Academic writing style – Using appropriate grammar Package 2

When you write tertiary level coursework assignments or answer examination questions, you will need to pay close attention to the style of the language. This part of the course is designed to help you with this important aspect of academic writing.


These packages introduce you to two key areas of academic style, namely:
  1. using appropriate vocabulary
  2. using appropriate grammar
When asked to describe the characteristics of the style of academic writing, you would probably come up with words such as:

So whilst you more than likely have a clear picture of what academic writing is, you may still need to think about how you achieve that style effectively and accurately. We can do this by examining academic writers’ choice of vocabulary and grammar.


Avoid using contractions such as it’s and they’re in academic writing.
  won’t will not   don’t do not   they’d they would

  It’s [It is] widely acknowledged that English plays an important role in Hong Kong’s business sector. 

Avoid first and second person pronouns

Do not address the reader as ‘you’ in your written assignments.
  You can see the results in Table 2.
  The results are shown in Table 2.

Academic writers should avoid using the personal pronouns “I” and “we” because it makes their work seem too subjective. One way of avoiding the first person is to use the passive voice.
  I conducted the experiment on 23 April 2011.
  The experiment was conducted on 23 April 2011.

Another technique is to make the text (e.g. report) or part of the text (e.g. section) the subject of the sentence.
  In this report I will examine the problem of prostitution in Cambodia.
  This report examines the problem of prostitution in Cambodia.


Avoid using questions as they can make your writing appear unsophisticated.
  In this report, the following question will be answered: What are the causes of stress?
  This report examines the causes of stress.
  Whether exams cause stress is examined in this report.

‘Run-on’ expressions

Limit the use of ‘run-on’ expressions such as etc. and and so on because these are seldom used in academic writing. Use the term such as instead and present completed lists of examples not loose unfinished lists. This also informs the reader that not all the examples are given.
  It appears then that the majority of business professionals frequently need to write reports, memos etc. at work.
  It appears then that the majority of business professionals frequently need to write documents such as reports and memos at work.

Negative forms

Avoid informal negative forms such as not much and not many. Use the formal negative forms little and few.

Until that time, not much [Little] research had been conducted into the causes of racism .
Not many [Few] studies have investigated this phenomenon.

Below is an excerpt from an academic essay on the problems faced by new university students when giving oral presentations. Rewrite the text in a more appropriate style in the space provided. Once you have finished, click on the SUBMIT button and compare your answer with the original version.

Dhong and Squeamish (2003) thought up a great idea that might have a really good effect on students’ exposure to spoken English outside of school. They reckon that encouraging students to join clubs, societies and activities etc… where everyone speaks English all the time would be cool – me too. I think this suggestion would provide kids with loads of chances to learn and speak better whilst also going to a sports club or interest group. These guys (2003) argue that learning in an interesting environment both increases learning participation and confidence in learning a second language.

However, some people think this is a load of rubbish because it’s too simple and basically it ain’t practical. Pluke and Beernstein (2007) did some research into the opportunities available to Hong Kong students and they ended up saying that there isn’t easy for local teenagers to join the sort of clubs and societies that Dhong and Squeamish suggested. They also discovered that they don’t live in the right places and they don’t have enough cash to join these clubs. They also mentioned that the Chinese kids and foreign kids don’t mix much.

To conclude I have told you that fresh university students face tones of problems when doing presentations. I’ve told you that students don’t have any confidence and research skills etc… and that they can’t plan or design power point slides. However, I think if we improve the Hong Kong examination system and if we run pre-semester study skills courses and also put less emphasis on IT and more on the language of presentations, everything will be awesome.

From what I know, the biggest thing talked about in this essay is the one about the way we learn in Hong Kong ‘coz I reckon teachers only teach kids to pass exams and spend all their time on grammar and stuff. Language is about talking and listening, and speaking is the most important bit. If students can’t do good presentations at uni, how will they be able to interact and communicate effectively in the international workplace after they graduate?

Write your version in the box below and then click on the SUBMIT button. You will then be able to compare your version with the original.

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