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.

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Formal Tone in Academic Writing

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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.

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Formal Tone in Academic Writing

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Formal Tone in Academic Writing

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