I would like to know how to say ¨is a good idea¨ in a formal setting.

After reading your comments, I add some context: I have quoted a sentence from a soil scientist in a paper that I have submitted to a well-known International Journal. Sentence:

Increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) is a good idea in any situation to generate or maintain healthy soils.
Lehmann, J., 2009. Biological carbon sequestration must and can be a win-win approach. An editorial comment 459–463. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-009-9695-y

A peer reviewer of my manuscript from that International Journal, in his suggested corrections, wrote:

‘Please, substitute “is a good idea”. You should use formal English’.

  • 2
    Why do you think that is not formal enough? What is the context?
    – user184130
    May 20, 2018 at 16:19
  • 2
    holds promise is a particularly common (albeit cliched) usage in this area. May 20, 2018 at 16:23
  • 2
    FF's suggestion is an excellent proposal. May 20, 2018 at 16:24
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth's comment shows promise! May 20, 2018 at 16:25
  • 2
    The context you provide in the edited form of your question suggests that something like "is a sound practice" or even "is beneficial" might be a suitable replacement for "is a good idea."
    – Sven Yargs
    May 23, 2018 at 6:18

5 Answers 5


If I understand correctly, you are you are quoting the following sentence from a previously published paper written by someone else:

Increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) is a good idea in any situation to generate or maintain healthy soils.

If that is the case, then you cannot change someone else's words because a reviewer of your paper doesn't like it. You could make it an indirect quote, but I think that rather defeats the point of quoting it. I think you should ignore this "correction" (and explain why, if necessary/possible).

  • This, of course, pre-empts anything else that could be said in response to this question. It seems that the heading of the question has caused all other answerers to either overlook or misunderstand this aspect of it.
    – jsw29
    May 24, 2018 at 6:12

I agree that the word choice is not ideal. Two words in particular come to mind:

  1. advisable: fit to be advised or done; prudent

    Increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) is advisable in any situation to generate or maintain healthy soils.

(Note: prudent is also a good choice.)

  1. recommended:

    Increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) is recommended in any situation to generate or maintain healthy soils.

  • You beat me to it by few minutes. +1 for advisable. May 23, 2018 at 16:33

In a “formal” setting, a lot depends on the nature of the formality and the people being addressed. I’m guessing that the idea is good to you, but that you’re looking for a word that appeals to a specific audience you have in mind. Here are some guesses about what might work for an audience focused on intellectual quality:

  • a reasonable idea,
  • an inspired idea,
  • a clever idea.

On the other hand, some audiences might be more interested in the idea’s emotional appeal, and prefer something along the following lines:

  • an attractive idea,
  • a winning idea,
  • a compelling idea.

The key, though, is to use the terms of reference set by your audience. Doctors are different from city planners. Bankers and engineers have different world views and different ideas of “good”. Best of luck in your search for le mot juste.


splendid idea

Very good or satisfying; praiseworthy:

  • 3
    A phrase like "holds/has promise" sounds like weasel words to say "nice try but not really good enough". Certainly not as positive as "good/splendid idea".
    – user184130
    May 20, 2018 at 19:15
  • @JamesRandom noted and edited
    – lbf
    May 20, 2018 at 19:18
  • @Mitch the OP has added context, still no attempt at research, but I've voted to reopen the question all the same. In order not to influence users negatively I deleted my criticisms aimed at the original question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 23, 2018 at 9:12

First, yes, it should be confirmed that 'good' can sound informal in very formal or technical contexts. It is a very common word, Anglo-Saxon, and somewhat vague. Technical writing prefers Latinisms and more recent neologisms which tend not to be so vague.

But, note that this is an editorial and is passing judgment on a particular technological solution. There may very well be technical support for the judgement, but it is an opinionated editorial so the use of 'good' may be appropriate (but at least not to the one reviewer). As an editorial it is a bit of marketing; one can use vague managerialisms like 'robust' which sound fancy and technical but are really empty synonyms for 'good'.

To convert 'good idea', simply find less frequent and more technical terms:

  • good: excellent/preferred/successful/robust etc.
  • idea: solution/treatment/approach/technique/etc.

Note that a thesaurus won't necessarily be very good...um successful at suggesting things. Context often gives a better hint as to what could fit. And choosing word-for-word is not necessarily the best 'translation' to a different register.

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