In any written, academic undertaking, scholarly tone is of utmost importance. Tone, rigor, sources, and precision are some of the clear indicators that distinguish scholarly from popular writing. But while scholarly tone may be easy to recognize, it can be more 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, formality does not equal complex language per se. On the contrary, while formality is important for the professionalism of scholarly work, it is efficiency of 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).

Dissertations Should Be Objective but Not Dry

When an undergraduate first comes across any scholarly writing, she or he probably labels it ‘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 blunt, its statements—and their backing evidence—become more apparent. This helps readers to both identify and evaluate the information and evidence presented in a dissertation or academic article. In other words, one of the most important reasons for scholarly tone is the clear communication of information.


Popular articles are written for the general public, while scholarly articles are written for scholars. Though it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that scholarly tone is professional because writing a dissertation or academic article is a professional undertaking. Scholarly tone condenses writing and addresses its audience bluntly because it is used in writing generated for experts, by experts. Scholarly tone is a way to bring both professionalism and efficiency to a form of communication that has been created for use between experts.

Getting Dissertation Help

Scholarly tone is not intentionally dry, nor is it about using big or complex words. It is professional, 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 dissertation, or you would like a second opinion on any aspect of your dissertation, 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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