How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

If you’re a student, you’ve heard about a formal essay: a factual, research-based paper written in 3rd person. Most students have to produce dozens of them during their educational career. 

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The picture enumerates the characteristics of a formal essay.

Writing a formal essay may not be the easiest task. But fear not: our custom-writing team is here to guide you through the process. This article will:

  • explain what a formal essay is;
  • show how to write it step by step;
  • provide you with an essay sample. 

👔 Formal Essay Definition

  • ✅ How to Write
  • ✍️ Writing Rules
  • 🖥️ Essay Format
  • 📑 Sample Paper

🔍 References

A formal essay is a well-structured piece of writing with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. This type of essay often includes cited research, uses an academic tone, and is written in 3rd person. While writing a formal essay, it’s necessary to back up your arguments with factual evidence.

What Is an Informal Essay vs. Formal Essay?

Essays come in two formats: formal and informal (also known as personal .) They differ in terms of style and context. You can choose one of the formats depending on the situation and the type of paper you need to write.

Don’t know how to tell the difference between them? Well, here are some key characteristics of these essay types:

As you can see, these types of writing are almost total opposites. Informal essays are only reserved for creative assignments, which means that most of the papers you write need to be formal.

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Our article on creative essays can help you write an informal paper. But how do you craft a perfect formal essay? Keep reading to find out.

✅ How to Write a Formal Essay

Traditionally, a formal essay it’s composed of 3 sections: an introduction, 3 or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Let’s examine each part in detail.

Formal Essay Introduction

The introduction is what your essay starts with. Its primary goal is to catch the reader’s attention with a hook, briefly introduce the topic, and lead toward the thesis statement located at the end of the first paragraph.

Here is what you might want to keep in mind while writing the introduction:

If you want some more inspiration for your introduction, check out our article on hooks in writing .

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Now on to the thesis statement : the key idea of your essay. When working on it, keep in mind that it should answer the central question in your topic and reflect your essay’s overall structure. your essay’s overall structure.

Suppose your topic is related to the teaching methods involving poetry. In that case, the thesis statement can be like this:

Teaching methods that involve reading and writing poetry in elementary school are beneficial for children as they enhance their capacity for empathy, develop creativity, and help with self-realization.

Formal Essay Body

The next part of an essay is the main body paragraphs. They support the thesis statement with well-developed arguments and explore the topic in-depth. Each body paragraph starts with a topic sentence stating its main point. The length of a paragraph can vary, but the best option is to have between 4 and 7 sentences.

To make the text flow easily, you may use transitional words. Here are some examples:

  • after all, 
  • for instance, 
  • on the one/other hand, 
  • initially, 
  • as a result.

How to Write a Formal Essay Conclusion

Lastly, every essay needs closure. A good conclusion summarizes the essay’s main ideas, includes a paraphrased thesis, and encourages the readers to think more about the topic.

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The structure of a conclusion may change slightly depending on the subject. For instance, it can suggest some solutions to a problem, express an opinion, or give a recommendation. It’s important to remember that the conclusion is a part that emphasizes your essay’s most important points and doesn’t introduce new information.

If you’re curious about writing each essay part, check out our article on 5-paragraph essays .

✍️ Formal Writing Rules

Just like choosing the proper attire to wear to a formal event, we need to use the right words while writing a formal essay. Here are some suggestions that can help you maintain a formal tone in your paper:  

Dos of formal writing

  • Pay attention to your vocabulary. The words you will use in a formal essay will likely have a nuanced meaning. Make sure you know exactly what the terms mean, and do your best to sound precise.
  • Use punctuation correctly. Here are some of the things to watch out for: Avoid exclamation marks; Use dashes for insertions; Use colons with enumerations; If you’re unsure of whether to use a punctuation mark or not, rewrite the sentence in a way that doesn’t require it.
  • Use varied sentence structure. In formal writing, there is always a danger of sounding monotonous. Avoid repeating sentence structures to make your essay more readable.
  • Provide references. It’s essential to cite every idea that you borrow. Try to paraphrase quotations from your sources: it will help you avoid plagiarism.

Don’ts of formal writing

  • Avoid using pronouns.  With words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” or “us,” an essay becomes wordy. It also makes the author seem less sure of their ideas. If you want to use personal pronouns, try substituting them with words like “the reader,” “viewers,” or “one.”
  • Avoid using slang expressions and nonstandard diction. Slang words in a formal essay will make it less appealing to the readers. If you want to be taken seriously, it’s best to avoid those expressions and use proper Standard English.
  • Avoid informal tone.  When you write a formal essay, incorporate the language and the expressions you would use while delivering a speech, not the words you use when you casually talk to friends. A formal tone suggests that the author is serious about the topic and respects the audience.
  • Avoid passive voice. Passive verbs are hard to read, and they are wordy. Use active voice to sound more straightforward and concise.

Contractions in Formal Writing

A contraction is usually a combination of two words into one, such as “don’t,” “isn’t,” “can’t,” and “wouldn’t.” When you work on a formal essay, it’s essential to be careful about contractions. It’s inappropriate to use them in academic writing, so it’s best to stick to the full variant.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, when working with direct quotations, it’s essential to reproduce words exactly as they are used in the original. To learn more about it, be sure to check out the University of North Florida’s article on in-text citations .

What to Use Instead of “You” in an Essay

Another common mistake students make is using the “you” and “yours” pronouns to address the readers. This mistake can make the essay overly informal and lead to misinterpretations of the text.

How do you fix it? Our advice is to replace 2nd-person pronouns with the following words:

  • individuals,

You can find more formal writing tips in this informative video from Smrt English:

🖥️ Formal Essay Format

Now that we’ve discussed formal essay writing in detail, it’s time to look at the formatting. A formal essay is usually written in MLA or APA formats. If you’re asked to write a paper in one of these formats, you may find the guidelines below helpful:

📑 Formal Essay Example

Here is an excellent sample of a formal essay that uses all the guidelines mentioned in this article. It will help you to produce a perfect paper of your own:

For more information, check out Purdue OWL’s resources on various formatting styles .

Formal Essay Topics

  • Stress management techniques  
  • The effects of coffee  
  • Negative effects of technology on children 
  • Causes and outcomes of organizational conflicts in sports  
  • Different types of friends  
  • Same-sex marriages in the United States  
  • Are early marriages harmful or beneficial? 
  • How do nutrition and hydration improve athletes’ performance? 
  • Is polygamy morally acceptable? 
  • Different features of sports business  
  • What characterizes friendship in the age of media ? 
  • Positive and negative effects of tourism on environment in the Caribbean  
  • How does society treat single parents ? 
  • How does the uninvolved parenting style affect child’s future well-being? 
  • The role of family relationships in Odyssey  
  • Financial concepts in sport finance  
  • Main features of a strong marriage  
  • The importance of media coverage for sport teams 
  • Reasons why students choose to get internship  
  • The role of stadiums in the sports industry 
  • The multiracial family: the Carters case analysis  
  • Characteristics of children’s sports  
  • Crucial factors affecting health fitness  
  • How is technology used in hotel management ? 
  • Structure and operational context of Four Seasons  
  • What are the main qualities of a true friend?  
  • Different websites that promote rental properties 
  • The imperative aspects of tourism  
  • Importance of hotel training  
  • What factors determine adolescents’ adjustment after they experience parental divorce ? 
  • How does tobacco use affect the human body?  
  • The importance of language and world view for communication 
  • What makes a combination of reinforcement and punishment in parenting efficient? 
  • The scientific approach of sports economics  
  • How does divorce affect children? 
  • Living on-campus vs. living off-campus when attending university: a comparison  
  • How does the New Moves program promote a healthy lifestyle? 
  • How to be an effective counselor  
  • Various types of restaurants in Ireland  
  • Carolina Dog’s characteristics 
  • Comparison of Monzameon’s The Love Suicides at Amijima and Tartuffe by Moliere  
  • Comparing homosexual and heterosexual families  
  • How is family presented in Everyday Use by Alice Walker ? 
  • In what ways can Anaerobic Threshold be assessed? 
  • Is bad parenting a healthcare problem? 
  • Why student-athletes should benefit from sports  
  • Mind-body awareness and its health benefits 
  • Can punishment boost academic performance? 
  • Techniques to teach students swimming  
  • Issues faced by the sports licensing field 

Thanks for reading through this guide! We hope that you found it helpful and now have a better idea of how to write an excellent formal essay. Don’t hesitate to share our article with a friend who may need it. Good luck!

Further reading:

  • How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
  • What Is a Discourse Analysis Essay: Example & Guide
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Précis: Definition, Guide, & Examples 

❓ Formal Essay FAQs

It’s best not to use pronouns such as “I,” “my,” “we,” “our,” etc., in a formal essay since it give the paper an informal tone and the text becomes wordy. It also makes the writer seem less sure about their ideas.

It’s better to avoid using parentheses and dashes in formal academic writing. If the information you want to include in the essay is important enough, it should be a part of the sentence. Otherwise, you can simply omit it.

The formal and informal essays differ in style and context. While a formal essay is a piece of well-structured writing that tries to convince the reader by providing arguments, an informal essay has no set structure. It reflects the author’s personal thoughts or opinions.

Starting your sentence with “because” in formal writing is not the best idea. The word “because” is a subordinate conjunction, which means it’s used to join the main clause to a subordinate clause, not to start a sentence.

It’s best to avoid using 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns, slang expressions, nonstandard diction, and contractions in a formal essay. They are primarily used in daily speech and are considered inappropriate in academic writing. 

  • Point of View in Academic Writing: St. Louis Community College
  • Components of a Good Essay: University of Evansville
  • Introductions & Conclusions: University of Arizona Global Campus
  • How to Improve Your Academic Writing: University of York
  • Nine Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing: University of California, Berkeley
  • Academic Writing Style: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: University of Southern California
  • Formal and Informal Style: Northern Illinois University
  • Formal Writing: Davenport University: LibGuides
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The Seven Essay Writing Rules

Essays have different rules than do stories, letters, poems, or journal writing. Essays respond to a writing prompt or writing topic. The writer is required to develop a thesis statement in the introductory paragraph, then follow with at least two body paragraphs which address the thesis statement, then end with a concluding paragraph.

The Common Core Writing Standards divides essays into argumentative and informational/explanatory. Argumentative essays argue a position or point of view; informational/ explanatory essays explain and analyze. Each of these types of essays focuses on the subject of the writing prompt and follows the following essay writing rules.

Keep in mind that essays are a very formal type of writing. Although they may certainly express opinions, essays present evidence in a fair and balanced manner. Think of presenting evidence in an essay as an attorney would present evidence in a court of law. All of the traditional rituals have to be followed. The attorney (writer) has introductory remarks (introductory paragraph) in which a verdict (think thesis statement) is stated. Next, the attorney (writer) presents the main points of the case and the evidence that supports them (body paragraphs). Finally, the attorney (writer) presents the closing arguments (conclusion paragraph).

Here are the seven essay writing rules:

1. Write in complete sentences. Intentional fragments, such as “Right?” don’t belong in essays.

2. Write in third person. Talk about the subject of the essay. Don’t personalize with first person pronouns such as I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours, ourselves. Don’t talk to the reader with second person pronouns such as you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves. The essay is to be objective (fair and balanced), not subjective (personalized). Rid essays of “I think,” “I believe,” and “In my opinion.”

3. Do not abbreviate. Abbreviations are informal and serve as short-cuts, so they don’t belong in essays. So write United States , not U.S. in essays.

4. Do not use slang, such as kids . Use official, or formal, words, such as children .

5. Do not use contractions. Again, essays are very formal, so write “do not” rather than “don’t.”

6. Do not use figures of speech. Be direct and precise in essay writing. Essays do not use poetic devices or idiomatic expressions. For example, don’t write “He let the cat out of the bag.” Instead, say “He shared a secret.”

7. Do not over-use the same words or phrases. For example, avoid over-use of the “to-be” verbs : is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been.

Teaching Essays


The author’s  TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE   includes the three printable and digital  resources students need to master  the  CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each  no-prep  resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays  includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The  Eight Writing Process Essays  (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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formal essay writing rules

Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > What Is Formal Writing Style and When Should You Use It?

What Is Formal Writing Style and When Should You Use It?

Writing style is the way a writer expresses their thoughts. It includes choices in grammar and punctuation , as well as the overall tone and organization of a written piece. Style varies with the subject matter, audience and context. For example, an academic paper will have a much different style than a text message to a friend.

Top down view of a desks with an open notebook, pencil, glasses, coffee and other things

Writing also follows a particular style guide that dictates specific grammar, punctuation and word choice—like Associated Press (AP), American Psychological Association (APA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS).

Regardless of the specific guidelines used, all writing can be described as either formal or informal style.

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What’s the difference between formal and informal writing styles?

Informal writing is for everyday use. It reflects how you naturally speak and write to friends, family, and casual acquaintances. It has a more personal tone and includes contractions, slang, and figures of speech. Informal writing sounds similar to a personal conversation.

Formal writing is written for an audience you don’t know on a personal level. It’s typically more complex than informal writing. Formal writing has a less personal tone and the language is more proper.

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Characteristics of formal writing style

In formal writing, the writer uses a more objective approach, stating main points and then supporting those points with arguments. Formal writing is less emotional in style, so it avoids things like exclamation marks and emojis.

Here are three quick rules you can follow to write in a more formal style:

  • Use proper grammar and terminology. Stay away from slang, figures of speech, abbreviated words. For example, say “technology” instead of “tech” and “provide updates” instead of “give a rundown.”
  • Take an objective approach. Avoid the use of first person (I, we, us) and second person (you), and use third person instead (he, she, they, or the person’s name).
  • Use full words instead of contractions or acronyms. For example, instead of saying “didn’t” or “won’t” say “did not” or “will not.” Avoid acronyms unless the acronym is more commonly understood than the written out phrase, like NASA or BBC.

Traditional rules of formal writing style also say to use the passive voice and to make sentences longer and more complex. However, these rules are changing as it becomes more widely recognized that the passive voice and long, complex sentences make writing harder to read and understand.

When to use a formal writing style

Informal and formal writing styles each have a time and a place. Choose the most appropriate style based on the purpose of your communication, as well as your audience and the method you’re using to communicate.

  • Use a formal writing style in business, legal, or academic writing unless your audience is someone you know in person.
  • Writing that will appear in print tends to be more formal than email, while text and direct messaging are the least formal ways to communicate.

While most of your day-to-day communication is informal, it’s worth learning more about writing in a formal style. Use great writing software with built-in document editing features to flag informal language and slang words so you can make adjustments before you publish.

When used correctly, a formal style goes a long way toward creating writing that’s clear and better received.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will help you determine and achieve the most effective writing style for the context in which you’re writing.

What do we mean by style?

Have you ever wondered what your instructors mean when they write “wordy” or “awk” in the margins of your paper? Do you sometimes sense that your sentences could be stronger, clearer, shorter, or more effective? Do you often feel that you know what you mean but do not know how to say it? If you sometimes get feedback from your instructors that you need to “tighten your prose” or “look at your word choice,” these can all be reactions to writing style.

Part of the problem with style is that it’s subjective. Different readers have different ideas about what constitutes good writing style, and so do different instructors and different academic departments. For example, passive voice may be used differently in the sciences than in the humanities. You may have an instructor who keeps circling items in your paper and noting “word choice” or “awkward” and another who comments only on content. Confusingly, some of what readers identify as writing problems may technically be grammatically correct. A sentence can be wordy and still pass all the rules in the grammar handbooks. This fact may make it harder for you to see where a reader’s reaction is coming from. Feedback on style can help you avoid distracting from your argument and learn to express your ideas more directly, elegantly, and persuasively in the eyes of an intended audience.

Say what you mean

First, remember that your goal in academic writing is not to sound intelligent, but to get your intelligent point across. You may be reading complicated textbooks and articles, and even when they don’t make sense to you, they all sound smart. So when you have to write a paper, you may try to imitate this type of writing. But sometimes when you imitate a complicated style, you sacrifice communicating and being understood.

Say it in the appropriate tone

You may also receive feedback on style if you write exactly like you speak to your friends over lunch at Lenoir. We’ve written this pamphlet in a chatty, friendly style, hoping that you’ll read it and think, “This isn’t such a painful way to learn about style.” This may not be the appropriate style for every academic paper. Some instructors may invite slang and colloquialisms in their assignments, but most won’t. When in doubt, aim for clear, broadly accessible language, and don’t assume that because a discipline is “artsy” or “out there” that instructors in that discipline want you to write creatively.

These cautions don’t mean you should write all your sentences in a choppy, obvious, “see Jane run” style. It just means that you should make sure that your instructor isn’t distracted from what you are trying to say by how you are saying it.

How to improve

If you learn how to recognize matters of style in your writing, you will have more control over your writing—the way someone reads your paper will be a result of choices you have made. If those choices are deliberate, you’ll have more control over how the reader reacts to your argument. So let’s look at what instructors often perceive as the biggest style “crimes.” You probably don’t have trouble with all of these, so focus your attention on those issues most relevant to your own writing. First we’ll explain some common, style-related writing problems, then we’ll show you some handy tips for finding them, and finally we’ll work on correcting them in your revision process. (That’s right: at first you may have to include a revision devoted entirely to style in your writing process, at least until you get used to recognizing and correcting these issues as you write.)

This term is used to cover a couple of style problems that involve using more words than you absolutely need to say something. Especially when we talk, we use a lot of little “filler” words that don’t actually have anything to add to the meaning of our sentences. (The previous sentence has several examples—see if you can take five words out of it without losing any of its meaning.) In writing, these filler words and phrases become more obvious and act as delays in getting the reader to your point. If you have enough delays in your sentence, your readers might get frustrated. They might even start skimming your paper, which seems a shame after all of your efforts to communicate with them.

Your wordiness may derive from a problem unrelated to your writing style: uncertainty about your topic, lack of a developed argument, or lack of evidence. If you’re not sure what you want or have to say, you may have trouble saying it. As you struggle to find what you mean or play with a vague idea or concept, you may write garbled or rambling sentences. If this happens to you, it doesn’t mean that you are a “bad” writer or that you have a “bad” writing style or “bad” ideas. It simply indicates that you are using writing as a way to think—to discover your point. It’s okay to let yourself think on the page and write to discover precisely what you mean. Taking thirty minutes (or more) to let yourself write and clarify your point for yourself may save you lots of time later. Write to yourself until you can quickly explain to a friend what you are writing about, why you believe it, and what evidence supports your position. Then, sit down to write your paper with your reader in mind. Note: Some writers, in an effort to make a page limit, will be wordy on purpose—this tactic will be obvious to the reader, and most instructors will be less than impressed. If you find yourself struggling to meet length requirements, see our handout on how to read an assignment for some tips. If you are still way off on page length and our handout hasn’t helped you, you may want to talk to your instructor. (If that seems too daunting a task, take a look at our handout about asking for feedback .)

Wordy constructions such as cliches, qualifiers, and redundant pairs are easy to fix once you recognize your tendency to use them. Read several of your old papers and see if you can locate any of these tendencies or consider whether they have become a habit for you in your writing:

  • Problem : Clichés Example : France bit off more than it could chew in Vietnam, and America’s intervention was too little, too late. How to correct it : Clichés stand in for more precise descriptions of something. Slow down and write exactly, precisely what you mean. If you get stuck, ask yourself “why? or “how?” Better example : As the French faltered in Vietnam, even American intervention could not save the collapsing regime.
  • Problem : Lots of qualifiers (very, often, hopefully, practically, basically, really, mostly) Example : Most people usually think that many puppies are generally pretty cute. How to correct it : Eliminate some of these qualifiers and you will have a stronger, more direct point. Some qualifiers are necessary, but you should use them carefully and thoughtfully. Better example : Most people think that puppies are cute.
  • Problem : Using two words that mean the same thing. Example : Adrienne fulfilled all our hopes and dreams when she saved the whole entire planet. How to correct it : Choose the most precise term and delete the extra one. Better example : Adrienne fulfilled all our hopes when she saved the planet.

Some “wordy” constructions take a little more practice locating and correcting:

  • Problem : Overuse of prepositional phrases (prepositions are little words such as in, over, of, for, at, etc.) Example : The reason for the failure of the economic system of the island was the inability of Gilligan in finding adequate resources without incurring expenses at the hands of the headhunters on the other side of the island. How to locate and correct this problem : Locate this problem by circling all of the prepositional phrases in your paper. A few are okay, but several in a sentence (as demonstrated here) make the reader struggle to find and follow your subject and point. Correct this problem by reading the sentence, looking away from it, and writing or saying out loud what you meant when you wrote the sentence. Try asking yourself “Who did what to whom?” Replace the first sentence with your new sentence. Better example : Gilligan hurt the economic system of the island because he couldn’t find adequate resources without angering the headhunters.

Verb trouble

Nouns (person, place, thing, or concept) and verbs (words that describe an action or state of being) are the hearts and souls of all sentences. These become the essential elements—what your grammar teacher may have called the “subject” and the “predicate” or the “actor” and “action” of every sentence. The reader should be able to clearly locate the main subject and verb of your sentences and, ideally, the subject and verb should be close together in the sentence. Some style “crimes” are varied symptoms of one problem: the subjects and verbs or the actor and action of your sentence are hiding from the reader.The reader has trouble following who is doing what to whom. Instructors may write comments like “passive voice” or “weak verbs” in your paper’s margins. While using passive voice or weak verbs is grammatically correct, it may make the reader work too hard to decipher your meaning. Use passive voice and weak verbs strategically once you get the hang of them. If you’re still struggling to figure out what they are, you need to aim for “active voice” and “strong verbs” to improve your writing.

  • Problem : Passive voice. When you hide the actor by putting it somewhere after the action (not in the usual subject part of the sentence) and add a “to be” verb, you are using passive voice. For more detailed coverage, see our handout on the passive voice . Examples : Here’s a passive sentence with the actor at the end of the sentence (not at the beginning, where you would usually expect the subject): The alien remains were lost by the government. Some passive sentences omit actor entirely : The alien remains were lost. The car was wrecked. Better (active) examples : The government lost the alien remains. I wrecked the car. How to locate and correct this problem : Locate passive voice in your papers by circling every “to be” verb (am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being ) in your paper. Not all of these verbs will indicate a passive construction or one you want to change, but if the “to be” verb is sitting next to another verb, especially one that ends in “ed,” (“was lost”, “was wrecked”) then you may be using passive voice. If you have trouble finding “to be” verbs, try finding the subject, verb, and object in each sentence. Can the reader tell who or what is doing the action in your sentence? Correct passive constructions by putting that actor back in the subject of the sentence and getting rid of the “to be” verb. Note that you may have to add information in the sentence; you have to specify who in your sentence and thereby keep the reader from guessing—that’s good.
  • Problem : Nominalization—a fancy term for making verbs and adjectives into nouns. Again, sometimes you want to use nominalization and may do so purposefully. But too much nominalization in a paper can sound abstract and make the reader work to decipher your meaning. (Professional academic writing often has a lot of nominalization—that’s one reason why you may struggle with some of your assigned reading in your courses!) Examples : The discovery of the aliens was made by the government. The car wreck was a result of a lack of visual focus. How to locate and correct the problem: Locate nominalization in your papers by circling all of the nouns. Do you have several in a single sentence? You might be hiding the action (the verb) of your sentence inside of a noun. Correct nominalization by returning the abstract noun to its function as verb or adjective. This will take practice—focus on making the sentence simpler in structure (actor and action): The government discovered the aliens. My sister wrecked the car when she forgot to wear her glasses. Also, look for sentences that begin with the following phrases: there is, there are, this is, that is, it is. Sometimes you need these phrases to refer to an immediately preceding sentence without repeating yourself, but they may be hiding nominalizations. Example : There is a need for further study of aliens. How to locate and correct this problem: Circle these phrases in your paper and try omitting them from the sentence. Who is doing what to whom? Better example: We need to study aliens further.
  • Problem: Weak verbs. If you have located and corrected passive voice and nominalization problems in your essay but your sentences still seem to lack meaning or directness, look for “weak” verbs. Verbs such as “to be” verbs and “have” verbs can often be replaced by “strong” verbs, verbs that carry specific meaning. Concentrate on what the subject of your sentence does and make that the verb in the sentence. Example : The aliens have a positive effect on our ecosystem. How to locate and correct this problem: Locate weak verbs by circling all of the “to be” and “have” verbs in your paper. Correct weak verbs by omitting them and replacing them with a more meaningful verb. Notice that you will need to add information as you specify the nature of the action. Answer the question: “What does the subject really do ?” Better example: The aliens improve our ecosystem.

Ostentatious erudition

You may be inclined to improve your style by sounding more “collegiate” or by using multi-syllabic words. Don’t ever do so without looking up those words to make sure you know exactly what they mean. And don’t blindly accept the recommendations of your word processing program’s thesaurus—these tools may be dangerous unless you double-check the meaning of the words in a dictionary. Many times, an inappropriate synonym will make you sound like you don’t know what you are talking about or, worse yet, give the impression that you are plagiarizing from a source you don’t understand. Never use a word you can’t clearly define. It’s okay to use big words if you know them well and they fit your overall tone—just make sure your tone is consistent. In other words, don’t say “That miscreant has a superlative aesthetic sense, but he’s dopey.”

You may use overly “erudite” words because you think it is wrong to use the same words over and over again in an essay. In fact, it’s often okay to repeat the same word(s) in your paper, particularly when they are significant or central terms. For example, if your paper discusses the significance of memory represented by the scent of wisteria in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, you are going to write the words “memory” and “wisteria” a lot. Don’t start saying “recollection,” “reminiscence,” “summoning up of past events,” and “climbing woody vine” just to get a little variation in there. A thesaurus might even lead you to say that the significance of nostalgia is represented by the odiferous output of parasitic flowering vegetation. Such sentences may cloud rather than clarify your point.

Now you are ready to edit

You are probably not guilty of every style “crime” in this handout. If you consistently struggle with one of these issues, focus your attention on that one. If you struggle with two or more, work on one at a time. If you try to fix all of them at once, you may find your approach too scattered or the task just plain overwhelming. You may also find that you use different styles for different assignments, with different responses from instructors. Whatever the case, the next time you finish a paper, take the issue you want to address and isolate it. Edit your paper using our “locate and correct” suggestions for that one issue. Ignore everything else (spelling, punctuation, content) and look for only that one issue. This strategy may sound time-consuming, but by isolating your style problems, you will find them easier to fix. As you become more proficient, you will include fewer and fewer style problems in your initial draft, and therefore your draft will need less editing. In the end, you will be a better writer—so what are a few minutes now?

If, after reading this handout and looking at your own writing, you are still struggling to understand style problems, bring a few of your old papers to an appointment at the Writing Center. Using already finished papers will help your tutor show you where your chronic style problems occur, why they occur, and how you can fix them.

By the way, a lot of students who come to the Writing Center almost immediately locate their own problem sentences when they read them aloud. Try this technique yourself, before you hand in your paper. Check out our handout on proofreading techniques for more tips.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Lanham, Richard A. 2007. Revising Prose , 7th ed. New York: Pearson Longman.

Strunk, William, and E. B. White. 2000. The Elements of Style , 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Grammar Check

Writing a Formal Essay

When you are assigned a formal essay, the stakes feel high. You may be wondering what makes this type of writing different from any other paper you have written before. The good news is that with some understanding of the guidelines, formal essay writing can be less daunting. In this post, we will explore what sets formal essays apart and offer some tips for crafting an effective piece.

Table of Contents

Structure Of A Formal Essay

Formal essay writing

The perfect formal essay has a clear purpose, an elegant structure, and language that flows like a well-aged wine. It should also be free of any distractions or superfluities. Like any type of writing, it starts with prewriting and planning . But there are some basic components of every essay.

Formal Essay Definition : A formal essay is a short, relatively impersonal composition in prose. It is treated as a dissertation for your college degree. In general, a formal essay should have at least five paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Thesis Statement

The key ingredient to a formal essay is the thesis.

Definition : A thesis is a statement that expresses the main idea of your paper. It explains the goal or purpose of your formal essay so that your readers know what to expect.

A strong thesis should state the main idea of your essay and some points for discussion. Remember, thesis sentences should contain all the standard sentence parts a s normal bodies of text.

  • So your thesis might look like this: “I love coffee for many reasons, but most of all for its endless variety of flavors, comforting texture, and relaxing qualities.”

This statement is effective as a thesis because it explains the main idea and lists a few sub-topics that will be discussed in the essay. If you begin writing by developing a clear thesis with these two components, you’ll have a great start to your formal essay.

Body Paragraphs

Once you’ve written your thesis, you can use it to help you write body paragraphs.

Definition : The “body” of a formal essay is the discussion that comes in between the introduction and the conclusion. It consists of several paragraphs that work to support or explain the main idea by elaborating on the discussion points mentioned in the thesis.

Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence focusing on a sub-topic.

  • If we use the same example presented above, the sub-topics would be the various flavors, textures, and relaxing qualities of coffee.

So you would need to write one body paragraph devoted to discussing each of these three topics. Always remember to keep your thesis in mind as you write the body of your essay. Also, be sure to include several coordinate adjectives and descriptive adjectives in your body text. You want to be detailed & descriptive.


A formal essay should begin with an introductory paragraph.

Definition : A formal essay introduction should provide readers with some background information about the thesis of your paper.

  • An introduction is a little bit like a funnel; it starts out with some broad observations about your topic and gradually gets more specific, until it reaches your thesis.

So if you’re writing a paper about why you love coffee, you might start with some basic information about coffee or some other things that you enjoy. Either way, the goal of the introduction is to gain your readers’ interest by giving them a context for your essay. And as always, kick it off with a strong sentence starter . You want to grab the reader’s attention almost immediately.

Much like the introduction, the conclusion of your formal essay should include a restatement of your thesis.

Definition : The goal of the conclusion is to invite your readers to continue exploring the topic of your paper.

So you might begin your conclusion by restating your thesis statement. Then, you can develop it by considering some future implications of your essay and how it might impact the reader. And don’t write too much! There is a limit to how long your writing can be before it becomes distracting.

For instance, the conclusion of the coffee paper might be focused on encouraging readers to try different coffees for themselves or continue studying the subject of coffee. The point is to show readers how your paper affects them and how they can take action. Also, consider putting your paper through the Chegg plagiarism tool before submitting it!

Rules For Formal Essay Writing

Formal essay writing rules

When it comes to writing a formal essay, there are a few rules you should always follow.

  • This means no using “I” or “we.” No first-person pronouns. Should primarily be in passive voice.
  • This means no “don’t,” “can’t,” or anything else along those lines.
  • This is not the time to bust out your inner teenage rebel. Stick with formal vocabulary & formal tone! You want to use prescriptive not descriptive grammar in your formal writing. Just like we saw in our post on lmao meaning in text , slang terms do NOT work in serious writing!
  • While this may seem like common courtesy, in formal essay writing it’s best to remain impersonal.

So there you have it: a few simple rules to help you write a formal essay that is sure to impress. Be very aware of your word choice. You would not want to use informal words like momma or mama in your formal writing. In the next sections, we’ll elaborate on the key rules to mastering this formal writing style.

The Use of Contractions

If you’re planning on writing a formal essay, there are some formal style rules you’ll want to follow.

  • First and foremost, do not use contractions.

This means that you should always write out phrases like “did not” instead of using the contraction “didn’t.” Contractions have an informal tone. Focus on using apostrophes correctly !

It may seem like a small change, but it makes a big difference in the formality of your writing. Even a small mistake can make your essay look sloppy and unpolished. Save the contractions for your informal essays.

Keep It 3rd Person

When it comes to formal writing style, do not write in first person . This may seem like an obvious rule, but it is often violated. Second, limit the use of active voice. This can be accomplished by using more passive constructions and avoiding contractions.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is surprising how often essays are marred by errors in these areas. By following these simple rules, you can ensure that your formal essays will make a positive impression on your readers.

Formal Essay Topics

When people think of formal essays…they think of school. The majority of our formal essays are also a form of academic writing. Here are a list of formal essay topics:

  • Is Social Media Good For Society?
  • Should Drugs Be Legalized?
  • Should Education Be Free For All Students?

These topics are all worthy of being covered in a formal essay. Be sure to format your writing in the manner described in the previous sections of this post. Also, just like we saw in our post about the phrase “ please be advised “, writers need to pay close attention to their word choice in formal contexts.

FAQs – Formal Essays

Formal essay writing is a type of academic writing that follows a prescribed format and tone. A formal essay is typically research-based, and it is written in the third person . An informal essay, on the other hand, is less rigid in terms of its structure and tone. It may be more personal in nature, and it may not be research based. Formal and informal essays are structured differently.

A formal essay consists of an introduction, the body paragraphs, and the concluding paragraph . The introduction should introduce the topic and state the position that you will be taking in the essay. The body paragraphs should support your position with evidence, and the concluding paragraph should summarize your argument.

Formal writing typically includes longer, more complex sentences than informal writing . Additionally, formal writing often uses more specific and technical language. This type of writing is used in professional or academic settings where a level of formality and precision is desired.

There are a few things you should keep in mind when starting a formal paper. First, you want to make sure you have a strong hook. This will help grab the reader’s attention and keep them engaged. Second, it is helpful to provide some background information so that your reader has context for your argument. Third, make sure you have a clear thesis statement that outlines what you’ll be arguing in the paper. Fourth, map out the structure of your essay so that it is easy for the reader to follow. And finally, don’t forget to proofread before you submit!

Contractions are generally considered to be informa l. They are commonly used in spoken English, but not as much in written English. While there are some exceptions ( such as I’m, we’re, and you’re), contractions are usually considered to be too informal for formal writing.

There are a few reasons why you might want to avoid using contractions in formal writing. For one, they can lessen the impact of your words . When you’re trying to make a point or sound authoritative, using contractions can make you seem less serious. Additionally, contractions can make your writing seem informal . If you’re trying to maintain a professional or academic tone, it’s best to avoid contractions.

While contractions are common in everyday speech, they’re usually not encouraged in academic writing, as they can make your writing sound informal . In academic writing, it’s important to use formal language to demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about the topic at hand.

A contraction is a shortened form of a word or phrase. Contractions are commonly used in writing and in speech. Here are some common contractions: – can’t (can + not) – don’t (do + not) – I’ve (I + have)

The Bottom Line

So there you have it – the simple steps to writing a formal essay that will make your instructor proud. By following these guidelines, you can focus on what’s important – making your argument and presenting your evidence in a clear, concise way. To make things easy, use our FREE Essay Checker to proofread your writing in seconds.

And remember, practice makes perfect! The more essays you write, the easier they will become – so start drafting today and see how well you do.

Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

Want free help with your college essay?

UPchieve connects you with knowledgeable and friendly college advisors—online, 24/7, and completely free. Get 1:1 help brainstorming topics, outlining your essay, revising a draft, or editing grammar.


Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

Stuck on what to write your college essay about? Here are some exercises to help you get started.

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Learn how formal your college essay should be and get tips on how to bring out your natural voice.

Taking your college essay to the next level

Hear an admissions expert discuss the appropriate level of depth necessary in your college essay.

Student Stories


Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

Get the perspective of a current college student on how he approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

Get the perspective of a current college student on how she approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

Student story: admissions essay about a past mistake, how to write a college application essay, tips for writing an effective application essay, sample college essay 1 with feedback, sample college essay 2 with feedback.

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  • What is academic writing?
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  • Literature review
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  • Cohesion vs coherence
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Academic Style How to write in the right style

This page gives information on academic writing style in English . It includes a list of 10 rules for academic style. The page also includes a style checklist for your writing, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.

What is academic style in English?


For another look at the same content, check out YouTube or Youku , or the infographic .

Academic English, like any writing, has its own conventions or 'style'. It is a formal, written style, which means that it has aspects which make it different from 'spoken' academic English, and at the same time, being 'formal', it is quite different from ordinary writing which you might use in letters, emails, or stories.

This section considers 10 'rules' for good academic writing in English. Although rules are never a good idea for any form of study (because there are always exceptions), they are usually a good place to begin. These rules are concerned with the use of:

  • formality ( rules 1-5 );
  • objectivity ( rule 6 );
  • precision ( rules 7-8 );
  • tentative language ( rule 9 );
  • explicit links ( rule 10 ).

Use formal vocabulary , such as words from the academic wordlist (AWL) , and words for numbers up to ten . Avoid less formal or idiomatic vocabulary.

        ✓  Many fathers nowadays...

        ✗   Many dads these days...

        ✓  Major urban centres, such as London and Beijing...

        ✗   Major urban centres, like London and Beijing...

        ✓  There are a significant number of people who believe...

        ✗   There are lots of people who believe...

        ✓  There are three main reasons for this.

        ✗   There are 3 main reasons for this.

Use formal verbs instead of two-word verbs.

        ✓  increase, decrease, discuss, improve, deteriorate, continue, raise

        ✗   go up , go down , talk about , get better , get worse , go on , bring up

Use the full form of verbs , not contractions.

        ✓  do not, cannot, will not, did not

        ✗   don't, can't, won't, didn't

Use formal grammar structures , such as nominalisation (noun phrases) and clauses , rather than too many simple sentences.

        ✓  The increasing pollution of the environment is a global concern.

        ✗   The environment is increasingly polluted. This is a global concern.

        ✓  Note-taking, which is an important skill for EAP students, is difficult to master.

        ✗   Note-taking is an important skill for EAP students. It is difficult to master.

Use statements. Avoid rhetorical questions, which are less formal (though these are common in spoken academic English, i.e. lectures and presentations ).

        ✓  There were four main reasons for the decline.

        ✗   What were the reasons for the decline?

        ✓  Written English is different from spoken English.

        ✗   How are written and spoken English different?

Use impersonal language , such as 'There is...', 'It is...', or passive voice. Avoid personal pronouns (I, we, you, etc.) and adverbs which show your feeling (e.g. luckily, remarkably, amazingly).

        ✓ There are three main problems.

        ✗ I can think of three main problems.

        ✓  In the experiment, the water was heated...

        ✗   In the experiment, I heated the water...

         ✓  There were very few errors in the experiment.

         ✗   Amazingly there were very few errors in the experiment.

Be as precise as possible . Use exact figures or values wherever possible, rather than 'about' or 'several'. Use words such as 'factor', 'issue', 'topic', 'aspect' instead of vague words such as 'thing'.

        ✗   There are several reasons for this.

        ✓  The turning point was in the late 1980s.

        ✗   The turning point was about 30 years ago.

        ✓  There were three factors which led to this result.

        ✗   There were three things which led to this result.

Be sure to cite your sources . Avoid making vague claims.

        ✓  Russell (2001) states that over 50% of the population are unaware of the problem.

        ✗   Everybody knows that most people are unaware of the problem.

        ✗   Most people are unaware of the problem.

Use hedging (i.e. tentative language ), such as 'possibly', 'probably', 'may', 'might', 'appears to', and 'seems to' to qualify statements. Avoid absolute statements and words such as 'always'.

        ✓  Education may reduce crime.

        ✓  It appears that education reduces crime.

        ✗   Education reduces crime.

        ✓  This is possibly caused by the effects of global warming.

        ✓  This may be caused by the effects of global warming.

        ✗   This is caused by the effects of global warming.

        ✓  ESL students often make mistakes with tenses.

        ✗   ESL students always make mistakes with tenses.

Use appropriate transition signals to make explicit (i.e. clear) links between ideas and to introduce new sections of an essay. Avoid numbering or bullet points (except in certain reports), and basic transitions to begin sentences (e.g. 'And', 'But', 'So'). Also be careful not to use too many transitions ( not at the beginning of every sentence!).

        ✓  Turning to the question of inflation...

        ✗   2. Inflation.

        ✓  In addition, inflation is an important factor.

        ✗   And inflation is an important factor.

Academic Writing Genres


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Below is a checklist for academic style. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

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Find out more about the writing process in the next section.

  • Writing Process

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Exercises & Activities Some ways to practise this area of EAP

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Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 01 March 2023.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, academic writing – how to write for the academic community.

  • © 2023 by Joseph M. Moxley - University of South Florida

Academic writing refers to the writing style that researchers, educators, and students use in scholarly publications and school assignments. An academic writing style refers to the semantic and textual features that characterize academic writing and distinguish it from other discourses , such as professional writing , workplace writing , fiction , or creative nonfiction . Learn about the discourse conventions of the academic community so you can write with greater authority , clarity , and persuasiveness (and, in school settings, earn higher grades!).  

Student engrossed in reading on her laptop, surrounded by a stack of books

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing refers to all of the texts produced by academic writers, including theoretical, empirical , or experience-based works. Examples:

  • Students at the high school and undergraduate level write essays, book reviews, lab reports, reviews of literature, proposals–and more . These assignments often presume an audience of a teacher-as-examiner
  • by proposing a new theory, method, application
  • by presenting new empirical findings
  • by offering new interpretations of existing evidence .

Different academic fields have distinct genres , writing styles and conventions because each academic field possesses its own set of rules and practices that govern how ideas are researched , structured , supported , and communicated . Thus, there is no one single style of academic writing. Rather, there are many different writing styles a writer might adopt , depending on their aims of discourse , media , writing tools, and rhetorical situation .

Related Concepts: Audience – Audience Awareness ; Discourse Community – Community of Practice ; Discourse Conventions ; Elements of Style ; Genre ; Professional Writing – Style Guide ; Persona ; Rhetorical Stance ; Tone ; Voice

formal essay writing rules

Differences aside, there are a number of discourse conventions that academic writers share across disciplines. These conventions empower writers to establish authority and clarity in their prose –and to craft pieces that can be understood and appreciated by readers from various academic fields as well as the general public.

Features of Academic Discourse

  • Academic writing tends to be  substantive  rather than superficial,  anecdotal ,  vague or underdeveloped.  For example, a paper on climate change would not just describe the observed changes in temperature, but might also delve into the scientific theories that explain these changes, the evidence supporting these theories, the potential impacts of climate change, and the debates within the scientific community
  • Academic writing prioritizes evidence and logical reasoning over anecdotal observations , personal opinions, personal beliefs emotional appeals
  • Members of the academic community expect authors to provide evidence for claims . When academics introduce evidence into their texts, they know their readers expect them to establish the currency, relevance ,  authority , accuracy , and purpose of any evidence they introduce
  • Academic writers are careful to support their claims with evidence from credible sources, especially peer-reviewed , academic literature.
  • Academics are sensitive to the ideologies and epistemologies that inform research methods.
  • For example, when a psychology student studies the effects of mindfulness on anxiety disorders, they would need to understand that their research is based on the assumption that anxiety can be measured and quantified, and that it can be influenced by interventions like mindfulness training. They would also need to understand that their research is situated within a particular theoretical framework (e.g., cognitive-behavioral theory), which shapes how they conceptualize anxiety, mindfulness, and the relationship between them.
  • Academic writing is expected to be objective and fair–and free of bias . This means presenting evidence in a balanced way, considering different perspectives , and not letting personal biases distort the analysis.
  • It also involves recognizing the limitations of the research and being open to criticism and alternative interpretations .
  • Academic writers are very careful to attribute the works of authors whom they’re quoting , paraphrasing , or summarizing . They understand information has value , and they’re careful to discern who the major thought leaders are on a particular topic . They understand they cannot simply copy and paste large sections of copyrighted material into their own work, even if they provide an attribution .
  • Academic writers must also abide copyright laws , which protect the rights of authors and creators. This means, for example, that they cannot simply copy and paste large sections of copyrighted material into their own work, even if they provide a citation . Instead, they can use smaller excerpts under the principle of “fair use,” or they can seek permission from the copyright holder to use larger portions.


Academic writing is typically organized in a deductive way (as opposed to inductively ). Many genresof academic writing have a research abstract, a clear introduction , body, conclusions and recommendations.

Academic essays tend to have an introduction that introduces the topic, the exigency that informs this call to write. reviews pertinent research, and explains the problem — hypothesis, thesis, and rhetorical situation. the context and states the purpose of the writing (aka, the thesis! ), the body develops the arguments or presents the research, and the conclusion summarizes the main points and discusses the implications or applications of the research

Typically, the design of academic documents is plain vanilla, despite the visual turn in communication made possible by the ubiquity of design tools. Unlike professional writing, which tends to be incredibly visual, academic writing tends to be fairly traditional with its focus on alphabetical text as opposed to visual elements.

  • Plain Design: Academic documents, such as research papers, theses, or scholarly articles, typically follow a minimalist design approach. They primarily consist of black text on a white background, with a standard, easy-to-read font. This “plain vanilla” design reflects the focus of academic writing on the content rather than the presentation. The aim is to communicate complex ideas clearly and without distraction.
  • Limited Use of Visuals: Unlike in professional writing or journalism, visuals such as images, infographics, or videos are not commonly used in academic writing. When they are used, it’s usually to present data (in the form of graphs, charts, or tables) or to illustrate a point (with diagrams or figures). The visuals are typically grayscale and are intended to supplement the text rather than replace it.
  • Structured Layout: Academic writing tends to follow a structured layout, with clearly marked sections and subsections. This helps to organize the content and guide the reader through the argument. However, aside from headings, there is usually little use of design elements such as color, bolding, or varied fonts to highlight different parts of the text.
  • Lack of Interactive Features: With the transition to digital media, many types of writing have become more interactive, incorporating hyperlinks, multimedia, or interactive data visualizations. However, academic writing has been slower to adopt these features. While academic articles often include hyperlinks to references, they rarely include other interactive elements.

However, as digital media and visual communication become increasingly prevalent, we may see changes in the conventions of academic design.

  • Academic writing tends to be formal in persona , tone , diction . Academic writers avoid contractions , slang, colloquial expressions, sexist use of pronouns . Because it is written for specialists, jargon is used, but not unnecessarily. However, the level of formality can vary depending on the discipline, the genre (e.g., a research paper vs. a blog post), and the intended audience . For instance, in sociology and communication, autoethnography is a common genre , which is a composite of autobiography , memoir, creative nonfiction, and ethnographic methods .
  • In the last 20 years, there has been a significant move toward including the first person in academic writing. However, in general, the focus of discourse isn’t the writer. Thus, most academic writers use the first person sparingly–if at all.
  • Academic writers use the citation styles required by their audiences .
  • Specialized Vocabulary: Academics often use specialized vocabulary or jargon that is specific to their field. These terms can convey complex ideas in a compact form, contributing to the compressed nature of academic prose. However, they can also make the writing less accessible to non-specialists.
  • Complex Sentence Structures: Academic writing often uses complex sentence structures, such as long sentences with multiple clauses, or sentences that incorporate lists or parenthetical information. These structures allow academic writers to express complex relationships and nuances of meaning, but they can also make the writing more challenging to read.
  • Referential Density: Academic writing often refers to other works, theories, or arguments, either explicitly (through citations) or implicitly. This referential density allows academic writers to build on existing knowledge and engage in scholarly conversation, but it also assumes that readers are familiar with the referenced works or ideas.

1. When is it appropriate to use the first person?

Use of the first person is now more commonplace across academic disciplines. In order to determine whether first person is appropriate, engage in rhetorical analysis of the rhetorical situation .

Recommended Resources

  • Professional Writing Prose Style
  • First-Person Point of View
  • Using First Person in an Academic Essay: When is It Okay?
  • A Synthesis of Professor Perspectives on Using First and Third Person in Academic Writing

Brevity - Say More with Less

Brevity - Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence - How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence - How to Achieve Coherence in Writing


Flow - How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity - Inclusive Language

Inclusivity - Inclusive Language


The Elements of Style - The DNA of Powerful Writing


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  • Formal and Informal Style

Whether you use formal or informal style in writing will depend on the assignment itself, its subject, purpose, and audience.

Formal language is characterized by the use of standard English, more complex sentence structures, infrequent use of personal pronouns, and lack of colloquial or slang terms.

Informal language allows the use of nonstandard English forms, colloquial vocabulary and typically shorter sentence structures.

The choice of formal or informal style will affect the following areas:

  • standard or nonstandard English
  • choice of vocabulary
  • use of contractions
  • use of pronouns

Rule to Remember

Formal style affects the form of English, the choice of vocabulary, and the use of contractions and pronouns.

Standard or Nonstandard English

Standard English is the language used in professional and business communication. It is the form of English that follows the formal rules of the language.

Nonstandard English uses regional or social language variations. Nonstandard English should only be used when there is a purpose for it in writing. For example, it can be used in a narrative to describe a person with a specific regional dialect. Otherwise, the standard form of English should be used.

Choice of Vocabulary

Vocabulary  needs to be adjusted depending on the level of formality of any written work.

Consider the following words: investigate, examine, check out . Each of them has a different level of formality. While check out can be used in informal writing and speech, using it in a formal research paper would not be appropriate.

Use more formal vocabulary and avoid the use of contractions in formal writing.

Sometimes the whole sentence needs to be rephrased:

Contractions are more casual, and if you are striving for more formal style, they should not be used. Contractions in negative sentences should be especially avoided since they are easy to miss.

The Use of Pronouns

Formal language tends to be impersonal and precise. The use of pronouns , therefore, is restricted. In formal writing, when addressing the audience, you may use the passive voice or an adverbial clause in place of the personal pronoun:

Restrict the use of personal pronouns in formal writing.

The writer's presence, signaled by the use of the personal pronoun I , or we (if there are several authors), can also make writing more informal and less credible.

The second sentence is more formal and can be perceived by the audience to be more credible.

  • Punctuation
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Levels of Formality

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This handout will cover some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.

The level of formality you write with should be determined by the expectations of your audience and your purpose. For example, if you are writing a cover letter for a job application or a college academic essay, you would write in a formal style. If you are writing a letter to a friend, writing something personal, or even writing something for a humorous or special interest magazine when informal writing is expected, you would use a more informal style. Formality exists on a scale—in the example below, a letter of application to a known colleague can result in a semi-formal style.

Here is an example:

Formal (Written to an unknown audience): I am applying for the receptionist position advertised in the local paper. I am an excellent candidate for the job because of my significant secretarial experience, good language skills, and sense of organization.

Semi-formal (Written to a well-known individual): I am applying for the receptionist position that is currently open in the company. As you are aware, I have worked as a temporary employee with your company in this position before. As such, I not only have experience and knowledge of this position, but also already understand the company's needs and requirements for this job.

Informal (Incorrect): Hi! I read in the paper that ya'll were looking for a receptionist. I think that I am good for that job because I've done stuff like it in the past, am good with words, and am incredibly well organized.

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Language Rules to Improve Your Academic Writing

Following the rules of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice can make your writing clearer, more fluent, and ultimately more convincing.

In every kind of writing, make sure to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading (or try the Scribbr Grammar Checker ). This article takes you through some common mistakes to look out for.

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Table of contents

Punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, word choice.

Punctuation marks signal the structure of a text, showing where each idea begins and ends and how they relate to one another. Some of the most common grammatical mistakes can be fixed by simply adding, removing, or moving a punctuation mark.

Learn when to use commas and when a colon or semicolon is a more appropriate choice.

Dashes and hyphens  look similar, but they have different functions – avoid mixing them up and check that you’ve been consistent.

In academic writing, it’s important to avoid plagiarism , so make sure to use quotation marks every time you use someone else’s words. Check that you’ve used the right form of quotation marks, put other punctuation in the right place, and properly integrated the quote into your own text.

Make sure you correctly use apostrophes to form the possessive with singular and plural nouns.

And if you’re still having a hard time with all these punctuation marks, try out Scribbr’s free punctuation checker .

The only proofreading tool specialized in correcting academic writing - try for free!

The academic proofreading tool has been trained on 1000s of academic texts and by native English editors. Making it the most accurate and reliable proofreading tool for students.

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Capitalization rules in English require you to understand the difference between common and proper nouns. In academic writing, some of the most frequent errors relate to capitalizing models, theories, and disciplines.

You should also make sure you use a consistent style of capitalization for titles and headings .

Basic word order rules in English require a subject to be followed by a verb. Learn about how to avoid common sentence structure mistakes, such as fragments and run-ons. You should also try to write sentences of varying length and structure.

To ensure the different elements of your sentences are properly balanced, follow the rules of parallel structure .

Avoid confusingly structured sentences by learning how to fix dangling and misplaced modifiers .

Verbs are the action words that tell us what happens in a sentence.  Subject-verb agreement is important to make it clear who or what is doing an action.

Verb tenses locate an action in time. Make sure you use tenses correctly and consistently. The appropriate tense depends on whether you’re stating facts, making generalizations, describing the content of a text, reporting completed actions, or discussing events with ongoing relevance.

Phrasal verbs  combine two or more words to create an entirely new meaning. They can be tricky to use, and they’re sometimes too informal for academic writing, so consider replacing them with one-word alternatives .

Check for common mistakes

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There are some types of words that students often misuse or confuse.

The two types of articles in English are definite ( the ) and indefinite ( a /an ). It’s important to choose the right one to pair with a noun. The rules are different for single, plural, and uncountable nouns.


Prepositions express relationships between different elements of a sentence (e.g. in, on, to, by, of, since ). They can describe relationships of time, space, direction, and many types of abstract or logical connection.

There are many different prepositions in English, and they often have more than one meaning. The only way to learn them all is through reading and practice .

Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns (e.g.  they, it, him, this ). Make sure it’s always clear what noun you are referring back to.

Avoid second-person pronouns ( you,  yours ) in academic writing. First-person pronouns ( I , we ) are sometimes acceptable depending on the discipline and type of document.


Conjunctions are words that connect different parts of a sentence. There are different types of conjunctions with different functions and rules.

Commonly confused words

Some words are commonly confused or misused, including this/that, which/that,  who vs whom ,  affect vs effect , then vs than , and different forms of the word research. Learn more about how to tell the difference between them .

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Trying to devise a structure for your essay can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Making a detailed outline before you begin writing is a good way to make sure your ideas come across in a clear and logical order. A good outline will also save you time in the revision process, reducing the possibility that your ideas will need to be rearranged once you've written them.

The First Steps

Before you can begin outlining, you need to have a sense of what you will argue in the essay. From your analysis and close readings of primary and/or secondary sources you should have notes, ideas, and possible quotes to cite as evidence. Let's say you are writing about the 1999 Republican Primary and you want to prove that each candidate's financial resources were the most important element in the race. At this point, your notes probably lack much coherent order. Most likely, your ideas are still in the order in which they occurred to you; your notes and possible quotes probably still adhere to the chronology of the sources you've examined. Your goal is to rearrange your ideas, notes, and quotes—the raw material of your essay—into an order that best supports your argument, not the arguments you've read in other people's works. To do this, you have to group your notes into categories and then arrange these categories in a logical order.


The first step is to look over each individual piece of information that you've written and assign it to a general category. Ask yourself, "If I were to file this in a database, what would I file it under?" If, using the example of the Republican Primary, you wrote down an observation about John McCain's views on health care, you might list it under the general category of  "Health care policy." As you go through your notes, try to reuse categories whenever possible. Your goal is to reduce your notes to no more than a page of category listings.

Now examine your category headings. Do any seem repetitive? Do any go together? "McCain's expenditure on ads" and "Bush's expenditure on ads," while not exactly repetitive, could easily combine into a more general category like "Candidates' expenditures on ads." Also, keep an eye out for categories that no longer seem to relate to your argument. Individual pieces of information that at first seemed important can begin to appear irrelevant when grouped into a general category.

Now it's time to generalize again. Examine all your categories and look for common themes. Go through each category and ask yourself, "If I were to place this piece of information in a file cabinet, what would I label that cabinet?" Again, try to reuse labels as often as possible: "Health Care," "Foreign Policy," and "Immigration" can all be contained under "Policy Initiatives." Make these larger categories as general as possible so that there are no more than three or four for a 7-10 page paper.

With your notes grouped into generalized categories, the process of ordering them should be easier. To begin, look at your most general categories. With your thesis in mind, try to find a way that the labels might be arranged in a sentence or two that supports your argument. Let's say your thesis is that financial resources played the most important role in the 1999 Republican Primary. Your four most general categories are "Policy Initiatives," "Financial Resources," "Voters' Concerns," and "Voters' Loyalty." You might come up with the following sentence: ÒAlthough McCain's policy initiatives were closest to the voters' concerns, Bush's financial resources won the voters' loyalty.Ó This sentence should reveal the order of your most general categories. You will begin with an examination of McCain's and Bush's views on important issues and compare them to the voters' top concerns. Then you'll look at both candidates' financial resources and show how Bush could win voters' loyalty through effective use of his resources, despite his less popular policy ideas.

With your most general categories in order, you now must order the smaller categories. To do so, arrange each smaller category into a sentence or two that will support the more general sentence you've just devised. Under the category of "Financial Resources," for instance, you might have the smaller categories of "Ad Expenditure," "Campaign Contributions" and "Fundraising." A sentence that supports your general argument might read: "Bush's early emphasis on fundraising led to greater campaign contributions, allowing him to have a greater ad expenditure than McCain."

The final step of the outlining process is to repeat this procedure on the smallest level, with the original notes that you took for your essay. To order what probably was an unwieldy and disorganized set of information at the beginning of this process, you need now only think of a sentence or two to support your general argument. Under the category "Fundraising," for example, you might have quotes about each candidate's estimation of its importance, statistics about the amount of time each candidate spent fundraising, and an idea about how the importance of fundraising never can be overestimated. Sentences to support your general argument might read: "No candidate has ever raised too much money [your idea]. While both McCain and Bush acknowledged the importance of fundraising [your quotes], the numbers clearly point to Bush as the superior fundraiser [your statistics]." The arrangement of your ideas, quotes, and statistics now should come naturally.

Putting It All Together

With these sentences, you have essentially constructed an outline for your essay. The most general ideas, which you organized in your first sentence, constitute the essay's sections. They follow the order in which you placed them in your sentence. The order of the smaller categories within each larger category (determined by your secondary sentences) indicates the order of the paragraphs within each section. Finally, your last set of sentences about your specific notes should show the order of the sentences within each paragraph. An outline for the essay about the 1999 Republican Primary (showing only the sections worked out here) would look something like this:




            A.  Fundraising

                        a.  Original Idea

                        b.  McCain Quote/Bush Quote

                        c.  McCain Statistics/Bush Statistics

            B.  Campaign Contributions

            C.  Ad Expenditure


Copyright 2000, David Kornhaber, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

Writing Guide

This guide was created for Harvard Library employees, but we hope it’s helpful to a wider community of content creators, editors, producers — anyone who’s trying to communicate a message online.

If you work at Harvard Library 

This is our website style guide. It helps us create clear and consistent digital content that’s welcoming and useful for our users. Please use it as a reference whenever you’re writing content for

If you work at another organization

We invite you to use and adapt this style guide as you see fit. It — like our entire website — is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Speaking of credit: Several other writing guides inspired this one. Those include: MailChimp’s Content Style Guide , Harvard University Style Guidelines & Best Practices , 18F’s Content Guide , Federal Plain Language Guidelines , and City of Boston Writing Guide . These are great resources for additional reading on the topic.

We love to talk shop. If you have questions about this writing guide or the Harvard Library website contact the Harvard Library communications team at [email protected].

With every piece of content we publish, our goal is to empower our users so they can use our services and tools to get their work done and discover new ideas. 

We do this by writing in a clear, helpful and confident voice that guides our users and invites them to engage with us. Our voice is: 

  • Straightforward 
  • Conversational 
  • Trustworthy 
  • Proactive  
  • Knowledgeable 

Our voice is also positive — instead of rules and permissions, think options and opportunities. It’s also welcoming and accessible to all audiences. 

The Harvard brand brings with it a lot of history. We want to highlight our association with the positive attributes — credible, trusted, secure, historic, bold. But we also want to do our best to break down barriers, which means overcoming other attributes some people may assign to Harvard, such as elite, academic, exclusive, traditional.

Part of being credible, trusted, and secure is ensuring every bit of content we have on our website is up to date, accurate, and relevant to our users. 

The tips that follow in this guide will help us fulfill these goals. 

"Damn those sticklers in favor of what sounds best to you, in the context of the writing and the audience it’s intended for." —Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review

Things To Do

Write for the user first.

Before you start writing, ask yourself: 

  • Who is going to read this content? 
  • What do they need to know? 
  • What are they trying to accomplish? 
  • How might they be feeling? 

Put yourself in their shoes and write in a way that suits the situation. Remember: You’re the expert, not your users. 

Put the most important information up top

Users tend to scan web pages until they find what they need. Most people will only read 20 percent of a page . Use the “inverted pyramid” technique by putting the most important information at the top of a page. That’s the section users are most likely to read.

Choose clarity over cleverness

Say what you mean and avoid using figurative language, which can make your content more difficult to understand.

Address users directly 

Use pronouns to speak directly to your users, addressing them as “you” when possible. If necessary, define “you” at the beginning of your page. And don’t be afraid to say “we” instead of “the library.” 

  • Instead of:  The Harvard Library has staff members who can assist with research.  We’d write: Our expert librarians are here to help answer your research questions. 

Shorter sentences and paragraphs make your content easier to skim and less intimidating. Paragraphs should top out around 3 to 8 sentences. Ideal sentence length is around 15 to 20 words.

Use plain language 

Using words people easily understand makes our content more useful and welcoming. Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. 

  • Use write instead of compose , get instead of obtain , use instead of utilize , and so on. has a great list of word alternatives . 

Use the active voice 

The active voice supports brevity and makes our content more engaging. 

Using the passive voice deemphasizes who should take action, which can lead to confusion. It also tends to be more wordy than the active voice. 

  • Instead of: Overdue fines must be paid by the borrower. We would write: The borrower must pay any overdue fines. 

How to recognize the passive voice: If you insert “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using the passive voice.

Write for the user with the least amount of knowledge on the topic

It’s not dumbing down your content. It can actually be harder to to make information simple and easy to understand. The truth is: even experts or people with more education prefer plain language.

Imagine your audience and write as if you were talking to them one-on-one, with the authority of someone who can actively help.  

Try reading your writing out loud and listen for awkward phrases or constructions that you wouldn’t normally say. Better yet, have someone else read your writing to you. 

Create helpful hyperlinks 

When links look different from regular text, they attract users’ attention. That’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. 

When creating hyperlinks, keep these tips in mind:  

  • Meaningful links should stand alone and help users with scanning the page.
  • Write descriptive and true link text — explain where users are going and why.
  • Use keywords to describe the link’s destination — look at the destination page for context.
  • The link destination should fulfill the promise of your link text .
  • If linking to a PDF, indicate that. 

For example: 

  • Instead of:  This collection is available online here . Try:  Browse this collection online.
  • For PDFs:   Our pricing guide PDF  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 

Break up your content 

Large paragraphs of text can lose readers. Using subheads and bullet points is a way to help provide clear narrative structure for readers, particularly those in a hurry.

Tips for breaking up your content: 

  • Add useful headings to help people scan the page.
  • Use bulleted lists to break up the text when appropriate.
  • Write short sentences and short sections to break up information into manageable chunks.

"Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away ... Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Things to Avoid

Jargon or acronyms.

Jargon and acronyms are often vague or unfamiliar to users, and can lead to misinterpretation. If you feel an acronym or a jargon term must be used, be sure to explain what it means the first time you use it on a page.

We strongly discourage writing FAQs , or Frequently Asked Questions. Why? Because FAQs:

  • Are hard to read and search for
  • Duplicate other content on your site
  • Mean that content is not where people expect to find it — it needs to be in context

If you think you need FAQs, review the content on your site and look for ways to improve it. Take steps to give users a better experience.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the content organized in a logical way?
  • Can you group similar topics together?
  • Is it easy to find the right answer?
  • Is it clear and up to date?

If people are asking similar questions, the existing content isn’t meeting their needs. Perhaps you need to rewrite it or combine several pieces of content. Pay attention to what users are asking for and find the best way to guide them through the process.  

Linking users to PDFs can make your content harder to use, and lead users down a dead end. The Nielsen Norman Group has done multiple studies on PDFs and has consistently found that users don’t like them and avoid reading them.

Avoid using PDFs for important information you’re trying to convey to users. Some supplementary information may make sense as a PDF — or something a user would need to print. 

If you must link users to a PDF, be sure to let them know. For example: 

Our pricing guide (PDF)  provides estimates for various reproduction formats. 


If something is written once and links to relevant information easily and well, people are more likely to trust the content. Duplicate content produces poor search results, confuses the user, and damages the credibility of our websites.

Before you publish something, check that the user need you’re trying to address has not already been covered.  

Style Guide

With some exceptions, we’re following Associated Press style guidelines on the Harvard Library website.

Here are some common tips: 

Abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out abbreviations or acronyms the first time they are referenced. Avoid abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. 


In general, capitalize proper nouns and beginnings of sentences. For nouns specific to Harvard University and other common academic uses, please refer to the Harvard-specific guidelines below.

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma. We do use serial commas.


Capitalize the principal words in the names of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and TV programs, works of art, events, etc. Use italics or quotes when writing about them online. 

One word, no hyphen. However, use the hyphen for  e-book and e-reader.

A plural noun, it normally takes plural verbs and pronouns. However, it becomes a collective noun and takes singular verbs when the group or quantity is regarded as a unit. 

Right: The data is sound. (A unit.) 

Also right: The data have been carefully collected. (Individual items.) 

Use figures for date, abbreviated month when used with a specific date. So: January 2018 but Jan. 2, 2018. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1900s, the 1920s. 


Capitalize all words that aren’t articles.

In general, spell out one through nine. Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events, or things. 

Use figures for: Academic course numbers, addresses, ages, centuries, dates, years and decades, decimals, percentages and fractions with numbers larger than 1, dimensions, distances, highways, monetary units, school grades. 

Spell out: at the start of a sentence, in definite and casual uses, names, in fractions less than one. 

Phone numbers 


am, pm, Lowercase, no periods. Avoid the redundant 10 am this morning.

web, website, webcam, webcast, webpage, web address, web browser, internet

Harvard Style Guidelines 

Here are tips for Harvard-specific terms and other terms you may encounter more frequently based on the nature of our website. They're based on guidelines provided in the Harvard University Style Guidelines .

Harvard University Proper Nouns

Capitalize the full, formal names of:

  • Departments
  • Colleges and schools
  • Institutions
  • Residential houses
  • Academic associations
  • Scholarships

However, do not capitalize names used informally, in the second reference. For example, when calling it the center, or the department.

Example: The Science Center contains five lecture halls; you can reserve space at the center by submitting a room request.

The exception is to capitalize College, School, and University when referring to Harvard, as well as the Yard.

Always capitalize Harvard Library. Do not capitalize Harvard libraries. Be careful in referencing Harvard Library, so as not to give users the idea that the Harvard Library is a place. 

Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name.

Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas.

Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.

Named professorships and fellowships are capitalized even following the person’s name.

Academic years and terms

Terms designating academic years and terms are lowercased, like senior, first-year student, fall semester

Class titles

Capitalize the name of classes. Course titles and lectures are capitalized and put in quotes.

Example: June teaches Literature 101. Professor John Doe is teaching “The Art of Guitar Playing” this semester.


Concentrations are not capitalized. 

Harvard academic titles

Unlike AP, use title case for named professors, like Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values.

Treat all other academic titles as formal titles: capitalized when used immediately before a name.

The preferred format is to spell out the degree. Capitalize an individual's specific degree, but do not capitalize when referring to a degree generically.

For example: John Smith holds a Master of Arts in English. She is working toward her bachelor’s degree.

If abbreviating degrees, use capitalized initials with periods: A.B., S.B.

When referring to someone’s year of graduation, capitalize “class.” Example: John Harvard, Class of 1977, was in town for a lecture.

"Writing is an instrument for conveying ideas from one mind to another; the writer’s job is to make the reader apprehend his meaning readily and precisely." —Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words

Tools & Resources

There are tons of tools available online to help you accomplish the goals outlined above and test your content for readability. Here are some to get you started: 


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  1. How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

    Title. Write your name, the instructor's name, your class, and the date in the upper left corner of the 1st page. Make the title centered and place it after the heading information in the same font as the rest of your paper. Create a separate title page. Make your title centered and written in boldface.

  2. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 5 Asking Analytical Questions When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a

  3. What Is Academic Writing?

    Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You'll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you'll be expected to write your essays, research papers, and dissertation in academic style. Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but ...

  4. The Seven Essay Writing Rules

    5. Do not use contractions. Again, essays are very formal, so write "do not" rather than "don't.". 6. Do not use figures of speech. Be direct and precise in essay writing. Essays do not use poetic devices or idiomatic expressions. For example, don't write "He let the cat out of the bag.". Instead, say "He shared a secret.".

  5. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body. This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and ...

  6. What Is Formal Writing Style and When Should You Use It?

    Informal writing is for everyday use. It reflects how you naturally speak and write to friends, family, and casual acquaintances. It has a more personal tone and includes contractions, slang, and figures of speech. Informal writing sounds similar to a personal conversation. Formal writing is written for an audience you don't know on a ...

  7. Style

    We've written this pamphlet in a chatty, friendly style, hoping that you'll read it and think, "This isn't such a painful way to learn about style.". This may not be the appropriate style for every academic paper. Some instructors may invite slang and colloquialisms in their assignments, but most won't.

  8. How To Write A Formal Essay [BONUS: Formal Essay Format Tips]

    When it comes to writing a formal essay, there are a few rules you should always follow. No first-person point of view. This means no using "I" or "we.". No first-person pronouns. Should primarily be in passive voice. Contractions are also a no-no. This means no "don't," "can't," or anything else along those lines.

  9. How To Write An Academic Essay (+ Review Checklist)

    Focus these ideas into one or two sentences. Make sure you introduce your topic and give the reader an idea of the direction you are taking. Include your topic/opinion and your supporting arguments/reasons. Finally, make sure you are able to back up your thesis with evidence/supporting resources. 3.

  10. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

  11. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    The essay writing process consists of three main stages: Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion. Revision: Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling ...

  12. Academic Style

    It is a formal, written style, which means that it has aspects which make it different from 'spoken' academic English, and at the same time, being 'formal', it is quite different from ordinary writing which you might use in letters, emails, or stories. This section considers 10 'rules' for good academic writing in English.

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    Essays written in the five-paragraph format are particularly suited for formal writing. Persuasive essays, compare and contrast essays, and expository essays do well with formal writing styles ...

  14. Academic Writing

    What is Academic Writing? Academic writing refers to all of the texts produced by academic writers, including theoretical, empirical, or experience-based works. Examples: Students at the high school and undergraduate level write essays, book reviews, lab reports, reviews of literature, proposals-and more. These assignments often presume an ...

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  16. Formal and Informal Style

    Whether you use formal or informal style in writing will depend on the assignment itself, its subject, purpose, and audience. Formal language is characterized by the use of standard English, more complex sentence structures, infrequent use of personal pronouns, and lack of colloquial or slang terms.. Informal language allows the use of nonstandard English forms, colloquial vocabulary and ...

  17. Levels of Formality

    For example, if you are writing a cover letter for a job application or a college academic essay, you would write in a formal style. If you are writing a letter to a friend, writing something personal, or even writing something for a humorous or special interest magazine when informal writing is expected, you would use a more informal style.

  18. Language Rules to Improve Your Academic Writing

    Pronouns. Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns (e.g. they, it, him, this ). Make sure it's always clear what noun you are referring back to. Avoid second-person pronouns ( you, yours) in academic writing. First-person pronouns ( I, we) are sometimes acceptable depending on the discipline and type of document.

  19. Outlining

    The final step of the outlining process is to repeat this procedure on the smallest level, with the original notes that you took for your essay. To order what probably was an unwieldy and disorganized set of information at the beginning of this process, you need now only think of a sentence or two to support your general argument.

  20. Writing Guide

    Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name. Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas. Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles. Named professorships and fellowships are capitalized even following the person's name.

  21. What Are The Different Essay Writing Rules? (With Benefits)

    Essays are a formal type of writing that can help the authors to present their perspective on a topic to the readers. Essay writing is a particularly important skill for students and can help improve their written communication skills. ... Essay writing rules are a set of rules that guide you on the proper structure and methodology of writing ...