I am starting to write a research article in computer science area. While writing, I am using very formal terminologies and sentences which occasionally get quite boring. Sometimes, funny side of my personality pops up, and I end up writing some informal sentences which I have to delete later, picturing a very serious looking reviewer reading my paper draft. I always have this idea that a research article should be narrated like a story (keeping the facts and assumptions valid) to make it interested for the readers and stories often get quite informal. Don't they?

So the question is: How informal can I go in writing a research article even if my assumptions are correct? Do reviewers mind if the language used is not quite formal?

  • 4
    I don't quite know what you mean by informal. But your paper has one goal: to communicate the results of your research effectively. Amusing the reader is not your goal.
    – user37208
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 1:30
  • yes that's fine you edited it. @user37208 You know the sort of language we use in everyday life. If the article fulfills its purpose of showcasing my research effectively then what is the harm if it also amuses the readers to go along with it ;)
    – awatan
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 1:56
  • 1
    @JewelThief The harm is that unless you make the most well-placed, universally funny, universally tasteful joke ever composed, someone somewhere will be rubbed the wrong way by it, and will be less likely to take your paper seriously.
    – user37208
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 2:08
  • You get to write an amusing blog alongside the serious stuff. / Find an author you like, who manages to get a bit of personality, maybe a bit of warmth and humor, into his or her scientific writing, and use that as a measuring stick. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 3:07
  • 2
    For informative humour in scientific texts, see the book "Numerical Recipes". I believe that a humorous streak is legitimate as long as it contributes to getting the message across, but in writing it needs to be done very carefully, and without outright jokes. You do not know the audience, and that means - take care. When I know my audience in a talk, I permit myself more humour than when I do not do. More important is that it needs to be informative. If it helps understanding, disarm/neutralize it as far as possible to avoid offending people. If it creates a side-track, leave it out. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


...funny side of my personality pops up...which I have to delete...

Good. Keep it that way. There is absolutely no place for jokes in academic writing*. This includes funny puns or things like that. The purpose of a research paper is to communicate science. Unless you are researching humour, do not do it.

What good can come out of it? Do you envision someone thinking "oh, that's a funny guy! I should hire him!"? No. This does not happen.

Jokes and what is considered good humour changes with time. Things you find funny now were not funny 10 years ago, and vice versa. Once this gets in a paper, this is forever in the scientific record. No matter how funny or witty you think you are now, you will most probably look back regretting that you did. This is also a cultural thing: things that are funny in Europe may not be funny (or even offensive) in Asia. There is also a language barrier. Some people may not even realise it's a joke and try to understand it in the context of the paper. This can only lead to unnecessary confusion.

As a reader I want to understand the science, and only the science. If you want to be funny, open a Twitter account, write a blog, post it on Facebook, put it on a poster and hang it on your office door.

*Humour is acceptable if you're a distinguished professor that made abundant contributions to science and you're writing an opinion paper. You'd have to be over 70 years old for that. And even then, use it sparingly.

Also related:

  • +1 for Things you find funny now were not funny 10 years ago, and vice versa. It didn't cross my mind before.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 16:13
  • The personality of the writer showing through the prose is generally fine if it is feels natural and normal and follows expected forms in all other aspects. It is an affectation to 'include' it on purpose and the author tends to look not like a somewhat interesting idiosyncratic guy so much as potentially a piece of work who is kind of 'full of himself'..
    – Carol
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 16:22
  • Thanks for such nice advise. This forum helps me a lot in putting things straight.
    – awatan
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 4:19

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