Write Formally and Objectively

Contributor: Heather Cameron. Lesson ID: 13858

"I dig your threads!"
"She was dressed exquistely for the banquet."
Which sounds more formal? Which is objective? Understanding the difference is important in your writing.



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Think about what you would wear to prom.

  • What does your outfit look like?

Maybe you imagined yourself in a dashing black tuxedo with a matching bow tie, or you saw yourself in a princess-style dress accented with heels.

teens at prom

Now, think about what you wear every day.

  • How are your outfits different?

They are different because you dress formally for prom!

Just like with clothing, sometimes you need to dress up your writing depending on the circumstances. This lesson will teach you when to dress your writing in a tuxedo or heels or, in other words, when to write in a formal style.

The way that you talk or text your friends is probably different from the way that you would talk to your parents.

  • If you just received an A on your math test, how would you tell your best friend?
  • Would you change the way you told the story when you relayed it to your parents?

The truth is, you switch your tone all the time in your everyday life without realizing it!

Watch Code Switching, from Leslie Wagner, to see some examples:

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Sometimes in your writing, you have to change your tone as well.

You probably do not recognize it, but you adapt your writing to your audience every time you type an essay or even send a text.

You might be wondering what tone and audience are.

who is your audience

Tone is the writer's attitude toward a subject and is implied by the writer's word choice.

Audience is the people who will be reading and receiving your written messages. Your audience for a paper will often be your teacher, but the audience could also include your peers.

For example, if you were sending a text to your grandmother, you might type:

Hi Granny, I hope you are having a good day! I wanted to let you know that I will be coming to see you at 1 PM.

Your audience is your grandmother, and your tone is warm but respectful.

Now, if you sent a text to your best friend, you might type:

Hey Becca. RINGL8 but see you in 10

Your audience is your friend, Becca, and the tone is casual.

For most assignments and papers you write in school, you will want to use and maintain a formal and objective tone. You will want to write your paper using professional language.

  • How do you know when to use a formal and objective tone?

Learn it here!

fountain pen

  • When should you write formally?

For most school essays, you will use a formal and professional tone. When you write reports, research essays, analytical papers, and many other assignments, you will want your word choice to make it sound serious and academic.

The only time that you will write informally is when you are writing creatively or for personal reasons like short stories, poems, or memoir assignments.

To write objectively means to write without giving your direct opinion.

  • What is a formal tone, and how do you maintain it?

Use academic language.

Throughout your entire essay, be mindful of your wording.

You should never use slang or abbreviations associated with texting in a formal paper. You should also incorporate elevated vocabulary. Not only to impress your reader, but to make your points more persuasive.

For example, if you were writing a lab report for your biology class about extracting DNA from a banana, you might want to write:

The results were crazy. It was weird to see DNA from a banana!

To make this more professional, think about your vocabulary. The words crazy and weird are quite casual. Ask yourself how you can reword the response.

You could say:

The results were unexpected. It was intriguing to study DNA extracted from a fruit.

Refrain from using first person.

The first-person perspective is the use of the personal pronouns I, my, or mine.

Embedding personal pronouns in formal papers promotes your reader to question your credentials, and they are more apt to discredit your arguments.

For example, in your lab report, you may want to write:

I blended the banana in a blender so that I could easily add the solution to it.

You could rephrase it to take out personal pronouns by writing:

The banana was blended in a blender in order to easily add the solution to it.

The phrasing is hardly different; however, it focuses on the noun, the banana, rather than yourself. This focus highlights the steps taken in the lab and solely discusses the process undertaken.

Use facts to support your ideas.

In most formal papers, you make a claim and need to defend this claim.

In order to effectively do so and maintain an objective tone, you should avoid providing your own opinions blatantly. By supporting your claims with facts, the reader will be more likely to trust your argument and find it convincing.

For example, if you are writing an argumentative paper about summer being the best season, you may want to state:

I like summer the most since I get to eat ice cream at Mulberry Farms.

To make this more effective with facts, you could write:

Summer is the most-favored season among youths. Thirty percent of people from ages 18-34 in America agree that summer is the best season, taking into account outdoor activities and seasonal food (YouGovAmerica).

Using facts in your writing establishes trust for your audience. Your argument becomes more compelling, and you will have more to write about, too!

Use appropriate citations if needed.

Every discipline, including science, English, and history, uses different ways to give credit to scholarly resources.

In your English classes, you will use MLA. However, for science, you will use APA. History generally uses Chicago style.

The format of citing sources maintains formality in your paper because it indicates to the readers that they are looking at a professional document. It also shows that you are maintaining objectivity because you have gained important information from other sources.

If you need a review of this information, watch Formal Writing from Smrt English:

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When you are ready, test your knowledge in the Got It? section!

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