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Key Features of the Academic Writing Style

August 31, 2018| Category: Writing Tips

Writing in the academic style requires observing a certain set of rules and conventions. Here are some of the most essential points.

Utilize formal language

Conversational language is unsuitable for academic papers. This means avoiding colloquial terms, cliché’s, and contractions when it comes to writing academically. It is critical to choose words appropriate to the academic context. In most disciplines, words have precise meanings. For instance, in Law, you should replace “rule” with “statutory instrument”. Careful choice of words adds clarity to academic writing.

Use a cautious tone

Effective academic writing requires avoiding definite statements and generalizations. For example, “this confirms that the chosen approach was completely wrong” sounds definite, which is unacceptable in academic papers. Replace it with “this could suggest that the chosen approach was unsuitable”.

Words that imply varying degrees of caution include probably possibly, tend, and suggest, naming a few. They allow making statements less forceful. The use of litotes also helps maintain a cautious tone. For instance, “It is not unlikely that further studies will find evidence that…”

Maintain a clear, logical structure

One of the main characteristics of the academic writing style is clarity. It requires organizing an academic paper logically. The inability to present your research findings in an orderly manner will probably prevent you from succeeding in academic writing. In order not to confuse the readers, try to avoid using long sentences. It also allows reducing the likelihood of making grammatical mistakes. The erroneous belief is that academic writing must comprise only complex sentences. Do not avoid short sentences, since they help add clarity.

Provide enough evidence to support all your points

Gather enough relevant evidence from reliable sources to prove every point you make in your academic paper. There are different ways you can do it. Thus, you can reference an article, book, or scientific report. You are also allowed to share your personal experience. In addition, you can present your own ideas but you must demonstrate how you generated them. Remember that you should cite all your sources in your academic writing and list them in the end of your paper.

Provide a balanced viewpoint

In academic writing, it is important to show ideas that not only support your opinion, but also oppose it. This will demonstrate your deep knowledge of the chosen subject. As a result, your work becomes balanced.

Be objective

Do not use overly emotive words, such as stunning, dreadful, or horrendous. Remember that academic writing should have the objective tone that requires using impersonal language.


The poor children lived in the horrendous conditions that affected their health and contributed to the development of many dreadful diseases.


The poor living conditions were likely to put children at high risk of contracting infectious diseases that were observed.

Acknowledge the limitations

It is important to recognize limitations in your academic writing. The following expressions can be useful: “For the purpose of this essay, the limited definition will be utilized” and “Given the length of this essay, only a limited number of examples can be described”.

Use third, not first or second person

According to the rules of the academic writing style, the use of the first person (“I”, “my”, or “we”) is unacceptable. This helps maintain the objective, impersonal tone. However, in reflective writing, the first person should be used.

Start your writing with the impersonal “it” instead of “I” or “you”. For example, “It can be argued/ considered/ claimed that…” You can avoid the first person using passive sentences. It does not change the meaning but allows maintaining the objective tone.

Do not use “they/their” as a gender-neutral pronoun

It is unacceptable to use they or their when you do not want to underline the gender. In this case, you can pluralize. This also allows you to avoid using “his/her” statements


A student should always complete their assignments.


Students should always complete their assignments.

Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly

Adjectives and adverbs allow indicating the extent of something. Nevertheless, they should not be overused in academic writing.