Can I use the phrase "by the way" in a formal essay? The essay is almost a tech paper (not an article — rather a university paper).
Is that literary language or slang?
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Yes, by the way is likely out of place in formal writing. It sounds a little too chatty. In formal writing you put "by-the-way" information or material in a footnote at the bottom of the page or at the end of the paper. You then explain in the footnote, in however much detail is appropriate, what was not strictly relevant to the flow of your paper. A footnote functions at times like a sidebar in a newspaper or magazine.