, and citation styles. Academic writing differs from other forms of writing because it often follows a set of structures and involves the use of formal language, grammar, and words. Thus, you need to write in a particular style that carries its own rules and regulations. This article discusses the details and main rules of the Chicago Style Citation.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing Dissertation & Thesis
How to Structure a Dissertation: A Brief Guide

You have been working hard on your research paper and want to write an excellent dissertation/thesis. You have researched all the materials, and your data are perfect— all you need to do is put them together in a dissertation or thesis. But how do you manage that? While working on the research is not easy, it’s structuring a dissertation or thesis that the main issue lies with. Therefore, if you are struggling with structuring your dissertation or thesis, this article may be of help.

Continue Reading