Writing Style

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STUDENT
Learning
Centre

IMPROVING YOUR
WRITING STYLE

FLINDERS UNIVERSITY

Academic writing requires a level of clarity and precision that makes repeated editing essential. This brochure describes some aspects of good writing style and will give you practice at editing sentences to improve their style.

TONE
Academic writing sounds different to more casual writing because it: ♦
is usually impersonal and unemotional

uses precise vocabulary and complicated nouns

uses passive voice more often than informal writing does

often has longer sentences than informal writing does
acade mic writing

informal writing

Research has shown a relationship between
vitamin A and cancer, but the exact nature of t he
connection has not been determined.

We believe vitamin A and cancer may have a
link, but we haven't worked out exactl y what it is
yet.

imperson al

person al

Research has shown

We believe

e.g.

Note: Academic writing usually avoids the pronouns 'I' and 'we', but some disciplines allow more personal language than others, e.g. in introductions and conclusions but not in the body of papers. It is a good idea to check what is expected in your specific context.

PRACTICE
1. Rewrite these sentences without personal pronouns.
a) When we study coal production, we find these figures.
b) With this evidence I have proved my hypothesis that reading out loud is an effective editing strategy.
precise voc abul ary

vague words

a rel ationship
the exact nature of the connection

a link
exactly what it is

complicated nouns

simple nouns

a rel ationship bet ween vitamin A and cancer

vitamin A and cancer may have a link

STUDY SKILLS BROCHURE SLC/01/2007
CRICOS Registered Provider: The Flinders Universit y of South Australia CRICOS Provider Number: 00114A

PRACTICE
2. Rewrite these sentences as nouns (things) in the new sentences. a) She spoke recently about poverty. 
b) The patient recovered quickly. 

was thought provoking.
surprised his doctor.

Note: Academic writing only uses complicated vocabulary to make meaning clearer, not to sound more important. (See section on Improving Clarity.)
passive voice

active voice

has not been determined

haven't worked out

Note: Academic writing does not always use passive voice. Like informal writing, it uses active voice when the actor doing an action is important. However, in academic writing passive voice is more frequent because the person or thing doing an action is often irrelevant - it is the action itself that is important.

For more practice, see SLC le aflets on: Active & Passive ; Fo rmal & Info rm al Langu age

IMPROVING CONCISENESS
Some academic writing is unnecessarily complicated, but good academic writing is as simple and as short as possible. To make your writing more concise:

choose short words or phrases rather than long ones

delete unnecessary words

shorten wordy constructions
c o n c i se

too complic ated

Fast driving is dangerous.

In my opi nion, rapid dri ving woul d seem to be
very dangerous.

short words

long w ord s

fast
meet
often
best
mai n
later

rapid
encounter
frequentl y
optimal
predominant
subsequently

short word /phrase

long phrase

apparently
by
about
to
"
because
"
"

e.g.

it would thus appear
by means of
in reference t o
for the purpose of
in order to
due to the fact that
as a consequence of
for the reas on that

STUDY SKILLS BROCHURE SLC/01/2007
CRICOS Registered Provider: The Flinders Universit y of South Australia CRICOS Provider Number: 00114A

Use s hort words/phrases whenever they are specific enough for your meaning. Use long words/phras es only if there is no shorter way to express the same meaning. no unnecessary words

meanin gless phrases

Fast driving is dangerous.
X is Y.
"
"
"
X s hould do Y.

In my opi nion, fast drivi ng is dangerous.
It was found that X is Y....
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