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How to use academic writing style

Using formal language

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Using formal language is really important in academic writing, and can really give your writing 'the air of authority' it needs. Again, this will take some practice and the activities in this section will give you a chance to do that.

What do we mean by formal language? Well, when using formal language, you should avoid writing:

See the table below for examples of each of these:

Avoid these Bad example Good example
Contractions The findings don't correlate The findings do not correlate
Slang words This chap Professor Jones
Abbreviations This research such be finished ASAP This research such be finished as soon as possible
Cliches This report is the cream of the crop This report is well researched and reported
Personal language 'I', 'we' or 'you' 'This report' or 'One could argue that'
Colloquialisms This research is about as useful as a chocolate teapot This research has several major flaws
Informal vocabulary 'Said that,' 'talked about,' 'thought about' 'stated,' 'discussed,' 'considered'
activity: identifying informal language - 10 minutes

1. Read the following paragraph.

1. Write down, in your notes, any informal words or phrases from in the passage below:

Each year, around 100,000 children and young adults require education outside school due to medical needs. These needs may include illness, injury, mental health issues or pregnancy. The Welfare of Sick Children report directed by Sir Harry Platt - a bloke interested in education - highlighted the need for education in hospital, way back in the day, as early as 1978. Sir Plait said that hospitals weren't providing the obvious education and developmental stimulation for pupils or helping establish a routine and sense of normality etc. On top of this, an in-depth study conducted in over 50 hospitals in Britain and the United States concluded that 'for all children, of whatever age, teachers can make the world of the hospital an exciting and stimulating one, through which significant learning can take place' I think that both of these studies were well ahead of their time.

how did you do?

Once you have completed the above activity, you can view the answers below. If you missed any of the particular informal words or phrases, review the examples above.

activity: correcting informal language - 10 minutes

1. Look at the table below. The column on the left has several informal phrases, while the column on the right has several formal phrases.

2. For each informal phrase, select the more appropriate formal version which you would use in a written piece.

3. Write the matching informal and formal phrases next to each other in your notes.

Informal Formal
It is important to keep it zipped It is essential that all parties
We have have to shell out There are several types of tree including oak, maple and birch trees
Everybody has to There will be considerable expenditure
Oak, birch, maple etc The research suggested that
It said that This work is highly confidential
How did you do?

Once you have completed the above activity, you can review your answers below:

Note: The formal and informal pairs have now been matched up.

Recommended Further Reading

Action point:

When you are transferring your notes into a piece of academic writing, make sure that all the vocabulary you have used is formal. You may wish to ask someone else to check this for you.

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