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Academic Writing Help: Using Appropriate Language

There are a number of things that you can use as a checklist when writing your academic articles and papers. Appropriate language means that you will avoid certain words and terminology and you will adapt a more scholarly way of writing.

The following list will give you some examples you can use to improve your language when writing academically:

  1. Avoid contractions. Academic writing requires the full words. For example, “don’t” should be written as “do not”.

  2. Instead of run-on expressions or unfinished lists, use the formal alternative. Take the two following sentences for example. In the first sentence, the list has no ending; in the second, it does. The second sentence is the formal one to use in academics:
    • An elderly person may feel lonely, isolated, discouraged and so on.
    • An elderly person may feel lonely, isolated and discouraged.

  3. Rhetorical questions have no place in academic writing. This is a question to which there is no answer expected. For example, “Some teaching methods are no longer valid, so why do we still use them?”

  4. Avoid using slang and common jargon. Colloquial expressions also fall into this category. This includes figures of speech, idioms and clichés.

  5. Be sure you write in complete sentences and that you divide up your paragraphs properly.

  6. The writing should be explicit and flow smoothly.

  7. Grammar and spelling should be checked carefully and ensure they adhere to academic writing standards.

  8. The basic context for academic writing is to keep it formal and impersonal. Subject material you are writing about should be objective rather than subjective. You should leave out emotion and emotive language.

  9. Avoid language that sounds sexist such as “mankind” or referring to the doctor as “he”. Instead, use the plural terminology of “they”.

Most importantly, keep your writing clear and make sure your reader can comprehend what you are presenting. Concise writing is the best way to accomplish that. Structure is vitally important in academic writing. If you can avoid informal language and colloquial expressions and instead adopt a more scholarly way of writing, you will instantly improve your academic writing skills.

If you have little experience in academic writing and want to know exactly how it sounds, the best way to discover that is through a lot of reading. Find books, journals, magazines and other periodicals published in your subject area and see what other people have written.