If you have been following our blog, you know a lot about different types of essays and how to write them. But did you know that academic writing is also divided into formal and informal? While some assignments allow for a relaxed language and informal tone, others require strict adherence to formal writing rules. Today we will cover the main differences between the two writing styles and teach you to turn your informal essay into a formal one with a couple of nifty tricks.
Depending on the point of view you choose, the tone and style of your writing will vary. Let’s quickly go over all possibilities and show why the third person writing is preferable for formal essays.
- I, we, our are the first person pronouns. They are commonly used in reflective and narrative essays. You can choose the first person writing style for informal writing if your professor allows it.
- You and your are the second person pronouns. They are never used in academic papers unless the assignment calls for an instructional process essay.
- He, she, it and they are the third person pronouns acceptable for formal essays and most academic writing assignments.
See for yourself, how third person writing lends credibility to any sentence:
We believe there is the GPA and the competency level of students are connected.
The research proves that there exists a relationship between the students’ GPA and their competency level.
Formal Word Choice
All assignments come with a word count for a reason. You can’t turn in 5,000 words instead of 1,000 and expect to get an A. When the essay volume is limited, make every word count.
Writing a formal essay is the right occasion to dust off your fancy words thesaurus. Formal word choice allows you to sound more professional and specific, to communicate your ideas to the readers clearly and consistently. Here is a quick example to illustrate the difference:
Recently, the scientists found some connection between chocolate intake and the level of happiness among women.
According to studies conducted in 2017, the increase of chocolate intake by 25% causes a drop in happiness index by 50 points in female subjects.
As you see, the second sentence is much more formal and professional. It offers more details and requires a citation of the study.
Before you rush off to find a thesaurus to stuff your essay full of long and complicated words, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I understand what this word means?
- Does it mean what I want to say?
- Have I ever seen it in use?
- Am I sure there are no better words to communicate the same meaning?
If the answer across the board is a resounding “YES”, go ahead and use the word. But if you have doubts about the word’s meaning or the right way to use it, search for an alternative. There is no reason to write “halcyon” when you mean “calm”.
Even if you have seen the word in a book or an article, but you are not sure you understand it correctly, look it up in a dictionary. You are not the President of the USA (yet), so you’d better avoid the mistakes of George W. Bush.
Avoid phrasal verbs in academic writing. They are the cause of your dangling preposition problems. Besides, they turn the tone of the paper into personal, informal. Replace phrasal verbs with synonyms to make your essay instantly more formal.
It was challenging to come up with an idea for this study.
Devising an idea for this study was challenging.
When you don’t know what to say, it’s tempting to use crutch words, the written equivalent of “Umm...” and “Ahh...”. These words bring no meaning to the text but artificially increase its word count. You should find and ruthlessly eliminate them in your formal essay.
The common culprits are:
Use specialized software or ask someone to read your formal essay and point out the words that recur ad nauseum. In most cases, you can delete them without losses in meaning.
In academic writing, abbreviations are common. To use them correctly, provide the full name and include the acronym in brackets when you mention it the first time. Consequent mentions of the name can be limited to an abbreviation. Some common acronyms don’t need to be written in full at all, like the USA, the UK or NASA.
Contractions are acceptable in speech and informal writing, the messages you send to your friends and emails home. Formal essays require formal tone; there should be no contractions in your argumentative or persuasive essays. Contractions can be appropriate in a college admission essay if you aim for a more personal touch.
Here is a list of frequent contractions to avoid in your formal writing:
- Can’t. Use can not or cannot instead.
- Shouldn’t, wouldn’t. Write should not or would not
- They’ll, we’ll. Use they will or we shall.
- It’s. Make sure you mean “it is”, not “its”.
Sometimes contractions can become ridiculous. There is no piece of writing in which you should use words like “y’all’d’ve” that consists of four actual words “you all would have”.
You have written dozens of formal essays by now, but there is always room for improvement. Remember our tips, and go over your paper one last time, removing contractions, phrasal verbs and correcting informal language. You’ll be surprised how professional and convincing your writing can sound. The professor will notice the difference and finally give you that elusive A.
Our writers can complete this task for you if you don’t have time to write a formal essay. Or you can upload your writing and let our editors perform their magic by turning it into a picture-perfect formal paper. Whichever option you choose, we are ready to help!