Top List of Formal Words for Academic Writing: 101 Words To Elevate Your Writing Style

Academic writing requires a higher level of communication. Check out our list of formal words for academic writing to write on a more elevated level.

In the world of academic writing, formality is a necessity. Words that are too casual, contractions, and sometimes even second-person writing go against the rules and regulations of popular style guides like the MLA and the APA. This list of formal words for academic writing can help writers start writing more professionally.

What Are Formal Words?

Top list of formal words for academic writing
“Observe” is a great formal word you can use in your academic writing

Formal words for MLA academic writing are the words writers place into their writing to make it sound like they are well-educated. These words replace commonplace words like “happy” or “buy,” giving the academic paper an elevated feel without changing the meaning of the writing.


Formal Adjectives for Academic Writing

Adjectives are words that describe nouns and pronouns. They have their place in academic writing, but writers do need to choose elevated descriptive words.

1. Acceptable

An acceptable outcome would be for the students to earn a passing grade on the exam.

2. Adequate

If the experiment uses an adequate amount of liquid, the result will be a polymer.

3. Amiable

Julius Caesar thought he had an amiable relationship with Brutus, but he was proven wrong by his assassination at his former friend’s hand.

4. Beneficial

A mutually beneficial arrangement between two living organisms is called symbiosis.

5. Circular

Circular reasoning never reaches a conclusion.

6. Complicated

The complicated equation was readily solved by the mathematician. 

7. Considerable

considerable discount is available to veterans.

8. Contaminated

The contaminated solution damaged the experiment.

9. Controversial

controversial political agreement started the war.

10. Correct

The correct answer is 85.

11. Difficult

Creating alignment between the two chemicals was a difficult challenge.

12. Effortless

The ballerina makes years of work, and challenging movements look effortless.

13. Exceptional

The outcome was exceptional.

14. Exploitative

Exploitative tax laws are often the cause of inflation.

15. Intrinsic

A gem’s intrinsic value is based on what society deems its worth. 

16. Negative

Negative emotions can add to feelings of stress and anxiety. 

17. Numerous

Numerous complaints against the new tax law caused lawmakers to reconsider their position.

18. Responsible

The responsible party will pay for the activities chosen.

19. Sufficient

Add a sufficient amount of salt to generate the chemical change.

20. Transparent

The chemical reaction created a transparent crystalline structure nearly as clear as glass.

21. Vacant

The child’s vacant expression showed a lack of emotions.

Formal Nouns for Academic Writing

Some nouns are too plain and indistinct for academic writing, but they often have synonyms that can elevate the overall piece. Consider these nouns that work well for academic works.

22. Acquisition

The acquisition of the competitor created a monopoly in the store’s small town.

23. Analysis

Upon further analysis, the experiment was a success.

24. Aspect

All aspects of his personality were under scrutiny.

25. Challenge

The challenge of creating a unified community with different ethnic groups keeps the committee in deliberation.

26. Damage

Damage from the storm cost the community over $2 million.

27. Deficiency

An iron deficiency can cause feelings of exhaustion and lethargy.

28. Differentiation

Differentiation in the classroom can help students excel.

29. Equipment

Keeping equipment clean is an important part of scientific experimentation.

30. Experiment

The test subjects signed their permission to participate in the psychology experiment.

31. Incorrect

An incorrect solution to the first equation will derail the entire system of equations.

32. Inevitable

The inevitable outcome of parenting is sending children to live on their own.

33. Initiative

When the students take the initiativeprojects in the classroom get done.

34. Occupation

A college degree is not required for every occupation.

35. Opportunity

When opportunity comes knocking, motivated people take action.

36. Presumption

Making the wrong presumption will lead to the wrong conclusion.

37. Subject

The subject of the experiment responded negatively to the stimuli.

38. Validity

The validity of the research became questionable when the writer’s bias showed through.

Formal Adverbs for Academic Writing

Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Academic writing uses adverbs carefully to avoid having too many, but if your piece requires some, here are the ones you’ll want to choose.

39. According

According to the instructions, the first step is thoroughly cleaning the surface.

40. Besides

Besides the obvious plot line, a closer analysis of The Raven shows a deeper meaning of the famous poem.

41. Comparably

The crops were comparably priced, so the farmer chose the one that would grow better in his area.

42. Initially

When they initially chose the house, they were unaware it sat on a floodplain.

43. Intermittently

The rain intermittently impacted their ability to play baseball.

44. Notably

All non-essential businesses, most notably restaurants, and professional service providers, suffered impacts from COVID-19 closures.

45. Perhaps

Perhaps the most apparent reason for the choice of play for the spring performance was Shakespeare’s ongoing appeal.

46. Primarily

The aim of the new regulation is primarily to help veterans access their benefits.

47. Principally

Walter Frost was principally a poet.

48. Similarly

The two chemicals reacted similarly, except one generating heat and the other staying at the same temperature.

49. Subsequently

The increased taxes subsequently made daily life harder for the peasants.

Formal Verbs for Academic Writing

Formal verbs for academic writing
“Demonstrate” is one example of a formal verb

Even verbs can be too casual. As you write, consider if one of these more formal verbs would fit your piece.

50. Appear

No differences between the two houses appear to be major.

51. Ascend

The politician will ascend to the podium, calm the crowd, and deliver his speech.

52. Assist

The police officer will assist in stopping traffic so the parade can follow its intended path.

53. Cancel

To cancel the agreement, both parties must sign.

54. Cease

The mixture will cease to bubble and fizz, and then the catalyst gets added.

55. Criticize

To criticize the dictator is to break the law in a tyrannical government.

56. Commence

The teams will commence playing after the coin toss.

57. Conceive

When the parents conceive a new idea, the attorneys will meet to discuss it.

58. Considering

For those considering adoption through the foster care system, a long list of important considerations must be made.

59. Construct

The physics class will construct bamboo stick bridges, then test their effectiveness at holding weight.

60. Decrease

Decrease the amount of acid in the solution to make it safe to touch.

61. Demonstrate

To demonstrate proper knowledge of the subject matter, students will write an essay on the topic.

62. Discard

After the reaction, discard the remaining solution safely to avoid damage to the chemistry lab.

63. Discover

The goal of the research project is to discover the most effective teaching strategy for students with ADHD.

64. Distribute

The IRS will distribute the tax rebate checks this month.

65. Donate

Choosing to donate to a charity can help people lower their tax burden.

66. Elude

Though the answer continues to elude scientists as to why the number of honey bees continues to dwindle.

67. Establish

After they establish safety for the refugees, the government will work on immigration paperwork.

68. Evade

The criminal continues to evade capture by the authorities.

69. Fabricate

The small workshop was not large enough to fabricate a boat.

70. Fail

The experiment will fail if the temperatures are not kept at a constant rate.

71. Increase

A vehicle will increase its speed more quickly if it is accelerating on a decline.

72. Inform

The petitioner wishes to inform the court of the change in income.

73. Introduce

The couple will introduce their parents at the wedding reception and provide a toast to each one.

74. Investigate

To investigate the crime thoroughly, the inspector asked for witness statements from everyone in the area.

75. Invite

To invite someone to dinner, use a formal invitation, not an electronic one.

76. Improve

The crime situation did not improve, even with more regulations.

77. Manage

When someone cannot manage their own problems, how can they expect to manage the problems of others?

78. Observe

To observe the changes in material, scientists will need to experiment in a well-lit room.

79. Omit

The recipe will fail to rise if the baker omits the baking soda.

80. Permit

If owners permit their dogs to roam the neighborhood without a leash, chances are high that the animals will be struck by a vehicle.

81. Persuade

The debate team tried to persuade the audience to think differently about their long-held beliefs.

82. Present

It’s important to live in the present and not dwell on the past.

83. Proceed

Pedestrians should proceed with caution through the busy intersection.

84. Postpone

The bride and groom decided to postpone their wedding date so more people could attend.

85. Purchase

A house is a major purchase that requires careful thought and consideration.

86. Receive

Receive gifts with grace and thankfulness.

87. Regard

When athletes regard their coach with respect, the game’s outcome is usually better.

88. Seek

Seek the right advice before making any legal decisions.

89. Select

The scholarship committee will select winners based on academic ability and community service.

90. Terminate

To terminate the contract, read the terms carefully and follow the necessary steps and protocols.

91. Undermine

The senators tried to undermine the work of the committee because they did not agree to the proposed legislation.

92. Verify

Always verify sources on academic papers to ensure they are authoritative.

Transition Words for Academic Writing

Academic writing needs transition words, often at the start of a paragraph or the concluding sentence of a paragraph, to guide the reader to the next idea – these words work well.

93. Additionally

Additionally, the experiment proved the thesis to be true.

94. Alternatively

Alternatively, the parents could agree to a parenting agreement outside of court.

95. Firstly

Firstly, the research study used a double-blind method to ensure little bias in the results.

96. Furthermore

Furthermore, additional research is necessary to come to a conclusion.

97. However

However, one positive outcome was weight loss for all study participants, regardless of the placebo.

98. Importantly

Most importantly, the best interests of the children are at stake.

99. Moreover

Moreover, taking additional time to decide puts the family at risk.

100. Therefore

Researchers concluded, therefore, that the asbestos was a danger to the school children.

101. Whereas

The defendant had no proof, whereas the plaintiff had plenty.

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of unusual words with beautiful meanings!

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.