How to Establish and Maintain a Formal Writing Style

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  • 0:01 Formal Style
  • 0:37 When Do You Use It?
  • 1:21 It's in the Words
  • 4:04 Have Something to Say
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson has taught college literature and composition, junior-high and high-school English, and secondary art. She has a master's degree in American Literature.

Writing a research paper requires a different kind of language than other kinds of writing. We call this writing in a formal style. Fortunately, the rules for writing in a formal style are quite easy. This lesson shows you how to do it.

Formal Style

Don't you just love books and movies about kings and queens in medieval times? I like to imagine meeting royalty in those times and think about what I would say. For sure, I wouldn't say, 'How ya doin', dawg?' Instead, I'm sure I'd say, 'How do you do, Your Majesty?' This is because there's a time and place for casual talk and a time and place for something more formal. And, the same thing goes for when we are writing. Whenever we write something academic, which mostly means for school, we need to choose a more formal style.

When Do You Use It?

For students, formal style is mostly used for writing research papers. Out in the world of work, formal style is used to write technical reports, which are research papers that show how things work and what they're made of. There are many journals that publish articles for an academic audience, which means people involved in schools, colleges, or research facilities, and these require a formal style. Books written for that type of audience also require a formal style. Business writing, such as business plans and reports, usually use formal language. Finally, material written for the justice system, including the courts, also use formal style.

It's in the Words

Most of the time, you can create a formal style by the words and phrases you choose. The rules are pretty simple:

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