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How to use academic writing style

Writing eloquently

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Writing eloquently is obviously a huge topic and the whole concept of this won't be covered in this page. However, this section will hopefully help you to develop a more eloquent style of writing, allowing you to achieve a good 'flow' throughout your written piece. In order to do this we will concentrate on sentence length and linking sentences.

Activity: Understanding sentence length - 15 minutes

1. Read the following extract of writing about earthquakes and consider the following points:

  • How easy is it to read?
  • Who do you think wrote this piece? (A professional, a university student, a secondary school student or a primary school student?)
  • Is there anything 'wrong' with this extract? If so, what is wrong?

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer, also known as a seismograph.

At the Earth's surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by a shaking and sometimes displacement of the ground. When a large earthquake epicentre is located offshore, the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity.

2. Now read this adapted version, and consider the same points

  • How easy is it to read?
  • Who do you think wrote this piece? (A professional, a university student, a secondary school student or a primary school student?)
  • Is there anything 'wrong' with this extract? If so, what is wrong?

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy. This energy is released in the Earth's crust. It creates seismic waves . Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer. A seismometer is also known as a seismograph.

At the Earth's surface earthquakes manifest themselves by a shaking. These is sometimes displacement of the ground. Large earthquake epicentres can be located offshore. Sometimes the seabed suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides. Earthquakes can occasionally cause volcanic activity.

3. Read this final version and consider the same points:

  • How easy is it to read?
  • Who do you think wrote this piece? (A professional, a university student, a secondary school student or a primary school student?)
  • Is there anything 'wrong' with this extract? If so, what is wrong?

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer also known as a seismograph.

At the Earth's surface earthquakes manifest themselves by a shaking and sometimes displacement of the ground when a large earthquake epicentre is located offshore the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami the shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity.

Hopefully you realised that in the second extract, the sentences were very short, and in the third extract, the sentences were very long! This can make a big difference to your writing style. As a general rule, a sentence should be no longer than 20 words, except in scientific writing, when it can be up to 30 words.

Learning how to link short sentences will be useful when you are writing in an academic style. To do this, you may need to use linking words, known as transition words. These include:


Recommended Further Reading

Warning: Some students overuse the transition words 'moreover' and 'furthermore', it is important to note that these words mean that the next statement will be more important than the first statement.

For example:

Scientists have predicted that sharks will probably be extinct in the next ten years, moreover, turtles and dolphins may become endangered species.

In this sentence, the reader is suggesting that it is more important that the turtles and dolphins may become endangered than the fact the sharks will become extinct - can you see how this doesn't really make sense? A better way to write this would be:

Scientists have predicted that sharks will probably be extinct in the next ten years, in addition to this, many other marine species may become endangered, including turtles and dolphins.


The following activity will give you an opportunity to link short sentences using transition words.


Activity: Linking sentences - 10 minutes

1. In your notes, rewrite the following short sentences by linking the two sentences with transition words.

The IT technician told us the computer was mended. It still did not work.

The evidence is not conclusive. The research must continue.

The mice who received the medication responded well. The mice in the control group did not respond.

Most children can write their name by the age of seven. In one school, 98% of seven year old children could write their name.

How did you do?

Once you have completed the activity above you can check the suggested answers below.

Action point:

When you have finished your piece of academic writing, try reading it out loud to check that your sentences are the correct length.

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