Based on the topic, academic writing falls in one of the four writing categories – descriptive, analytical, persuasive, or critical. Students often fail to understand the tone and style that an essay or paper should be written in. This, in turn, results in a write-up that is either too formal or too casual in its style.

Ideally, an academic paper should be neither. A tone that is too formal takes away its readability, while too casual makes it less authoritative. So, how should you approach the perfect tone and style in your essay? Here is a basic guide to help you in this endeavour.

Set the Tone Right

Tone refers to the way a piece of writing communicates with its readers. The tone of a written piece can be friendly, authoritative, formal, casual, warm, rude, positive, sarcastic, or cheerful, to name a few.

The author has to be cautious about what feeling they are translating through their words and whether it aligns with the purpose of the essay or paper. For example, in a poem analysis essay, you can use an emotional and warm tone to communicate your interpretation.

In academic writing, the tone of your paper should be balanced between formal and informal. If your sentences impart difficulty in understanding, you may need to check your write-up for ‘too formal’ tonality. On the other hand, the use of personal pronouns such as I and me gives away credibility.

Give Weightage to Readability and Clarity

A good article resonates with its readers. The structure of your sentences, the choice of words, and how you deliver your argument in your paper define your writing style. When writing an art analysis essay such as the analysis of the musical In the Heights, you can be creative in your writing style.

Academic writing stands very close to the style that researchers use to put forth their findings. An academic paper requires you to write very clear and concisely. Instead of beating around the bush, you state facts and statements directly while keeping your information crisp.

Alongside, one should be able to read and comprehend your explanation easily. Long and exaggerated elaboration plummets your write-up in quality.

Tips to Achieve Right Tone & Style

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to maintain tone and style in your academic paper.


Use Advanced Vocab: Your readers in academic writing are mostly well-read professionals. There’s no point in keeping the vocab simple. Try to include impressive words but refrain from inserting alien vocab or words that fall out of context.

Keep It Formal: An academic paper should be formal. Formal tone can be communicative, but it shouldn’t be one-to-one or over casual. On the flip side, it should also not be too formal and rob your piece of readability. Balancing the tone is the key to an excellent piece of writing.

Take Advantage of Subject-Specific Terms: To come across as well-versed, use subject-specific terms wherever necessary. Knowing the correct use of different terminologies would enhance the effectiveness of your paper.

Abbreviations/Acronyms: Using abbreviations and acronyms that are specific to the subject is a good practice. However, you must once expand their meaning in the article for those who may not be familiar with their meanings.

Correct Use of Grammar: Needless to say, how important grammar is. Any essay or academic paper quickly degrades if there are a lot of grammatical errors. Always make sure to run a grammar check on your written material. Make proper use of the subject-verb agreement, nouns, pronouns, etc.

Use Gender-Neutral Phrases: While referring to a collective noun, in place of he/she, use ‘they’ to make it gender-neutral.


Avoid Contractions: In formal writing, avoid using contractions like shouldn’t, won’t, or isn’t. You should use them in their complete form.

Colloquialisms: Colloquialisms are expressions that belong to a regional dialect. These are different from slang and used by all the native speakers without realizing it. Colloquialisms are more general expressions that do not comply with English language rules, such as “Ope, I didn’t mean to bump into you.” While writing in a formal tone, you need to ensure the absence of such phrases.

Personal Pronouns: By using personal pronouns, you make your writing more subjective than objective. In some cases, you can use ‘you’ to communicate with your audience.

Overstatement/Exaggeration: Students often exaggerate or use hyperbole to emphasise a piece of information. However, it only harms your essay and snatches your reader’s interest. The beauty of any piece of writing lies in how in lesser expressions, an author speaks a thousand words. You can rely on facts and evidence to indicate an important piece of information.

Inaccurate or Uncertain Facts: Your paper would be a total disappointment if it is filled with inaccurate or uncertain facts. You should enhance the authenticity of your academic paper with legitimate facts and research citations. Especially in an argumentative essay format, relevant and accurate information strengthens your point.

Change the Language of Quotes by Someone Else: Even though you are responsible for grammar, punctuations, and pronouns used in your write-up, do not correct these things in the quotes that you include in your essay. Writing someone else’s opinion or quote in your language reduces its essence.

Use Long Sentences: Lengthy sentences minimise the readability as the write-up already requires the focus of the readers. Shorter sentences are easy to comprehend than longer ones. You should, however, maintain the flow of the information.

Academic Writing Conclusion

Academic writing is different from other kinds of writing in many ways. However, it is not as difficult as many students assume. You can follow the above suggestions and create a masterpiece.

You may not churn out the right tone and style in one go. But the best practice is to re-read and edit your article until it fits into the basic wireframe of academic writing. You should not be reluctant to change or remove any sentence that is making your essay any less impressive.