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.

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 as normal bodies of text.

  • For instance, if you were going to write a paper about why you like coffee, the main idea would be that you like coffee, while your discussion points would be your reasons for liking coffee.
    • 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.

  • 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.
  • No slang!
  • Avoid addressing readers as “you.”
    • 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

Q: What is formal and informal essay?

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.

Q: What are the parts of a formal essay?

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.

Q: What is formal writing example?

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.

Q: How do you start a formal paper?

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!

Q: Are contractions formal or informal?

Contractions are generally considered to be informal. 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.

Q: Why should contractions be avoided in 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.

Q: Is contractions allowed in academic writing?

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.

Q: What is an example of a contraction in writing?

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.