What is the formal way to say a bit in an essay, for example, in the sentence beginning “It is a bit different from”?

Is a little formal enough?

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    "Somewhat", "slightly", and any number of others. Or "insignificantly" if that's what you're after. But depending on the domain the only formal thing to do might be to specify exactly how it was different, or by how much. "A bit" is weasel wording, and so is any rewording of it. – RegDwigнt May 5 '14 at 13:33
  • I always find it difficult to find a formal way of saying a word. Do you think there is a website which I solve my problem of transferring informal style to formal for single words or phrases? I know it it impossible to do it for sentences. thanks again – jing May 5 '14 at 13:41
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    There can be no such website. Only a human can do that. And not even every human can, as these things depend on the domain in question. A business letter has a different concept of formality from a business email, and both have nothing to do with math papers, say. And math papers in turn don't have to be the same as biology papers. Your best bet is to read papers in your own field, look at what your peers do, ask your supervisor. That kind of things. – RegDwigнt May 5 '14 at 13:45
  • I agree with your suggestions about reading more papers. but my supervisor does not have such time to answer all my language questions,hahaha. Especially when I am in bad need of a word. So I came here. Thanks for your help :-) – jing May 5 '14 at 13:55
  • Hmm... You can also defer from locking into that phrase by starting ahead of it at the prior sentence: (1) "X was Blue. It was infinitesimally different from Y" (2) "X was like Y, except ever so lighter in shade, as churning surf brightens the tide... (or whatever). I get out of jams like that (or repeating adverb/adjectives) by backing out of the tight alley and taking a different route entirely by changing the previous sentence. I say this because it looks like you are refining a definition/description of the prior sentence. Close? :) – Compassionate Narcissist Jul 23 '14 at 3:24

RegDwight recommends Slightly, which is probably the best one-word choice here:

slight [slahyt]

adjective, slight·er, slight·est.

1. small in amount, degree, etc.: a slight increase; a slight odor.

However, if you want to sound more formal, you could use:


marginal (ˈmɑːdʒɪn ə l)


  1. not considered central or important; insignificant, minor, small
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Since writers may use "a bit" to refer to changes ranging from "a tiny bit" (that is, "almost not at all") to "a fair bit" (that is, "significantly but not 'a lot'"), you have to select the most suitable word from a continuum of synonyms that range in magnitude from minuscule to substantial. Here is one possible range of words that you might use to replace "a bit," from least to most in magnitude:

insignificantly, imperceptibly, negligibly, nominally, minimally, scarcely, marginally, slightly, perceptibly, detectably, measurably, discernibly, modestly, meaningfully, incrementally, significantly

Since words, unlike numbers, aren't periodic and equidistant, they don't fall easily along a continuum; and reasonable minds will surely disagree about what falls where—and whether, for example, "quite a bit" belongs in the "a bit" portion of the continuum or in the "a lot" portion. But at least the example range above may give you an idea of how many choices you have in describing a small change in relatively formal words.

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If you are quoting differing versions of text, the formal term is variorum

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  • I'm not sure this even qualifies as a comment. – Edwin Ashworth May 5 '14 at 14:46

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