In any written, academic undertaking, the use of scholarly tone is required. Tone, rigor, sources, and precision are some of the indicators that distinguish scholarly from popular writing. While scholarly tone may be easy to recognise, it can be difficult to define. What exactly is scholarly tone and why is it important?

Formality Is about Efficiency

One of the most blatantly distinctive marks of scholarly writing is the formality of its tone. However, a formal tone is not equivalent to the use of complex or verbose language. On the contrary, while formality is important for the professionalism of scholarly work, it is the efficiency of the communication that drives the seeming rigidity of its tone. Even the American Psychological Association prefaces their Publication Manual’s section on style by emphasizing that the “prime objective…is clear communication” (2010, Section 3).

Academic Writing Should Be Objective but Not Dry

When one first comes across any scholarly writing, it may appear slightly ‘dry.’ The purpose of this less personal and colorful element to scholarly tone is not to bore or be purposefully erudite, but to maintain objectivity. When writing is streamlined to be less flashy and more precise, its message—and supporting evidence—is clearer. This helps readers to both identify and objectively evaluate the information and evidence presented in a dissertation or academic article. In other words, one of the most important reasons for the use of scholarly tone is the clear communication of information.


Popular articles are written for the general public, while academic articles and theses are primarily written for other scholars. Though it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that the use of scholarly tone may feel overly professional, but writing a dissertation or academic article is a professional undertaking. The use of a scholarly tone ensures writing is succinct and lacks superfluous statements, as it is meant to concisely share information between professionals.

Getting Help with Your Thesis

Scholarly tone is not intentionally dry, nor is it about using complex words or phrases. It is streamlined for efficiency, and designed for an audience of experts. Effective use and application of scholarly tone, however, is not always easy. If you have doubts or questions about the tone of your thesis, or you would like a second opinion on any aspect of your thesis, contact us for a free consultation and editing assistance.


American Psychological Association (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Scholarly Voice (n.d.). Walden University Writing Center. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from

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