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Osceola Writing Center

Academic Language

Most of your writing assignments at Valencia will probably require "academic language." While the writing you use in an email or on facebook will likely be similar to how you speak (informal), college writing tends to be more formal, or academic, and less like we speak in day-to-day conversation. Below you will find many ways to make your writing more formal. Keep in mind, not all college assignments require academic style. If you are writing a personal response, reflection, or some form of creative writing (like fiction), you probably will not need to follow all of the guidelines listed.

Avoid Informal, Slang, or Colloquial Language

It's best to limit this kind of language in your papers. Consider how you change the way you talk, and the words you use, when you are giving a business presentation or applying for a job- we start speaking more formally. This holds true in the academic world as well.

Informal:
The researchers gave the children some junk to play with.
Formal:
The researchers gave the children some items to play with.
Informal:
There are a lot of responses to...
Formal:
There are many responses to...

Avoid Using 1st Person (I / We)

Depending on the assignment, you may or may not be able to use personal experience as an example or as support. If it is permitted, then you may be able to use "I" in your paper (though it would still be best used sparingly). In general though, wherever you would normally use "I/we", you can often substitute a third person subject (people, one, students, etc) or simply state the information.

Informal:
I am going to tell you about stress.
Formal:
Stress is...
Informal:
I did not find any information about the effects of weight loss.
Formal:
No information on the effects of weight loss was found.
Informal:
I think people should not smoke because...
Formal:
People should not smoke because...

Avoid Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs are verbs made up of 2 or more words (pick up, fill out, look forward to). We use these extensively in conversation, but when writing academically it is best to find a single word option because it is perceived as more formal.

Informal:
The author said that the study will be put off until next year.
Formal:
The author said that the study will be postponed until next year.
Informal:
He was able to get rid of the problem.
Formal:
He was able to remove the problem.

Avoid Contractions

Informal:
This answer won't be enough.
Formal:
This answer will not be enough.
Informal:
The theory couldn't be supported.
Formal:
The theory could not be supported.

Avoid 2nd Person ("You")

Most of the time it is best not to have a direct conversation with the reader of your paper. In order to get around using "you", often you can simply add a noun for the person/group of people you are referring to, or you may only need to remove the pronoun.

Informal:
If you enroll on time, you will be happy.
Formal:
If a student enrolls on time, he/she will be happy.
Formal:
The ones who enroll on time will be happy.
Informal:
First, you heat the solution.
Formal:
First, heat the solution.

Avoid Informal Negative Forms

Informal:
Not very much research has been done.
Formal:
Little research has been done.
Informal:
There were not very many examples.
Formal:
There were few examples.

Avoid Using "etc.", "and so on", or "and so forth"

The less vague you are in your writing the better. Instead of using the above, write out what category or group the list you are making comes from.

Informal:
The people saw dogs, cats, etc.
Formal:
The people saw dogs, cats, and other animals.
Informal:
Strawberries, blueberries, and so on are all necessary for health.
Formal:
Strawberries, blueberries, and other berries are all necessary for health.

 

 

 

 
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