Academic Language

If you want to convince or persuade others, your writing must be strong and clear.

Academic language is a more sophisticated use of grammar and vocabulary.  Words or sentences that are typically appropriate in everyday language often weaken academic ideas if not properly used.

Below is a list of word forms that should be avoided.

There are / there is

When we use there are/is too much, we are using words that weaken sentences.

For example, look at the two sentences below and ask which one is stronger.

  1. There are many people who believe global warming is a critical issue.
  2. Many people believe global warming is a critical issue.

Number 2 is stronger because it comes straight to the point.  Simply by removing There are….who… our sentence is clearer and stronger.

always, never

If we use words such as always or never, we set ourselves up for criticism because, obviously, our claim cannot be supported.  Instead of using these words, we should use words like tend to, or likely, or most likely.

Look at the following examples.

Weak: Factories always contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Strong: Factories tend to contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Weak: Politicians never listen to the concerns of the people.

Strong: Politicians tend not to listen to the concerns of the people.

Other words that should be avoided are really, very, and a lot of for the same reasons.

Wordy Verbs

Instead of using verb forms like make a reservation, or conduct an investigation, that tend to be wordy, replace the noun forms with the verb form.

For example:

“The officers investigated the cases.”  This sentence is stronger than, “The officers conducted an investigation into the case.”

“After much research, the team concluded that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”  This sentence is again stronger than, “After much research, the team came to the conclusion that obesity is primarily caused by fatty foods.”

Other wordy forms that should be avoided are make an objection (object), provide assistance (assist), and make a contribution (contribute).

Contractions

Strong academic language requires words to be clear and concise. Contractions should be avoided not only because they are used in informal language, but because they can also lead to misunderstandings.

Use the full forms instead of contractions.

do not instead of don’t

does not instead of doesn’t

is not instead of isn’t

cannot instead of can’t

he has had instead of he’s had

would have instead of would’ve

and so on

Personal Pronouns: I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our

In academic writing the use of personal pronouns, such as I, me, my, you, your, we, us, our, are generally avoided.  The reason is we do not want to refer to what we think or believe, but to solid evidence.

Instead of using pronouns, use direct language.

  • Instead of: In my opinion, global warming is causing damage to crops.  (This focuses the attention on “my opinion”)
  • Write: Global warming is causing damage to crops. (The focuses is on the evidence)
  • Instead of: I think art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Write: Art education needs to be incorporated into mainstream studies.
  • Instead of: Before taking the final test of the course,you should study and be familiar with your notes
  • Write: Before taking the final test of the course, students should study and be familiar with their notes. 

Breaking the Rules

Sometimes you will want to use a personal experience in your essay.  This is where you can break the rules.  Use pronouns to establish the subject, but use them sparely — just enough to make your point.