La Trobe University Library

  • Introduction

Academic language

  • Linking words
  • Using sources
  • Reporting verbs
  • Common mistakes

Academic writing requires you to express your ideas in a particular style. This style is different from other contexts (such as emails or blogs). To do well in your assignments, it's important to understand the features of academic expression.

Use simple words such as 'explain' instead of 'eluciate', and 'skills' instead of 'proficiencies'.

Avoid using too many nouns , as this can make your writing difficult to read. Try using verbs or adjectives instead.

✖ Complicated: The failure [noun] of the business was due to the ineffectiveness [noun] of the marketing strategy. ✔ Clear: The business failed [verb] because the marketing strategy was ineffective [adjective] .

Consider the audience for your writing and define any unfamiliar terms. 

✔  Example: In this essay, the term 'classic gaming' refers to playing video games produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Use specific language and phrases instead of general or vague words.

✖  Imprecise: Private cars are more convenient than public transport. ✔  Precise: Private cars offer more privacy and comfort than public transport, and in most cases save time.

Be careful using pronouns such as 'it', 'this' and 'these'. Your reader may be confused if it isn’t clear what the pronouns refer to. Avoid confusion by adding a noun after 'this', 'these' and 'those'. 

✖  Unclear: Scientific writing should be precise and concise. This must be evident at all levels, from the overall text to individual paragraphs and sentences. ✔  Clear: Scientific writing should be precise and concise. This precision and concision must be evident at all levels, from the overall text to individual paragraphs and sentences.

Be concise

Before you start writing, plan how many words you are going to write for each paragraph or section.

After your first draft, read your work and remove any content that is repetitive or irrelevant to your assignment.

Tell the reader who (the actor) did what (the action) at the start of the sentence.

✖  Wordy: At the beginning of their MBA programs, a great many students in these various programs find it quite a struggle to learn the art of writing without employing redundancy. ✔  Concise: Many commencing MBA students struggle to write without redundancy.

Reduce redundancies and long phrases, such as padding words (e.g., very, quite, actually), doubled or implied terms or phrases (e.g., added bonus, end result), long phrases that can be replaced by single words (e.g., in spite of the fact that -> although), questions inside of sentences (e.g., phrases starting with what, why and how), and unnecessary commentary (e.g., it is important to note; there are).

✖  Wordy: It is important to note that the success of a business very much depends on the efficiency of its employees or workers. ✔  Concise: The success of a business depends on the efficiency of its employees.

Don’t use slang and colloquial language. Use a dictionary to find a formal alternative. 

✖  Informal: The idea of sustainable development is easier said than done. ✔  Formal: Sustainable development is difficult to achieve in practice.

Avoid using contractions (shortened forms of words) like 'isn’t' and 'they’ve'. Write the full form of the words ('is not' and 'they have') instead.

Avoid using Latin abbreviations like e.g., i.e., and etc. Replace abbreviations with their English equivalents: for example (e.g.), that is (i.e.) and such as (etc).

Be careful using acronyms. Don't use colloquial acronyms like 'ASAP'. You can use more formal acronyms like 'UN' for United Nations, but you must give the full name first, followed by the acronym in brackets. You can then use the acronym for the rest of your writing.

Be objective

Base your writing on evidence and reasoning, not your feelings or opinions.

✖  Subjective: Of course, the protection of the endangered animals must be a shared response. ✔  Objective: The protection of endangered animals should be a shared response (Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2018).

Most academic writing will require you to write in third person. Check your assignment instructions or ask your tutor to find out if it is acceptable to write in first person. First person is where the writer refers to themself using 'I', 'me' or 'my' (or we or us for multiple writers). First person is expected in reflective writing, but for other genres of writing (e.g., essays or reports), the rules vary between disciplines.

First person: In this essay, I will argue that exams are not true indicators of students’ understanding of course content. Third person: This essay will argue that exams are not true indicators of students’ understanding of course content.

Pathfinder link

Still have questions? Do you want to talk to an expert? Peer Learning Advisors or Academic Skills and Language Advisors  are available.

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  • Last Updated: Aug 21, 2023 1:02 PM
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  6. Academic language

    Academic writing requires you to express your ideas in a particular style. This style is different from other contexts (such as emails or blogs). To do well in your assignments, it's important to understand the features of academic expression. Be clear. Use simple words such as 'explain' instead of 'eluciate', and 'skills' instead of ...

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