Definition and Examples of Formal Essays

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition studies , a formal essay is a short, relatively impersonal composition in prose . Also known as an impersonal essay or a Baconian essay (after the writings of England's first major essayist , Francis Bacon ).

In contrast to the familiar or personal essay , the formal essay is typically used for the discussion of ideas. Its rhetorical purpose is generally to inform or persuade.

"The technique of the formal essay," says William Harmon, "is now practically identical with that of all factual or theoretical prose in which literary effect is secondary" ( A Handbook to Literature , 2011).

Examples and Observations

  • "' Formal' essays were introduced in England by [Francis] Bacon , who adopted Montaigne's term. Here the style is objective, compressed, aphoristic , wholly serious. . . . In modern times, the formal essay has become more diversified in subject matter, style , and length until it is better known by such names as article , dissertation, or thesis, and factual presentation rather than style or literary effect has become the basic aim." (L. H. Hornstein, G. D. Percy, and C. S. Brown, The Reader's Companion to World Literature , 2nd ed. Signet, 2002)
  • A Blurred Distinction Between Formal Essays and Informal Essays "Francis Bacon and his followers had a more impersonal, magisterial, law-giving, and didactic manner than the skeptical Montaigne. But they should not be viewed as opposites; the distinction between formal and informal essay can be overdone, and most great essayists have crossed the line frequently. The difference is one of degree. [William] Hazlitt was essentially a personal essayist , though he wrote theater and art criticism; Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin were essentially formal essayists , though they may have tried a personal essay once in a while. Personality creeps into the most impersonal of writers: it is difficult to read Bacon on friendship or having children , for instance, without suspecting he is talking about autobiographical matters. Dr. Johnson was probably more a moral essayist than a personal one, though his work has such an individual, idiosyncratic stamp that I have persuaded myself to place him in the personal camp. George Orwell seems split fifty-fifty, an essay hermaphrodite who always kept one eye on the subjective and one on the political. . . . "The Victorian era saw a turn toward the formal essay , the so-called essay of ideas written by [Thomas] Carlyle, Ruskin, [Matthew] Arnold, Macaulay, Pater. Between Lamb and Beerbohm there was scarcely an English personal essay, with the exception of those by Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas De Quincey . . . ." (Phillip Lopate, Introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay . Anchor, 1994)
  • Voice in the Impersonal Essay "[E]ven when 'I' plays no part in the language of an essay, a firm sense of personality can warm the voice of the impersonal essay narrator . When we read Dr. [Samuel] Johnson and Edmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling , for instance, we feel that we know them as fully developed characters in their own essays, regardless of their not referring personally to themselves." (Phillip Lopate, "Writing Personal Essays: On the Necessity of Turning Oneself Into a Character." Writing Creative Nonfiction , ed. by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard. Writer's Digest Books, 2001)
  • Crafting the Impersonal "I" "Unlike the exploratory 'self' of Montaigne, Francis Bacon's impersonal 'I' appears already to have arrived. Even in the comparatively expansive third edition of the Essays , Bacon provides few explicit hints as to either the character of the textual voice or the role of the expected reader. . . . [T]he absence of a felt 'self' on the page is a deliberate rhetorical effect: the effort to efface voice in the 'impersonal' essay is a way of evoking a distant but authoritative persona . . . . In the formal essay , invisibility must be forged." (Richard Nordquist, "Voices of the Modern Essay." University of Georgia, 1991)
  • What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
  • What is a Familiar Essay in Composition?
  • Characteristics of a Formal Prose Style
  • The Essay: History and Definition
  • What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?
  • What Does "Persona" Mean?
  • An Introduction to Literary Nonfiction
  • A Look at the Roles Characters Play in Literature
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • Plain Style in Prose
  • Periodical Essay Definition and Examples
  • What Is Colloquial Style or Language?
  • Figures of Speech: The Apostrophe as a Literary Device
  • Definition and Examples of Humorous Essays

How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

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. 

The picture enumerates the characteristics of a formal essay.

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. 

👔 Formal Essay Definition

  • ✅ How to Write
  • ✍️ Writing Rules
  • 🖥️ Essay Format
  • 📑 Sample Paper

🔍 References

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:

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.

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:

If you want some more inspiration for your introduction, check out our article on hooks in writing .

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.

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:  

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:

  • individuals,

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:

📑 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:

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

Formal Essay Topics

  • Stress management techniques
  • The effects of coffee
  • Negative effects of technology on children
  • Causes and outcomes of organizational conflicts in sports 
  • Different types of friends
  • Same-sex marriages in the United States 
  • Are early marriages harmful or beneficial?
  • How do nutrition and hydration improve athletes’ performance?
  • Is polygamy morally acceptable?
  • Different features of sports business
  • What characterizes friendship in the age of media ?
  • Positive and negative effects of tourism on environment in the Caribbean
  • How does society treat single parents ?
  • How does the uninvolved parenting style affect child’s future well-being?
  • The role of family relationships in Odyssey
  • Financial concepts in sport finance
  • Main features of a strong marriage
  • The importance of media coverage for sport teams 
  • Reasons why students choose to get internship
  • The role of stadiums in the sports industry
  • The multiracial family: the Carters case analysis
  • Characteristics of children’s sports 
  • Crucial factors affecting health fitness
  • How is technology used in hotel management? 
  • Structure and operational context of Four Seasons
  • What are the main qualities of a true friend? 
  • Different websites that promote rental properties
  • The imperative aspects of tourism
  • Importance of hotel training
  • What factors determine adolescents’ adjustment after they experience parental divorce ?
  • How does tobacco use affect the human body?
  • The importance of language and world view for communication 
  • What makes a combination of reinforcement and punishment in parenting efficient? 
  • The scientific approach of sports economics 
  • How does divorce affect children?
  • Living on-campus vs. living off-campus when attending university: a comparison
  • How does the New Moves program promote a healthy lifestyle?
  • How to be an effective counselor
  • Various types of restaurants in Ireland 
  • Carolina Dog’s characteristics 
  • Comparison of Monzameon’s The Love Suicides at Amijima and Tartuffe by Moliere
  • Comparing homosexual and heterosexual families
  • How is family presented in Everyday Use by Alice Walker ?
  • In what ways can Anaerobic Threshold be assessed?
  • Is bad parenting a healthcare problem?
  • Why student-athletes should benefit from sports
  • Mind-body awareness and its health benefits 
  • Can punishment boost academic performance?
  • Techniques to teach students swimming
  • Issues faced by the sports licensing field

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:

  • How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
  • What Is a Discourse Analysis Essay: Example & Guide
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Précis: Definition, Guide, & Examples 

❓ Formal Essay FAQs

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

  • Point of View in Academic Writing: St. Louis Community College
  • Components of a Good Essay: University of Evansville
  • Introductions & Conclusions: University of Arizona Global Campus
  • How to Improve Your Academic Writing: University of York
  • Nine Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing: University of California, Berkeley
  • Academic Writing Style: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: University of Southern California
  • Formal and Informal Style: Northern Illinois University
  • Formal Writing: Davenport University: LibGuides
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Writing Definitions

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A formal definition is based upon a concise, logical pattern that includes as much information as it can within a minimum amount of space. The primary reason to include definitions in your writing is to avoid misunderstanding with your audience. A formal definition consists of three parts:

  • The term (word or phrase) to be defined
  • The class of object or concept to which the term belongs
  • The differentiating characteristics that distinguish it from all others of its class

For example:

  • Water ( term ) is a liquid ( class ) made up of molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of 2 to 1 ( differentiating characteristics ).
  • Comic books ( term ) are sequential and narrative publications ( class ) consisting of illustrations, captions, dialogue balloons, and often focus on super-powered heroes ( differentiating characteristics ).
  • Astronomy ( term ) is a branch of scientific study ( class ) primarily concerned with celestial objects inside and outside of the earth's atmosphere ( differentiating characteristics ).

Although these examples should illustrate the manner in which the three parts work together, they are not the most realistic cases. Most readers will already be quite familiar with the concepts of water, comic books, and astronomy. For this reason, it is important to know when and why you should include definitions in your writing.

When to Use Definitions

"Stellar Wobble is a measurable variation of speed wherein a star's velocity is shifted by the gravitational pull of a foreign body."
"Throughout this essay, the term classic gaming will refer specifically to playing video games produced for the Atari, the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and any systems in-between." Note: not everyone may define "classic gaming" within this same time span; therefore, it is important to define your terms
"Pagan can be traced back to Roman military slang for an incompetent soldier. In this sense, Christians who consider themselves soldiers of Christ are using the term not only to suggest a person's secular status but also their lack of bravery.'

Additional Tips for Writing Definitions

  • Avoid defining with "X is when" and "X is where" statements. These introductory adverb phrases should be avoided. Define a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb, and so forth.
"Rhyming poetry consists of lines that contain end rhymes." Better: "Rhyming poetry is an artform consisting of lines whose final words consistently contain identical, final stressed vowel sounds."
  • Define a word in simple and familiar terms. Your definition of an unfamiliar word should not lead your audience towards looking up more words in order to understand your definition.
  • Keep the class portion of your definition small but adequate. It should be large enough to include all members of the term you are defining but no larger. Avoid adding personal details to definitions. Although you may think the story about your Grandfather will perfectly encapsulate the concept of stinginess, your audience may fail to relate. Offering personal definitions may only increase the likeliness of misinterpretation that you are trying to avoid.


Formal Essays

formal essay definition with example

Within the activities that you have to deal with in your entire life, there are certain instances where you will be required to write an essay . This is the reason why you have to be knowledgeable on how to construct different kinds of essays so you can easily create a particular one when necessary. One type of essay that is usually asked by entities to be written is a formal essay. A formal essay is commonly associated with academic essay examples  and other educational writing activities. However, the usage of a formal essay is not limited to that as it can be used in professional researchers, business transactions, and other corporate undertakings.

It is essential for a formal essay to inform its audience about a particular matter. More so, it should be composed of details that can persuade the readers to believe what the writer is saying. Refer to the downloadable samples of formal essays that are available in this post so you can have references and guides if you have been tasked to create this specific essay and is unaware of what to do.

Formal Student Profile Essay Sample


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Formal Essay Sample Guide


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Components of a Formal Essay Introduction

Compared to how a  descriptive essay  can be deemed appealing, one of the things that you always have to give focus on when creating a formal essay is the introduction that you will use. First impressions play a vital role in how your target readers will create their perception of your writing. Just as how the physical appearance of people tend to be the factor that can affect your first impression about them, the introduction of your essay can also be the means on how your formal essay can be perceived and initially judged.

You need to create a formal essay introduction that is outstanding. It needs to get the attention of your readers in a way that is not overwhelming. You need to consider different factors when doing your introduction so you can ensure that your formal essay can have a good start. Here are some of the components of a formal essay introduction that you need to be aware of:

  • Statistics or research results either coming from the government or reliable non-profit organizations
  • Hard hitting questions that are relevant to your topic discussion
  • Famous quotations from people whose life works are related to what you will be talking about
  • Use another sentence to provide information about your topic.  Your readers need to have a basic background information about what they can expect with regards the content of your formal essay. This should contain details that can be helpful in providing your readers an idea of why it is relevant for them to continue reading your written output. One sentence is enough as your presentation only requires a few words to be done. Again, focus on the main information that you would like to talk about so that your readers will not be misled regarding the content of your formal essay.
  • Lastly, incorporate your thesis statement in your introduction. It will be best if you will end your introduction with a thesis statement. This is for the reason that it can represent the main idea of your essay. If you will be able to present the major purpose of your essay and the actual point of discussion, then it will be easier for you to connect with your readers. The initial impact that your introduction can provide can say a lot about how you can direct the attention of your prospective audience. With a strong thesis statement, your formal essay is sure to be off to a good start.

Simple Formal Essay Sample


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Formal Presentation Essay Sample


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How to Create a Formal Essay

Since a formal essay should always be based on factual information, it tends to be more objective, precise and direct to the point compared to other essays. With this, formatting a formal essay requires in-depth knowledge about the topic as well as about the proper format or content flow that should be used to cohesively put together important information. Here is how you can easily format the information that you would like to present in a formal essay may it be a  college essay  or a professional/corporate requirement:

  • Create an introduction which can provide the topic of your discussion. We have already given you an idea on how you can formulate an effective introduction. It all boils down to how you will incorporate these ideas to your actual writing. Your introduction may not give a lot of details when compared to the body of you essay but it certainly can convince your readers to continue reading which can make your work more usable and relevant.
  • Each paragraph should contain a subtopic that is related to your discussion. This can make your discussion more organized.
  • Ensure that your body will have factual details that can support your topic or subject. You have to make sure that the information that you will give to your readers are real so your essay will be deemed credible.
  • Always create a body that conveys ideas related to the thesis statement that you have created. With each topic statement, the connection of both your resources and relevant opinions should be evident.
  • Make a conclusion that can summarize the entire essay.  If you want to create an efficient essay conclusion, it is suggested for you to restate your thesis statement. This can remind your readers of the discussion that you just had in your essay’s body. Also, it will allow them to connect the purpose of the essay to what you have actually come up with. Your conclusion should also summarize all your main points so you can fully present your stand with regards the subject that you talked about.

Creating the format of your formal essay is easy. However, you have to make sure that your objective for writing the essay is realized. Think of the things that you need to discuss so you can put them in their proper places. Organization within the writing procedures can help you to be more focused on what to discuss first and what to give importance and focus on.

Sample Formal Essay Structure


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Formal Essay Example


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How to Make Your Formal Essay Outstanding Through Proper Language Selection

Writing an essay is not just about its thought, content, and format. Aside from these major factors of essay writing, you also have to be keen when selecting the language to use. May it be in the educational and professional field, using the appropriate language when writing your formal essay can affect the entirety of the document.

You need to make sure that the language that you will use is formal and business-like. This is not only used for writing a formal essay as it can also apply to comparative essay  creation and other writing activities. The language that you will incorporate into your essay can make your formal essay stand out if you will be aware of these items:

  • Choose to use words that are formal in nature. Formal vocabulary can help your sentences, phrases, and paragraphs to be structured in a way that it will look more fitting as an academic document.
  • As much as possible, veer away from using a first person standpoint. Always be reminded that your main task is to highlight and support your thesis statement. Both nouns and pronouns that are in the first person can actually make your essay less credible as it will sound like what you are stating are baseless or just your own opinion.
  • Use words that can formally support your statements. It is essential for your language to have a precise interpretation of your essay and its tone. Being able to do this can help your formal essay to be more put together
  • Use a language that is relevant to the needs of your target readers. Avoid slang, jargon, and colloquial terms which may not possibly be understood by your readers. You need to create a proper connection with your readers which is the reason why your language is very important to be considered.

Readers, though interested in the topic that you are writing about, can be offended or feel disinterested if they will find that your language is not appropriate for a particular discussion or written transaction. Hence, you need to be responsible enough as a writer when it comes to choosing your language.

Sample Formal Essay Format


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Extended Formal Essay Guide


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Guidelines in Writing a Formal Essay

Just like any other kinds of essays, there are no strict rules that are irreplaceable. The way that you create a formal essay will always vary from situation to situation. Within the entirety of your formal essay writing, it is for sure that you might commit  common essay mistakes . Listed below are some of the guidelines that you may incorporate into your writing so that your formal essay can look as professional as possible:

  • Do not use redundant phrases. Repeating topics or content theme can make your formal essay boring. Repetitive statements can also irritate or bore your readers.
  • Use samples of formal essays as your writing guides. If you have no idea on how to create a formal essay, it will be easier for you to create one if you are guided by downloadable samples. Having a reference when doing your own formal essay can help you become more efficient in the entire writing process.
  • If samples are not enough to guide you, have the freedom to use templates. There are some templates that already contain a formal essay content. Make sure that you will remove these as all you need from the template is the guideline on how to format the document. More so, refer to the instructions that are given to you so you can incorporate it in the format that you will use.

Formal Essay Rubric Sample


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Formal Literary Essay Sample


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A standardized and comprehensive formal essay is very appealing to readers. Hence, always be consistent with your discussion and the presentation flow that you will follow. Your formal essay can represent your style as a writer which is the main reason why you always have to incorporate credible language, forms, and materials in your writing. Being able to immerse yourself in writing a formal essay in the most effective manner can help you grow as a writer. This will enable you to acquire new skills and develop new opportunities for academic or professional growth.

If you are already prepared to write a formal essay, make use of our samples as well as the tips that we have provided in this post. Review your formal essay before submitting it so you can correct grammatical errors and other mistakes. Writing a formal essay should not be a burden to you. Enjoy the process and learn from everything that you will go through. Once you already get the gist of writing this type of essay, it will be very easy for you to repeat the process for your next writing activities.


Formal Essay Generator

Text prompt

  • Instructive
  • Professional

Write a Formal Essay on the significance of Shakespeare's works in modern literature.

Discuss the ethical implications of genetic engineering in a Formal Essay.

Formal Essays: What You Need to Know Essay (Article)

A formal essay is a piece of non fiction writing where one attempts to support a certain idea through the use of stories, quotes and facts. These types of essays are common in the corporate arena and also in the academic field.

What you need to know about formal essays

  • Be careful with your tone – writers must avoid slang, short forms, use of the first person and any informal language that may compromise on the objectivity of the piece. Beliefs and emotions need to be kept out of formal essays as much as possible.
  • Analyze the content of the essay – a formal essay is an advancement of an argument and should therefore have a main idea through a strong thesis statement. This should also be supported throughout the paragraphs and be summarized at the end of the essay
  • Do not compromise on structure – a good formal essay is one in which the ideas are well connected and thoroughly organized. Depending on the writing style chosen, most formal essays have a centered headline and titles need to be capitalized. Also, the use of an active voice is critical in this kind of writing as is maintains the attention of readers.

Students need to realize that although formal essay writing entails the use of facts to advance one’s argument, this is no excuse for writers to be boring. One must think of creative ways of advancing one’s main idea. However, neutrality ought to be maintained at all costs.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2021, November 26). Formal Essays: What You Need to Know.

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Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, definition of essay.

An essay is a short piece writing, either formal or informal, which expresses the author’s argument about a particular subject. A formal essay has a serious purpose and highly structured organization, while an informal essay may contain humor, personal recollections and anecdotes, and any sort of organization or form which the author wants. Note that while a formal essay has a more detached tone, it can also represent the author’s personal opinions and be written from the author’s point of view. Essays are shorter than a thesis or dissertation, and thus deal with the matter at hand in a limited way. Essays can deal with many different themes, such as analysis of a text, political opinions, scientific ideas, abstract concepts, fragments of autobiography, and so on.

The word essay comes from the French word essayer , which means “to try” or “to attempt.” A sixteenth-century Frenchman named Michel de Montaigne was the first to create the modern-day definition of essay when he called his writing exercises essays, meaning that he was simply “trying” to get his thoughts on paper.

Common Examples of Essay

Essays are a mainstay of many educational systems around the world. Most essays include some form of analysis and argument, and thus develop a student’s critical thinking skills. Essays require a student to understand what he or she has read or learned well enough to write about it, and thus they are a good tool for ensuring that students have internalized the material. Tests such as the SATs and GREs include a very important essay section. Essays also can be important for admission to university programs and even to be hired for certain jobs.

There are many popular magazines which feature intellectual essays as a core part of their offerings, such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harper’s Magazine .

Significance of Essay in Literature

Many famous writers and thinkers have also written numerous examples of essays. For instance, the treatises of the philosophers Plutarch, Cicero, and Seneca are all early forms of essay writing. Essay writing might seem dull to school children, but in fact the form has become extremely popular, often converging with a type of writing called “creative non-fiction.” Authors are able to explore complex concepts through anecdote, evidence, and exploration. An author may want to persuade his or her audience to accept a central idea, or simply describe what he or she has experienced. Below you will find examples of essays from famous writers.

Examples of Essay in Literature

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

(“Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist and poet who was a part of the Transcendentalist movement and who believed strongly in the importance of individualism and self-reliance. The above essay example, in fact, is titled “Self-Reliance,” and encourages human beings to trust themselves and strike out on their own.

Yet, because he was so small, and so simple a form of the energy that was rolling in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings, there was something marvelous as well as pathetic about him. It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life. Thus displayed one could not get over the strangeness of it. One is apt to forget all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered so that it has to move with the greatest circumspection and dignity. Again, the thought of all that life might have been had he been born in any other shape caused one to view his simple activities with a kind of pity.

(“The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf)

Virginia Woolf’s essay “The Death of the Moth” describes the simplest of experiences—her watching a moth die. And yet, due to her great descriptive powers, Woolf makes the experience seem nontrivial.

Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

(“Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell)

George Orwell’s marvelous essay “Shooting an Elephant” tells the story of when he was a police officer in Lower Burma and was asked to deal with an elephant wandering through a market. Orwell brilliantly extrapolates his role in shooting and killing the animal to the effects of Imperialism and the British Empire.

Not that it’s profound, but I’m struck, amid the pig’s screams and wheezes, by the fact that these agricultural pros do not see their stock as pets or friends. They are just in the agribusiness of weight and meat. They are unconnected, even at the fair’s self-consciously special occasion of connection. And why not?—even at the fair their products continue to drool and smell and scream, and the work goes on. I can imagine what they think of us, cooing at the swine: we fairgoers don’t have to deal with the business of breeding and feeding our meat; our meat simply materializes at the corn-dog stand, allowing us to separate our healthy appetites from fur and screams and rolling eyes. We tourists get to indulge our tender animal-rights feelings with our tummies full of bacon. I don’t know how keen these sullen farmers’ sense of irony is, but mine’s been honed East Coast keen, and I feel like a bit of an ass in the Swine Barn.

(“Ticket to the Fair” by David Foster Wallace)

David Foster Wallace wrote many famous essays as well as novels; he often looks at modern life with a heightened attention to detail and different perspectives. In the essay “Ticket to the Fair,” he visits a fair and describes what he sees and feels, including the excerpt above where he considers the different way he and the farmers at the fair feel about animals.

Test Your Knowledge of Essay

1. Which of the following statements is the best essay definition? A. A research project of many tens of thousands of words concerning a particular argument. B. A short piece of writing that expresses the author’s opinion or perspective on a subject. C. A strict and highly organized piece of writing that doesn’t contain the author’s own opinion. [spoiler title=”Answer to Question #1″] Answer: B is the correct answer. A is too long for an essay and C can describe some, but not all, essay examples.[/spoiler]

2. Which of the following is not likely to be featured in an example of essay? A. A political opinion B. An anecdote C. A fable [spoiler title=”Answer to Question #2″] Answer: C is the correct answer.[/spoiler]

3. Which of the following statements is true? A. Essays are found in many intellectual magazines. B. Essays are only used in school settings. C. Essays are always boring. [spoiler title=”Answer to Question #3″] Answer: A is the correct answer.[/spoiler]

formal essay definition with example

The Most Effective Formal Essay Format

Patrick Green

  • Introduction

The beginning of an essay is supposed to help the reader understand what you are going to discuss. It has to be catchy in order to attract the reader into reading the whole essay. One of the ways to make your introduction appealing is to use questions that you will eventually answer in your essay. You can also use statistics related to your topic just to provide more in depth information to your reader. Statistics have a way of explaining something in a deeper and factual way. Famous quotes and phrases can also be a nice way to hook your audience.

The body is the heart of your essay. It has all the information that the reader needs to know. You need to package it in a nice and clear way to make it easy to understand. The idea you are discussing is supposed to come out clearly in the body. If your target is to persuade your audience, this is where you make sure you have convincing statements supported by factual evidence.

After arguing your case, the conclusion is where you wrap up the topic. Leaving the essay at the body may not convince the audience as much as it should. You need to end the discussion with a summary of everything that is in the essay. It is an important part of formal essay writing.

Table of Contents

Some of the Formal Essay Example You Can Write About

Formal essays can be classified into smaller categories depending on the topic of the essay. One of the categories is illustration essays. These essays are the kind of essays where you use vivid examples to help the reader imagine the situation. It is more of a demonstration of something using words. A reader will understand the experience through the explanations given in the essay.

The other category of formal essays is the cause and effect essay. In this kind of essay, you write about why something happens and what results it translates to. These are more like reasons for something and the aftermath of that happening. Examples of the topics can be such as “Global warming and its effects on the planet” or “Why missing classes lower your grades.” You could write on many other topics.

Compare and contrast is a common category of formal essays. In most cases, students will write such essays for their term papers. In this kind of essay, you are required to give the differences and similarities of two things that are in the same category. A good topic example is ‘Differences and similarities of formal essays and informal essays.’

Argumentative Essays are also popular. You can choose to write such an essay where you discuss a topic giving arguments on both sides. Before writing this kind of essay, you need to investigate the subject widely. When writing, evaluate, and discuss the topic and later establish a position.

A Guide on How to Write a Formal Essay

When writing essays, there are common things that you need to observe to make the essay appealing. However, there are different types of essays that require specific details to make them fit in their category. Today we’re talking about formal essays and what they entail.

Formal essays are more common in educational set ups. You will find them written by students of a particular course as part of formal papers in their term examinations. They can also be written outside the classroom to provide information or persuade a certain audience. Just like the name suggests, formal essays are compositions that are short and impersonal. They are based on provable facts while discussing ideas. In this blog, we’ll tell you how to write a formal essay perfectly.

A good essay is not that hard to write. All you need is to know the most important parts of an essay and get tips on how to write it. On this blog, we specialize in giving you the best tips and the right information to make you a very good writer.

The first thing to do when you want to write good formal essays is to look for a good topic. How do you do that? It’s simple. You first brainstorm different ideas and write them down. Writing them down will help you see which one is better than the others.

When choosing the topic, make sure you pick one that you have wide knowledge on. Picking a topic that you know well will give you the power to narrate your essay with ease and confidence. You can check out formal essay example online to get an idea.

When writing this kind of essay, it is important to give a thesis statement. This summarises the essay and gives the reader a good idea of what will be discussed in the essay. The thesis introduces the topic and gives a brief preview of the paper itself. It also reminds the reader as the writer why you are writing that paper.

In terms of the writing itself, there are a few formal writing tips that you need. One of them is the language to use. Make sure that you use formal language in the whole essay. Avoid slang and other informal phrases. It is also advisable to avoid first person pronouns. This is because a formal paper is not an opinion. You write a formal paper based on factual information.

The Easiest Formal Essay Definition You Could Find

When you know what the word formal means, anyone would assume that you know what a formal essay is, but it’s not the case. A formal essay definition relates to formal things like the language and presentation of the essay, but the definition is totally different. In simple terms, this essay is a piece of writing that is aimed at persuading or informing an audience. In all cases, the language used should be formal. The idea being discussed should be supported by facts and other factual examples.

In terms of the format, the essay should have a heading, introduction, body, and conclusion. You can have sub topics in the body, but make sure they all relate to the main topic. Another aspect of the essay is the length. It should have at least five paragraphs. You should be able to give all the necessary details in those paragraphs and achieve your intended goal.

The formal essay heading should be catchy and informative. A heading gives an outline of the essay. It should, therefore, be able to explain to the reader what exactly the essay is focussing on. In the same light, all sub topics should relate to what the paragraphs within the sub topic are talking about. A writer should try as much as possible not to lose the attention of the reader.

You can also define formal essays as a composition of informative content. Formal essays do not have the writer’s personal opinion. That is why we say they are impersonal. They should be as long as the facts allow. If the facts are not as many, do not fill it up with any untrue or opinionated ideas.

The Best Formal Essay Outline Available

For you to write the best essay, you have to do a formal analysis essay with the right outline. The outline is easy. It has the main parts of any essay. First of all, an essay must have an introduction. In the introduction, you talk about the general topic, the specific topic, and give thesis statement as guided by the formal essay structure. That means any reader will be able to understand the essay even before they read the whole essay. It also gives the reader the urge to know more about the topic you have introduced.

The body contains a description of the topic in detail. In the first paragraph, you start with a sub topic statement and then expound on it. You could give specific details of the topic including examples and provable facts. You also have to conclude every paragraph based on the sub topic you were covering. The same applies to all the other paragraphs in the body. Make sure that your facts are well organized, and the work is clear and grammatically correct.

After the body comes to the conclusion. You can restate thesis while closing your argument and then give a summary of what you discussed in the essay. It is important to give a satisfactory closing to avoid leaving the reader hanging.

Formal essay outline writing should not stress you up when you have us. Writing is all about creativity and having the right kind of language. Always make sure you go through your work when you finish writing.We hope that you gathered as much as you needed from our explanation.

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  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write an Essay

I. What is an Essay?

An essay is a form of writing in paragraph form that uses informal language, although it can be written formally. Essays may be written in first-person point of view (I, ours, mine), but third-person (people, he, she) is preferable in most academic essays. Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper.

When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion. Sixth and seventh graders may start out with three paragraph essays in order to learn the concepts. However, essays may be longer than five paragraphs. Essays are easier and quicker to read than books, so are a preferred way to express ideas and concepts when bringing them to public attention.

II. Examples of Essays

Many of our most famous Americans have written essays. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson wrote essays about being good citizens and concepts to build the new United States. In the pre-Civil War days of the 1800s, people such as:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (an author) wrote essays on self-improvement
  • Susan B. Anthony wrote on women’s right to vote
  • Frederick Douglass wrote on the issue of African Americans’ future in the U.S.

Through each era of American history, well-known figures in areas such as politics, literature, the arts, business, etc., voiced their opinions through short and long essays.

The ultimate persuasive essay that most students learn about and read in social studies is the “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Other founding fathers edited and critiqued it, but he drafted the first version. He builds a strong argument by stating his premise (claim) then proceeds to give the evidence in a straightforward manner before coming to his logical conclusion.

III. Types of Essays

A. expository.

Essays written to explore and explain ideas are called expository essays (they expose truths). These will be more formal types of essays usually written in third person, to be more objective. There are many forms, each one having its own organizational pattern.  Cause/Effect essays explain the reason (cause) for something that happens after (effect). Definition essays define an idea or concept. Compare/ Contrast essays will look at two items and show how they are similar (compare) and different (contrast).

b. Persuasive

An argumentative paper presents an idea or concept with the intention of attempting to change a reader’s mind or actions . These may be written in second person, using “you” in order to speak to the reader. This is called a persuasive essay. There will be a premise (claim) followed by evidence to show why you should believe the claim.

c. Narrative

Narrative means story, so narrative essays will illustrate and describe an event of some kind to tell a story. Most times, they will be written in first person. The writer will use descriptive terms, and may have paragraphs that tell a beginning, middle, and end in place of the five paragraphs with introduction, body, and conclusion. However, if there is a lesson to be learned, a five-paragraph may be used to ensure the lesson is shown.

d. Descriptive

The goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe an event, item, place, memory, etc. This essay may be written in any point of view, depending on what’s being described. There is a lot of freedom of language in descriptive essays, which can include figurative language, as well.

IV. The Importance of Essays

Essays are an important piece of literature that can be used in a variety of situations. They’re a flexible type of writing, which makes them useful in many settings . History can be traced and understood through essays from theorists, leaders, artists of various arts, and regular citizens of countries throughout the world and time. For students, learning to write essays is also important because as they leave school and enter college and/or the work force, it is vital for them to be able to express themselves well.

V. Examples of Essays in Literature

Sir Francis Bacon was a leading philosopher who influenced the colonies in the 1600s. Many of America’s founding fathers also favored his philosophies toward government. Bacon wrote an essay titled “Of Nobility” in 1601 , in which he defines the concept of nobility in relation to people and government. The following is the introduction of his definition essay. Note the use of “we” for his point of view, which includes his readers while still sounding rather formal.

 “We will speak of nobility, first as a portion of an estate, then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion, and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects. The united provinces of the Low Countries, in their government, excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes, more cheerful. A great and potent nobility, addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well, when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty, and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity, that many of the nobility fall, in time, to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion, between honor and means.”

A popular modern day essayist is Barbara Kingsolver. Her book, “Small Wonders,” is full of essays describing her thoughts and experiences both at home and around the world. Her intention with her essays is to make her readers think about various social issues, mainly concerning the environment and how people treat each other. The link below is to an essay in which a child in an Iranian village she visited had disappeared. The boy was found three days later in a bear’s cave, alive and well, protected by a mother bear. She uses a narrative essay to tell her story.

VI. Examples of Essays in Pop Culture

Many rap songs are basically mini essays, expressing outrage and sorrow over social issues today, just as the 1960s had a lot of anti-war and peace songs that told stories and described social problems of that time. Any good song writer will pay attention to current events and express ideas in a creative way.

A well-known essay written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, was made into a popular video on MTV by Baz Luhrmann. Schmich’s thesis is to wear sunscreen, but she adds strong advice with supporting details throughout the body of her essay, reverting to her thesis in the conclusion.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen

VII. Related Terms

Research paper.

Research papers follow the same basic format of an essay. They have an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, research papers have strict guidelines regarding a title page, header, sub-headers within the paper, citations throughout and in a bibliography page, the size and type of font, and margins. The purpose of a research paper is to explore an area by looking at previous research. Some research papers may include additional studies by the author, which would then be compared to previous research. The point of view is an objective third-person. No opinion is allowed. Any claims must be backed up with research.

VIII. Conclusion

Students dread hearing that they are going to write an essay, but essays are one of the easiest and most relaxed types of writing they will learn. Mastering the essay will make research papers much easier, since they have the same basic structure. Many historical events can be better understood through essays written by people involved in those times. The continuation of essays in today’s times will allow future historians to understand how our new world of technology and information impacted us.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website


Extended Essay: Formal vs. Informal Writing

  • Extended Essay- The Basics
  • Step 1. Choose a Subject
  • Step 2. Educate yourself!
  • Using Brainstorming and Mind Maps
  • Identify Keywords
  • Do Background Reading
  • Define Your Topic
  • Conduct Research in a Specific Discipline
  • Step 5. Draft a Research Question
  • Step 6. Create a Timeline
  • Find Articles
  • Find Primary Sources
  • Get Help from Experts
  • Search Engines, Repositories, & Directories
  • Databases and Websites by Subject Area
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography
  • Advice (and Warnings) from the IB
  • Chicago Citation Syle
  • MLA Works Cited & In-Text Citations
  • Step 9. Set Deadlines for Yourself
  • Step 10. Plan a structure for your essay
  • Evaluate & Select: the CRAAP Test
  • Conducting Secondary Research
  • Conducting Primary Research
  • Formal vs. Informal Writing
  • Presentation Requirements
  • Evaluating Your Work

Differences Between Informal and Formal Essays

When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone.  The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. See the box below for examples of the differences in tone in informal and formal essays written on identical topics. A PDF of this chart, and the examples below, is in the box to the right , along with a list of tips for avoiding colloquial writing.

Examples of Informal and Formal Tone in Essay Writing

The following examples highlight the differences between formal and informal tone.

Language B - English

  • Formal vs. Informal Writing A chart giving the differences between informal and formal essays in seven areas (author's viewpoint; subject/content (sources of evidence); tone; structure; location of the research question; vocabulary; and purpose. Also included are examples comparing informal and formal writing for essays in English, biology, and psychology.
  • How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing While it may be acceptable in friendly e-mails and chat rooms, excessive colloquialism is a major pitfall that lowers the quality of formal written text. Here are some steps/tips that you can follow to help improve your overall writing.
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  • Next: Presentation Requirements >>
  • Last Updated: May 8, 2024 3:48 PM
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Using Word Definitions in Formal Essays: Incorporation and Citation

by Robbie Glen

A side note on titles and abbreviations: This abbreviated title rule does not always apply for the body of your paper. The OED may be called the OED in the body because, although it is an abbreviated form, people actually call it this (at least this is my explanation). Generally, abbreviated titles are only acceptable within citations, e.g. a paper on Love's Labour's Lost, while referring to the entire title in the prose, may, after the play has been identified, thereafter cite simply by using LLL followed by the act, scene and line number(s). However, the author would not say, "When the acting company first performed LLL ?"-this is too informal, and while I have seen it done, it is rare and best avoided for our purposes. When we get into writing papers that compare and contrast multiple texts from this course, you'll be able to abbreviate Fight Club as FC and The Talented Mr. Ripley as TTMR in your citations, after the first time you've identified the text by its full name. In general, one word titles are not truncated to a single letter, so we won't be representing Vertigo as V .

I've attached the OED 's entry for sympathy as a noun; as you'll see, there are four main definitions, and #1 and #3 have sub-definitions. The citation I use above shows my reader that I am referring first to the entry for sympathy as a noun, secondly that it is definition number 3, and thirdly that it is sub-definition d. Citing so specifically is crucial, especially since differences between various definitions can often be maddeningly subtle on first examination. If you are using a definition to shape or support your argument, you want to eliminate any possibility of misunderstanding on the part of your reader.

Here is the link to the definition of Sympathy as a noun.

formal essay definition with example

How to Write a Definition Essay: New Guide with Samples

formal essay definition with example

Have you ever found it difficult to explain certain words or ideas? That's because understanding them isn't always easy. To avoid confusion, it's important to really understand the words we use and be able to explain them well.

That's why teachers often assign definition essays in high school and college. But these essays aren't just about repeating dictionary definitions. They dive deep into complex terms, exploring their rich backgrounds and meanings.

In this article, our rewrite essay service will cover different types of these papers, give you practical tips for writing them, and even provide examples to simplify this journey for you!

What is a Definition Essay

A definition essay is a type of writing assignment where you explain the meaning of a specific word or concept. Instead of just giving a simple definition from the dictionary, you dive deeper into what the word really means and explore its different aspects.

For instance, if you're tasked with defining 'success,' you might discuss what success means to different people, how it can vary based on cultural or societal norms, and whether it's purely based on achievements or encompasses personal fulfillment as well.

The purpose of writing definition essays in school is multifaceted. Firstly, it helps you refine your understanding of language by encouraging you to analyze words more critically. It also fosters your ability to think deeply and express complex ideas clearly. Additionally, it cultivates your skills in research, as you may need to gather evidence and examples to support your interpretation of the word or concept. Now that we've cleared the definition essay meaning, let's explain its common types in detail.

Definition Essay Examples

Here's a definition essay example from our custom essay service to help you understand what a good paper looks like. Take a look at how it's structured and formatted if you want to use it as a reference for your own work. And if you're interested, you can always buy essay cheap and get high-quality paper from our platform anytime.

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Commonly Used Definition Essay Types

When choosing an intriguing term with a rich historical background for your definition essay, it's essential to carefully consider your options and determine the most effective approach. Here are some common types, as suggested by our dissertation writing help :

Commonly Used Definition Essay Types

  • Analysis : Break down the topic into its constituent parts and define each part separately.
  • Classification : Determine the categories under which the topic can be classified.
  • Comparison : Highlight the uniqueness of the topic by comparing and contrasting it with more common subjects.
  • Details : Identify the key traits and distinctive qualities that best encapsulate the central idea of your essay.
  • Negation : Clarify what your topic is, not to narrow down its definition.
  • Origins and Causes : Explore the historical origins and background of the concept, examining where it first appeared and any relevant historical details.
  • Results, Effects, and Uses : Discuss the consequences, effects, and practical applications of the subject matter.

How to Write a Definition Essay

Just like with any writing, a definition essay structure involves an introduction, body, and conclusion. But what makes it interesting is what you explore in the body paragraphs.

For example, you could organize your definition essay outline by discussing the term from various angles. Start with a personal anecdote or story that illustrates the term in action. Then, provide a definition from a reputable source like a textbook or scholarly article. Next, consider interviewing people from different backgrounds to get their perspectives on the term. You could also analyze how the term has evolved over time, looking at historical examples or cultural shifts. Finally, offer your own interpretation of the term, drawing on your own experiences and insights.

For a more in-depth guide on writing a definition essay, let's explore the following sections provided by our experienced research paper writer .

Definition Essay Introduction

In the beginning stages of a definition essay, your reader gets their first taste of what your topic entails. It's crucial that this introduction is both informative and captivating, setting the stage for the rest of your essay. Here's what you need to include:

  • Start with something attention-grabbing, like a thought-provoking question or an interesting fact.
  • Provide a brief overview of the topic and why it's important to define it.
  • Clearly state the term you're defining and your interpretation of it.

Definition Essay Body Paragraphs

In your essay, break down the phrase into its different parts, look at it from various angles, and then provide a relevant explanation. Depending on what your assignment calls for, you might need more than three paragraphs. Feel free to mix up the order or add sections depending on how complex the term is. Here are some ideas for what you can include:

  • Start by talking about where the term came from and how it has changed over time. Understanding its origins can give insight into its meaning and significance.
  • Look up the official definition of the term and compare it to your own understanding. This can help clarify any differences and give a broader perspective.
  • Share your own thoughts and interpretation of the term, using examples or stories to illustrate your point. Your personal experiences can add depth and context to your analysis.
  • Find a definition or explanation from an expert or scholar in the field and discuss how it aligns or differs with your own perspective. This can provide credibility and further insight into the term.
  • Explore how the term is used in popular culture and what it reveals about societal values and beliefs. This can shed light on how the term is understood and interpreted in different contexts.

Definition Essay Conclusion

In the concluding paragraph, you should tie everything together neatly. Here's how you can structure your conclusion:

  • Remind the reader of your main points and why the definition of the term is important.
  • Highlight how having a clear understanding of the term can influence our thoughts and actions. This is where you show the broader significance of your analysis.
  • Encourage your audience to apply the term accurately in their own discussions and advocate for precision in defining terms within their communities. This empowers readers to take action based on what they've learned.

Tips for Definition Essay Writing Process

Now that we're nearing the end, you might have already grasped how to write a definition essay. However, if you still feel like you're threading a needle while wearing mittens, fear not! Our essay writer has laid out some nifty guidelines to help you ace this challenge:

How to Write a Definition Essay

  • Choose a term with depth, something that's not ordinary but has a rich backstory and multiple meanings. Think of it like picking a word that's like a Russian nesting doll – there's plenty to explore.
  • Use vivid language to paint a picture that engages the senses. For instance, when talking about 'love,' describe the warmth of a hug, the sweetness of Valentine's chocolates, or the sound of laughter with a partner. It helps your readers feel like they're right there with you.
  • Explore both the positive and negative associations of your term. Words aren't simple; they come with different meanings. For example, 'power' can mean strength and influence but can also be linked to negative things like abuse and control.
  • Use real-life examples to make your points clear in your definition essay. Whether you're talking about successful people from different fields or sharing stories that illustrate 'love,' concrete examples help readers understand.
  • Be creative with your approach. Use metaphors, illustrations, or humor to keep things interesting. Remember, it's your essay – make it come alive!

Final Words

As we wrap up, we trust you've grasped the ins and outs of how to write a definition essay and feel inspired to tackle your own. Nobody wants to be left scratching their head over complex topics, right? So why not leverage our academic writing assistance to your advantage? Whether you need help brainstorming extended topics, crafting a sharp analytical piece, or any other form of writing, we've got you covered. Say goodbye to confusion and ignorance – Order essay and let us guide you toward clarity and knowledge.

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Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

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is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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Identifying Types of Definitions

LESSON When writers are trying to explain an unfamiliar idea, they rely on definitions. All definitions attempt to explain or clarify a term. This lesson will introduce you to the three different types of definitions: formal, informal, and extended.

Formal Definitions

A formal definition The meaning of a word that consists of three parts: the term, the part of speech to which it belongs, and all the traits or characteristics that set it apart from every other item in that class. consists of three parts: the term, the part of speech to which it belongs, such as a noun A part of speech that refers to a person, place, or thing. Examples include: swimmer , lake , sunscreen . or a verb A part of speech that refers to what is happening, the action, what the subject is doing, or how it is “being.” Examples include: sleep , to be , think . , and all the traits The specific parts of a person, place, or thing that distinguish it from another. or characteristics that are specific to that term. The dictionary is filled with formal definitions, but it is not the only place where you will find them. Writers often include formal definitions when they are writing about something that may be unfamiliar to their readers. In textbooks, you may find the formal definition of terms listed at the beginning, at the end of a chapter, or in the glossary, which is a mini-dictionary of terms relevant to that text.

Formal definition example:

Term: freedom

Part of speech: noun

Definition: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Informal Definitions

In an informal definition The meaning of a word that is explained using known words or examples to define an unknown term. These definitions may be synonyms or antonyms introduced by or , in other words , or like . , the writer uses known words or examples to explain an unknown term. These definitions may be synonyms A word or phrase that has an identical or very similar meaning to another word. Example: tiny is a synonym for small . or antonyms A word or phrase that has the opposite meaning from another word. Example: huge is an antonym for small . introduced by or , in other words , or like .

Informal definition example:

Freedom, also referred to as liberty or independence, is a state people reach when they are free to think and do whatever they please.

Extended Definitions

Extended definitions The meaning of an idea or word that has components of both informal and formal definitions, but is presented in a longer, paragraph format. generally have components of both informal and formal definitions. However, as the name suggests, the author uses a number of other techniques to define a word, concept, or phrase A set of words that express an idea. A phrase may or may not form a complete sentence. , including the following:

  • Listing and describing the parts: identifying smaller, more familiar pieces of an idea to point to the definition of the bigger concept.
  • Etymology The study of the origins of words; where the meaning of a word comes from. : sharing a word's origin.
  • Examples or anecdotes A brief, interesting story that writers often use to demonstrate a point within a work. : telling a story or example that illustrates the term.
  • Negation: defining a term by explaining what the concept is not.
  • Evoking the senses: using a word that creates a picture in the reader's mind so that the reader might relate through memory of sound, sight, touch, hearing, or smell.
  • Environment or sector: pointing out how and where something is used.
  • Ramifications: showing how the term or concept affects people or objects.
  • Historical references: showing how a word has been defined throughout history.

Extended definition example:

To our colonial forefathers, freedom meant having a voice in their government. ( h istorical reference) The Revolutionary War was a last resort against an empire that continued to tax its colonists without the representation of the colonists in Parliament. Since the United States won the right to rule itself, our country has been referred to as "the land of the free and the home of the brave." ( example ) True freedom means the ability to think, feel, say, or act however one chooses. ( l isting parts) It is a state where the bars of bondage do not exist. ( n egation) Unfortunately, the widening gap between the haves and have nots means that some are now shackled by their lack of education. ( e voke the senses: shackled) Americans can attain real freedom when everyone has the same educational opportunities.

It is important for you to be able to understand new terms and ideas that you encounter both in your college and professional lives. While you may be able to understand an entire text without knowing what one or two words in the text are, you could also be easily confused. For instance, if you read an article about whaling that uses the word "moratorium" and you think that a "moratorium" is a special type of aquarium, your understanding of the entire passage will be hindered since "moratorium" actually refers to the freezing, pausing, or halting of something, in this case the practice of whaling. Imagine if you then used the word "aquarium" when you should have used "moratorium." You run the risk of embarrassment if you use it with someone who knows the actual meaning; even worse, you could pass on incorrect information to another individual who would then be equally misinformed. Both situations can be avoided when you are able to identify the correct definition.

Read the following definitions; notice whether each one is a formal, informal, or extended definition. The term being defined appears as bold.

  • When my friend Katrice was young, she disobeyed her parents near Christmas. I don't recall the crime, but I do recall the consequence. When she woke up on Christmas morning, there were no presents for her under the tree from "Santa Claus." To make matters worse, she had to watch her younger siblings open all their presents in front of her. Santa did not come for Katrice that year because she was on the "naughty list." While her parents may well still stand by their decision, Katrice maintains that she was the victim of cruel and unusual punishment . I tend to agree, as it seems that the consequences were too drastic for any child, no matter how naughty she may have been.

Extended definition

  • Many prisoners of war have been victims of cruel and unusual punishment ; people were shocked and horrified when they learned of the water torture, temperature extremes, and sensory overloads that the prisoners were subjected to.

Informal definition

  • The Cornell University Law School website defines cruel and unusual punishment (noun) as "punishment that is extremely excessive in relation to the crime, shocking to ordinary sensibilities, or equivalent to torture."

Formal definition

Read the following definitions, then identify whether each one is a formal, informal, or extended definition. The term being defined has been bolded.

Sample Answer

When I read an essay where I am unfamiliar with most of the subject matter, it is very hard for me to write about or take a test on it. Now that I can better identify the meanings of unfamiliar ideas, I think that will help me in my reading, writing, and test-taking.

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Definition Essay

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Definition Essay - Writing Guide, Examples and Tips

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Published on: Oct 9, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 31, 2024

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Many students struggle with writing definition essays due to a lack of clarity and precision in their explanations.

This obstructs them from effectively conveying the essence of the terms or concepts they are tasked with defining. Consequently, the essays may lack coherence, leaving readers confused and preventing them from grasping the intended meaning.

But don’t worry!

In this guide, we will delve into effective techniques and step-by-step approaches to help students craft an engaging definition essay.

Continue reading to learn the correct formation of a definition essay. 

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What is a Definition Essay?

Just as the name suggests, a definition essay defines and explains a term or a concept. Unlike a narrative essay, the purpose of writing this essay is only to inform the readers.

Writing this essay type can be deceivingly tricky. Some terms, concepts, and objects have concrete definitions when explained. In contrast others are solely based on the writer’s understanding and point of view.

A definition essay requires a writer to use different approaches when discussing a term. These approaches are the following:

  • Denotation - It is when you provide a literal or academic definition of the term.
  • Connotation - It is when the writer provides an implied meaning or definition of the term.
  • Enumeration - For this approach, a list is employed to define a term or a concept.
  • Analogy - It is a technique in which something is defined by implementing a comparison.
  • Negation - It is when you define a term by stating what it is not.

A single or combination of approaches can be used in the essay. 

Definition Essay Types

There are several types of definition essays that you may be asked to write, depending on the purpose and scope of the assignment. 

In this section, we will discuss some of the most common types of definition essays.

Descriptive Definition Essay 

This type of essay provides a detailed description of a term or concept, emphasizing its key features and characteristics. 

The goal of a descriptive definition essay is to help readers understand the term or concept in a more profound way.

Stipulative Definition Essay 

In a stipulative definition essay, the writer provides a unique definition of a term or concept. This type of essay is often used in academic settings to define a term in a particular field of study. 

The goal of a stipulative definition essay is to provide a precise and clear definition that is specific to the context of the essay.

Analytical Definition Essay 

This compare and contrast essay type involves analyzing a term or concept in-depth. Breaking it down into its component parts, and examining how they relate to each other. 

The goal of an analytical definition essay is to provide a more nuanced and detailed understanding of the term or concept being discussed.

Persuasive Definition Essay 

A persuasive definition essay is an argumentative essay that aims to persuade readers to accept a particular definition of a term or concept.

The writer presents their argument for the definition and uses evidence and examples to support their position.

Explanatory Definition Essay 

An explanatory definition essay is a type of expository essay . It aims to explain a complex term or concept in a way that is easy to understand for the reader. 

The writer breaks down the term or concept into simpler parts and provides examples and analogies to help readers understand it better.

Extended Definition Essay 

An extended definition essay goes beyond the definition of a word or concept and provides a more in-depth analysis and explanation. 

The goal of an extended definition essay is to provide a comprehensive understanding of a term, concept, or idea. This includes its history, origins, and cultural significance. 

How to Write a Definition Essay?

Writing a definition essay is simple if you know the correct procedure. This essay, like all the other formal pieces of documents, requires substantial planning and effective execution.

The following are the steps involved in writing a definition essay effectively:

Instead of choosing a term that has a concrete definition available, choose a word that is complicated . Complex expressions have abstract concepts that require a writer to explore deeper. Moreover, make sure that different people perceive the term selected differently. 

Once you have a word to draft your definition essay for, read the dictionary. These academic definitions are important as you can use them to compare your understanding with the official concept.

Drafting a definition essay is about stating the dictionary meaning and your explanation of the concept. So the writer needs to have some information about the term.

In addition to this, when exploring the term, make sure to check the term’s origin. The history of the word can make you discuss it in a better way.

Coming up with an exciting title for your essay is important. The essay topic will be the first thing that your readers will witness, so it should be catchy.

Creatively draft an essay topic that reflects meaning. In addition to this, the usage of the term in the title should be correctly done. The readers should get an idea of what the essay is about and what to expect from the document.

Now that you have a topic in hand, it is time to gather some relevant information. A definition essay is more than a mere explanation of the term. It represents the writer’s perception of the chosen term and the topic.

So having only personal opinions will not be enough to defend your point. Deeply research and gather information by consulting credible sources.

The gathered information needs to be organized to be understandable. The raw data needs to be arranged to give a structure to the content.

Here's a generic outline for a definition essay:

Are you searching for an in-depth guide on crafting a well-structured definition essay?Check out this definition essay outline blog!

6. Write the First Draft

Drafting each section correctly is a daunting task. Understanding what or what not to include in these sections requires a writer to choose wisely.

The start of your essay matters a lot. If it is on point and attractive, the readers will want to read the text. As the first part of the essay is the introduction , it is considered the first impression of your essay.

To write your definition essay introduction effectively, include the following information:

  • Start your essay with a catchy hook statement that is related to the topic and the term chosen.
  • State the generally known definition of the term. If the word chosen has multiple interpretations, select the most common one.
  • Provide background information precisely. Determine the origin of the term and other relevant information.
  • Shed light on the other unconventional concepts and definitions related to the term.
  • Decide on the side or stance you want to pick in your essay and develop a thesis statement .

After briefly introducing the topic, fully explain the concept in the body section . Provide all the details and evidence that will support the thesis statement. To draft this section professionally, add the following information:

  • A detailed explanation of the history of the term.
  • Analysis of the dictionary meaning and usage of the term.
  • A comparison and reflection of personal understanding and the researched data on the concept.

Once all the details are shared, give closure to your discussion. The last paragraph of the definition essay is the conclusion . The writer provides insight into the topic as a conclusion.

The concluding paragraphs include the following material:

  • Summary of the important points.
  • Restated thesis statement.
  • A final verdict on the topic.

7. Proofread and Edit

Although the writing process ends with the concluding paragraph, there is an additional step. It is important to proofread the essay once you are done writing. Proofread and revise your document a couple of times to make sure everything is perfect.

Before submitting your assignment, make edits, and fix all mistakes and errors.

If you want to learn more about how to write a definition essay, here is a video guide for you!

Definition Essay Structure 

The structure of a definition essay is similar to that of any other academic essay. It should consist of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

However, the focus of a definition essay is on defining and explaining a particular term or concept. 

In this section, we will discuss the structure of a definition essay in detail.


Get the idea of writing an introduction for a definition essay with this example:

Body Paragraphs

Here is an example of how to craft your definition essay body paragraph:

Types of the Term/Concept 

If applicable, the writer may want to include a section that discusses the different types or categories of the term or concept being defined. 

This section should explain the similarities and differences between the types, using examples and anecdotes to illustrate the points.

Examples of the Term/Concept in Action 

The writer should also include real-life examples of the term or concept being defined in action. 

This will help the reader better understand the term or concept in context and how it is used in everyday life.


This example will help you writing a conclusion fo you essay:

Definition Essay Examples

It is important to go through some examples and samples before writing an essay. This is to understand the writing process and structure of the assigned task well.

Following are some examples of definition essays to give our students a better idea of the concept. 

Understanding the Definition Essay

Definition Essay Example

Definition Essay About Friendship

Definition Essay About Love

Family Definition Essay

Success Definition Essay

Beauty Definition Essay

Definition Essay Topics

Selecting the right topic is challenging for other essay types. However, picking a suitable theme for a definition essay is equally tricky yet important. Pick an interesting subject to ensure maximum readership.

If you are facing writer’s block, here is a list of some great definition essay topics for your help. Choose from the list below and draft a compelling essay.

  • Authenticity
  • Sustainability
  • Mindfulness

Here are some more extended definition essay topics:

  • Social media addiction
  • Ethical implications of gene editing
  • Personalized learning in the digital age
  • Ecosystem services
  • Cultural assimilation versus cultural preservation
  • Sustainable fashion
  • Gender equality in the workplace
  • Financial literacy and its impact on personal finance
  • Ethical considerations in artificial intelligence
  • Welfare state and social safety nets

Need more topics? Check out this definition essay topics blog!

Definition Essay Writing Tips

Knowing the correct writing procedure is not enough if you are not aware of the essay’s small technicalities. To help students write a definition essay effortlessly, expert writers of have gathered some simple tips.

These easy tips will make your assignment writing phase easy.

  • Choose an exciting yet informative topic for your essay.
  • When selecting the word, concept, or term for your essay, make sure you have the knowledge.
  • When consulting a dictionary for the definition, provide proper referencing as there are many choices available.
  • To make the essay informative and credible, always provide the origin and history of the term.
  • Highlight different meanings and interpretations of the term.
  • Discuss the transitions and evolution in the meaning of the term in any.
  • Provide your perspective and point of view on the chosen term.

Following these tips will guarantee you better grades in your academics.

By following the step-by-step approach explained in this guide, you will acquire the skills to craft an outstanding essay. 

Struggling with the thought, " write my college essay for m e"? Look no further.

Our dedicated definition essay writing service is here to craft the perfect essay that meets your academic needs.

For an extra edge, explore our AI essay writer , a tool designed to refine your essays to perfection. 

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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    Here's what you need to include: Start with something attention-grabbing, like a thought-provoking question or an interesting fact. Provide a brief overview of the topic and why it's important to define it. Clearly state the term you're defining and your interpretation of it. Definition Essay Body Paragraphs.

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