How to Write a Formal Essay: Example, Format, & Formal Writing Rules (2023)

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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How to Write a Formal Essay: Example, Format, & Formal Writing Rules (1)

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. 


  1. 👔 Formal Essay Definition

  2. ✅ How to Write

  3. ✍️ Writing Rules

  4. 🖥️ Essay Format

  5. 📑 Sample Paper

  6. ❓ FAQs

  7. 🔍 References

👔 Formal Essay Definition

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:

(Video) How to Write an Essay: 4 Minute Step-by-step Guide | Scribbr 🎓

Characteristics Informal essay Formal essay
Purpose Usually, the purpose of an informal essay is to share opinions or to entertain the reader. A formal essay aims to critically analyze facts, details, and ideas to prove a point. 
Pronouns use Addresses the reader directly and uses 1st-person pronouns. Uses 3rd-person pronouns and doesn’t address the reader.
Objectivity Expresses the writer’s thoughts and opinions and tends to be more subjective. Strives to be objective and uses arguments to support its ideas.
Structure Doesn’t have to be as structured as a formal essay. Should be well-structured and logical.
Thesis statement The thesis may be stated in any part of the work or not explicitly stated at all. The thesis is clearly stated and located in the essay’s first paragraph.
Word choice Uses everyday language, slang, 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns such as “I,” “you,” and “me.” Uses jargon and avoids using slang and 1st- or 2nd-person pronouns.

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:

✔️ It should be related to the topic and give the reader an overall idea of the paper.
✔️ It’s good to start your introduction with a quotation, an interesting fact, or a statistic.
Try not to make the introduction too far-fetched or in-your-face.
Avoid using questions in an introduction of a formal essay.

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:  

(Video) 7 RULES FOR FORMAL WRITING: Dos and Don'ts for Essay Writing

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:

  • readers,

  • viewers,

  • one,

  • people,

  • individuals,

  • person,

  • anybody,

  • someone.

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:

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. Add your name, instructor’s name, school affiliation, and date.
Page Numbers Write your last name and the number of each page in the upper right corner. Write the number of each page in the upper right corner.
Font Use 12-point Times New Roman font.
Double Space Make your essay double-spaced without extra spacing between the paragraphs.
Margins Add a 1-inch margin on each side of the page.
Identification Make the 1st line of each paragraph indented 1/5 inch.
Align Left Line up your text flush against the left margin. 
(Video) How I wrote 1st class essays at Cambridge University (how to write the best essay)

📑 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:


Title Adverse effects of sponsorship in the sports industry
Introduction Sponsorship plays a significant role in the sports industry these days. Many sports associations, football leagues, and clubs are entering partnerships with famous brands. However, it does not mean that all sponsorship has a good impact. This essay argues that a questionable sponsorship may undermine the image of a sport or a team and adversely influence the viewers.
1st Body Paragraph Important sports events such as FIFA or The Olympic Games are sponsored by brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Cadbury’s, and Budweiser. These are also brands that promote unhealthy lifestyles and foods that lack nutritional value and have high levels of salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Such kind of sponsorship aims to obtain a favorable change in the attitude toward the brand itself by connecting it with sport and a healthy lifestyle.
2nd Body Paragraph While alcohol and junk food brands link themselves to sports bodies and active lifestyles, their main targets are children and sports fans. The growing popularity of products high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, including potato chips, sugary drinks, and confectionary, results in them being not simply a treat but a daily staple for many people. It creates various health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
3rd Body Paragraph Finally, an association with a widely criticized brand is likely to damage the reputation of a team or even a sport itself (Crompton, 2014). People tend to expect their favorite teams to partner with fair, responsible sponsors. If the partnership is questionable, the fans may think that the sports body compromised their virtue for profit.
Conclusion To sum up, some kinds of sponsorship, such as alcohol or junk food, may use the sport’s image to attract more people and increase sales. It leads to the excessive consumption of sponsored products by children and teenagers and causes various health issues. It is also likely to affect the public image of a sports body.

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

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:

❓ Formal Essay FAQs

Can you use “I” in a formal essay?

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.

Can you use parentheses in a formal essay?

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.

What are the major differences between a formal and informal essay?

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.

(Video) How to write a formal letter 📝 | All you need to know!

Can you start a sentence with “because” in formal writing?

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.

What should you always avoid in formal writing?

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. 

🔍 References

About Author

(Video) Formal vs Informal writing

This article was developed by the editorial team of, a professional writing service with 3-hour delivery.


What is the format of writing a formal essay? ›

All formal essays should be at least five paragraphs and include an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Some common types of formal essays include the illustration essay, the compare and contrast essay, the cause and effect essay, and the argument essay.

How do you start a formal essay example? ›

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
  1. An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
  2. Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  3. A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
Feb 4, 2019

What is an example of formal writing? ›

Writing professionally (reaching out to a client or prospect) Academic writings (essays, research papers, etc.) Job applications (resume writing, CVs, and cover letters) Reaching out to someone you do not know.

How do you write a good essay example? ›

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.
Writing the conclusion
  1. Returns to your thesis.
  2. Ties together your main points.
  3. Shows why your argument matters.

How can I start my formal sentence? ›

Sentence starters can make this relationship clear and show which sentence is the cause and which is the effect.
  1. As a result . . .
  2. Accordingly . . .
  3. Consequently . . .
  4. Due to . . .
  5. For this reason . . .
  6. Hence . . .
  7. Therefore . . .
  8. This means that . . .
Jun 2, 2022

What is a good opening sentence for an essay? ›

Introduce your topic

Simply introduce your topic and why it matters. As an option, you can also include some of your essay's sub-points or examples you'll be using. It's an introduction to your essay topic, not a thesis statement, so no need to go too heavy on your argument.

What is a good way to start a sentence in a essay? ›

Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

What are the 7 rules of writing? ›

The Seven Rules of Writing
  • Learn How to Write. While talent can't be taught, it can be nurtured. ...
  • Be a Critical Reader. ...
  • Visit Cafes. ...
  • Beware the Naysayers. ...
  • Finish Your Piece and Put It Away. ...
  • Have Patience. ...
  • Follow Your Heart.
Aug 8, 2018

What is the 10 rule in essay writing? ›

It goes like this: Whenever you finish a piece of writing, check its word count then go back through it and ruthlessly remove at least 10% of the words. So if it's a 750-word article, delete 75 words. If it's a 500-word article, take out 50 words, etc.

What are 3 types of formal writing? ›

Formal writing includes business writing, formal letters, and academic writing.

Why is it important to follow the rules in formal writing? ›

Clarity and precision: Using language in ways that follow agreed-upon rules can lead to greater clarity for readers familiar with these rules.

What are the rules of formal writing? ›

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. ...
  • Take an objective approach. ...
  • Use full words instead of contractions or acronyms.
Apr 20, 2022

What are formal rules? ›

Formal rules comprise all the codified laws and regulations that are issued by a legislative process or formal decree. These may be promulgated at the national, local or village level but they are generally written down somewhere.

Do and don'ts of formal writing? ›

The Dos of Academic Writing
  • Do Use the Right Sources. ...
  • Do Be Clear and Precise. ...
  • Do Write Objectively and Use Supporting Evidence. ...
  • Do Vary Sentence Structure. ...
  • Don't Make Generalizations or Exaggerations. ...
  • Don't Address the Reader Directly or Use Personal Pronouns. ...
  • Don't Use Informal or Colloquial Language.

How many paragraphs is an essay? ›

Arguably the most common essay format is the standard five-paragraph essay. This essay devotes a paragraph each to the introduction, conclusion, and three different supporting details.

What makes a really good essay? ›

An essay should have a single clear central idea. Each paragraph should have a clear main point or topic sentence. Each paragraph should support or expand the central idea of the paper. The idea of each paragraph should be explained and illustrated through examples, details, and descriptions.

What are the best words to use in an essay? ›

General explaining
  • Significantly. ...
  • Notably. ...
  • Importantly. ...
  • In conclusion. ...
  • Above all. ...
  • Persuasive. Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. ...
  • Compelling. Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. ...
  • All things considered. Usage: This means “taking everything into account”.
Nov 27, 2021

What are the 5 sentence openers? ›

In this lesson you have learned to use several kinds of sentence openers: dependent clause, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, -ing word groups, and transitional words.

What is a formal sentence example? ›

Formal: They will be attending the meeting tomorrow. Informal: They'll attend the meeting tomorrow. We also use different words to convey the same meaning.

What words should you not start a sentence with? ›

Never begin a sentence—or a clause—with also. Teach the elimination of but, so, and, because, at the beginning of a sentence. A sentence should not commence with the conjunctions and, for, or however....

What is a good first sentence introduction? ›

Start with the chase. A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader. Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don't think you can say, but you still want to say. Like, “This book will change your life.”

What is a good introduction? ›

An effective introduction will typically begin by discussing general ideas surrounding the essay's topic and then introduce the specific ideas that will be discussed in the body of the paper.

How to introduce an essay? ›

The first part is usually a general comment that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn't actually part of your argument. The next part of the introduction is the thesis statement. This is your response to the question; your final answer.

What words should you not start an essay with? ›

List of 125 Words and Phrases You Should Never Use in an Essay
about/aroundUse "approximately" instead.
absolute worstFor the same reason as above, just use "worst."
absolutelyEliminate unnecessary adverbs in academic writing.
absurdDon't say something is absurd; that it is by using logical argumentation.
121 more rows

What is the best sentence to start a paragraph? ›

Academic paragraphs often follow a common structure, designed to guide your reader through your argument – although not all the time! It goes like this: Start with a “topic sentence” Give 1-2 sentences of supporting evidence for (or against) your argument.

What is the 100 rule in writing? ›

The 100% Rule is a simple, one-second decision with profound effects on the rest of your life. Once you accept a certain path, all future decisions are made. If you decide to be a daily writer, then you write daily. You don't write 98% of the days.

What is the most important rule in writing? ›

Be Consistent When Writing

Delivering your message is essential. But you also want your readers to believe in what you're saying. You need to build trust. This basic rule of writing goes together with addressing your reader and making your text specific.

What is the first rule of good writing? ›

1. Express, not impress. Good writing is not about the number of words you've produced, the quality of the adjectives you've written or the size of your font–it's about the number of lives you've touched! It's whether or not your reader understands you.

What is the 5 point essay format? ›

The five-paragraph essay structure consists of, in order: one introductory paragraph that introduces the main topic and states a thesis, three body paragraphs to support the thesis, and one concluding paragraph to wrap up the points made in the essay.

What are the 5 points in an essay? ›

The Five point (also known as five paragraph) essay is simply that—an, essay which completes its goal (defending its thesis) in five points.
  • 1 Introduction.
  • 2 Summarize Argument.
  • 3 Argue Your Position.
  • 4 Counter Argument And Response.
  • 5 Conclusion.

How many sentences is a good essay? ›

Essays are normally measured in paragraphs as opposed to sentences. Typical essay format consists of five paragraphs, with a paragraph containing a minimum of 4-5 sentences. So for example very basic five paragraph essay would be at least 20 sentences.

What is a essay example? ›

An examples essay supports, develops, and defends its thesis in a series of paragraphs, each of which typically illustrates one way in which the thesis statement can be supported.

How do I start preparing for an essay? ›

Have a good collection of opening and closing lines. Prepare some material on general topics like development, women, education, healthcare, internet, technology, science, etc. Your material should include quotations, case studies, examples, government initiatives, etc. This will be useful while writing the essay.

What is a formal writing style? ›

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.

What does it mean by formal writing? ›

Formal writing is any type of writing that's written formally. Being formal means following social rules, conventions and etiquette; and in writing it means to write in a short, concise manner to convey information.

What are the three parts of a formal essay? ›

The main parts (or sections) to an essay are the intro, body, and conclusion. In a standard short essay, five paragraphs can provide the reader with enough information in a short amount of space.

What is formal writing style? ›

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.

How do you not say I in an essay? ›

Take a Third-Person Perspective

A third-person point of view will not use any first-person pronouns because the information is not given from the speaker's perspective. A third-person sentence is spoken entirely about the subject where the speaker is outside of the sentence.

What are the examples of formal sentence? ›

In formal language, grammar is more complex and sentences are generally longer. For example: We regret to inform you that the delivery will be delayed due to adverse weather conditions [formal] Sorry, but the delivery will be late because of the weather [informal]


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