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Would you find it weird if you read a data report using "turn out" or "end up"? The root of my wondering is how informal it sounds when translated into my mother tongue.

... This figure was forecast to rise to 21 million in 2000 but turned out to reach 24 million that year. Similarly, the number of people living in Jakarta was anticipated to grow from around 9 million in 1990 to 11 million in 2000, but it ended up at 12.5 million.

P.S. I've just realized that turn out often goes with to be or that. So do you even use it with verbs other than be?

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    "Academic writing" is too broad a category to determine this. If the paper is intended to be read by stodgy bureaucrats with power over your funding, it should be as formal as possible. If the paper is intended to be a breezy introduction read by undergraduates, complete informality may be preferable. You must think about who your intended readers are.
    – Xerxes
    Commented May 6 at 14:13

3 Answers 3

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I would say these are too informal for a data report. I would use something a bit plainer. If you really want to put emphasis on it, you can use an adverb like "actually" or similar.

e.g.

...This figure was forecast to rise to 20 million in 2000 but (actually) reached 24 million that year. Similarly, the number of people living in Jakarta was anticipated to grow from around 9 million in 1990 to 11 million in 2000, but it (actually) reached 12.5 million

With regard to your post script, you definitely can use it with verbs other than to be.

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  • Thank you! Could you also recommend a formal alternative to "actually" that is suitable in this case? Commented May 6 at 5:27
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    "In fact: or "in reality" or "when counted" Commented May 6 at 18:06
  • @EthanBolker's contribution is good. It also depends on what you want to highlight - you might want to use "notably", "against expectations", etc.
    – Hmwat
    Commented May 7 at 6:13
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There is nothing wrong with these phrases, even in an academic setting. They're compact and simple cliches with clear meanings.

Like most cliches, they shouldn't be overused.

  • "Forecast expected X ... but it turned out Y" is valid and useful. "Turned out" here reminds the reader that this information goes against prior expectations.

  • "Average foot length was measured ... and turned out to be about 1 foot" can at best work as a pun. Ordinary results don't "turn out" or "end up" being something, they simply are.

Academic writing isn't necessarily ultra-formal. Rather, the focus is on clarity and conciseness. Use surprise-suggesting phrases for extraordinary results, and state the rest plainly.

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These phrases are not too informal for academic writing. Academic papers frequently contain them. For example, Google Scholar lists millions of research papers containing the phrase "turned out" or "ended up".

Here are two examples of academic papers with the phrases in the title:

  • Torrice, Michael. "How lead ended up in Flint’s tap water." Chem. Eng. News 94.7 (2016): 26-29.
  • Weisberg, Robert. "How sentencing commissions turned out to be a good idea." Berkeley J. Crim. L. 12 (2007): 179.
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  • Regarding those examples: Paper titles can be more informal when the goal is to make them catchy/memorable. The ratio between informal language (including puns and even emoji) and formal language is much higher in paper titles than in body text.
    – root
    Commented May 6 at 19:05

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