by Liz Walter
I have written previously about using phrasal verbs to avoid over-formal language, but what happens when you need to write in a formal style, for instance in an academic essay, a report, or a formal letter? Although we often think of phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs as being rather informal, the majority are in fact neutral and there are a good many that are positively formal. This blog post looks at a small selection of the many multi-word verbs which would be completely appropriate in formal or academic writing.
If you only learn one phrasal verb to use in formal writing, my recommendation would be carry out. This is extremely common and sounds much more impressive than ‘do’:
Scientists have carried out experiments/tests/research on …
We have carried out a thorough review of …
Other simple verbs could also be replaced in formal writing:
The railways brought about huge change. (= caused)
The discovery came about by chance. (= happened)
Unusually cold weather accounted for the rise in fuel use. (= explained)
It is usual to begin an essay or report with an introduction explaining its purpose and structure. For example:
This report consists of three main parts.
The final section is devoted to a discussion of …
In academic writing, it is usually necessary to refer to other sources:
As Brown points out …
Smith puts forward the theory that …
Her letters allude to the fact that …
This poem was originally attributed to Shakespeare.
It is also common to talk about the evidence you have to support the conclusions of your writing:
These results bear out earlier findings.
All the evidence points towards human error.
These recommendations are based on the results of extensive research.
Their team arrived at the same conclusions.
You may also wish to describe methods of research:
The questionnaires were followed up with interviews.
We had to factor in the effect of other treatments.
Eventually, the age range was narrowed down.
All the experiments were subjected to strict controls.
The team was then able to dispense with paper records.
The new procedures were phased in gradually.