Formal diction is somewhat self explanatory as the word “formal” is in the title. It is used when the setting is sophisticated and professional. This could be anything from a speech, to a paper submitted to a research journal. The speaker is usually striving to sound smart. Often times the vocabulary used in a poem with formal diction is complicated, elevated words and phrases.
This form of writing, especially in poetry, was much more popular in the past than it is today. The Modernist movement pushed back against the stodgy, formality of this kind of writing. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t beautiful, emotional examples to consider.
Take a look at these lines as an example:
If ever two were one, then surely we.
ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.