Disciplines are sometimes considered formal when they have developed a set of axioms which can be described with a certain "magic" amount of completeness and rigor. Mathematics is widely given as an example of formality. Others have postulated that any process which can be conducted by a machine should qualify as "formal" (incidentally, this excludes mathematics as a whole from formality).

The key danger in formality is in perceiving it as a yes or no proposition, when, in fact, it is always an unbounded continuum.