Bonnie Waltz, Deanna Mayers, Tracy Rains
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
9, 10, 11, 12
  • English
  • Formal Style
  • Iowa Video
  • Research Writing
  • iowa-video
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

    Are You Being Formal Enough?

    Are You Being Formal Enough?


    In this seminar, you will learn how writers use a formal style of writing when reporting about research. You will also learn about the difference between subjective and objective reporting and how writers must be precise in the research process. The bottom line is writers must know the correct words, the placement of those words, and the appropriate “level” of those words when writing in a research setting.


    Write with an awareness of the stylistic aspects of composition. • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic. • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms of the discipline in which they are writing.

    Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes and audiences.

    Demonstrate a grade-appropriate command of the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.


    Introductory warm-up activity.

    To begin the journey into formal voice, complete this chart. You will practice moving from informal to formal voice, something you might already do when editing your writing.


    Read or watch the resources to learn about this concept, then do the practice activity.


    Read the helpful tips on this website regarding formal voice in writing. As you read each of the seven helpful tips, think about your own writing and if you already practice these strategies or if these are new tips. List any questions you might have that could be answered during the rest of the seminar.

    Watch this video for tips about research writing, including word position, voice, word choice, etc. The four “must-do’s” in this video will help to make your writing sound more formal, which is necessary when writing in the world of research. Be sure to pause the video along the way and jot notes to yourself for better recollection.

    Use this Quizlet to study terms associated with formal voice in research writing. These terms will help you improve your writing in the world of research. They will also come in handy in other types of writing.



    Discuss your ideas / opinions / understandings.


    Discuss the following questions/prompts with a classmate, a teacher, or someone else who will challenge you to think more about the ideas being discussed.

    • What’s the difference between formal voice and informal voice?

    • Why is it necessary to use formal voice in research writing?

    • How does being objective in research writing increase the writer’s credibility?

    • Explain how a research writer uses diction to achieve a particular tone.

    • Why is precise writing preferred when reporting about research?


    Now it is time to self-check how much you have learned about the this topic.  If you do not know as much as you thought, go back to the “Explore” section of this seminar and reread, rewatch, or redo the activities listed.  See your facilitator if you have questions.

    Click here to take the quiz online. You do not have to log into the quiz site in order to take this quiz. If a window pops up asking you to sign up for the quiz site, just close the sign-up window and start your quiz.


    This is a task or project where you can show what you know.


    Research news sites and find an article that deals with a local issue. Then write a letter (or an email) to someone, letting them know about that situation. A lengthy paragraph will do. When finished, reread your letter, using error analysis to find weak words or phrases and change them to reflect a more formal voice. Remember to use precise wording and remain objective in your letter. Follow this rubric.


    Complete this wrap-up activity where you reflect on your learning  

    Discuss your learning with someone, including what your memorable experiences in this seminar. Which terms seem most difficult to grasp? Were any of the ideas in this seminar familiar to you based on previous experiences? How will you apply your learning in this seminar to a real-world experience (and an academic experience)? On a scale of 1 - 10, how comfortable are you with formal voice in writing? Explain your rating.