Checklist of language to avoid in academic writing
1. Do not use contractions
Contractions are the words formed from two abbreviated words, such
as "don't", "can't" and "won't".
Please write the full words.
2. Do not use colloquial vocabulary
Colloquial vocabulary includes words and expressions that are used
in everyday spoken language. They do not provide the exactness needed
in an academic setting (Fowler & Allen, 1992).
An example is:
Retirement is something most of us must face sooner
This could be replaced by the more formally worded:
Retirement is inevitable.
Also avoid other types of conversational language such as figures of
speech, cliches and idioms; for example:
|reached a happy medium
||reached an acceptable compromise
|get through it
|part and parcel
|easier said than done
||more difficult in practice
|beyond a shadow of doubt
|in recent years
|pay lip service to
||support through words but not through actions
|got out of hand
||was no longer under control
|a stumbling block
||point of contention
|explored every avenue
3. Avoid using run-on expressions
Run on expressions include phrases such as 'and so forth', 'and so
on' or 'etc'. Try to complete the sentence properly; do not use these
if you can avoid them; for example:
|Informal (includes run on)
|Nurses must take into consideration patients'
dietary needs resulting from allergies, medication, medical conditions
and so on.
||Nurses must take into consideration patients' dietary
needs resulting from allergies, medication and medical conditions.
|Public transport includes vehicles for
public use on the roads, airways, waterways etc.
||Public transport includes vehicles for public use,
such as buses, trains and aeroplanes.
4. Do not use rhetorical questions
A rhetorical question is a question for which no answer is expected. A
rhetorical question is one in a written text where the writer assumes
the reader knows the answer, or where the writer goes on to answer the
question in the text. Such questions are inappropriate for academic writing:
readers might not know the answer and the point being made could be more
strongly and clearly expressed as a statement. You should not risk your
point being misunderstood: make your point clear and 'up front'; for example:
| Informal (includes rhetorical question)
|Industrial sites cause vast amounts of
environmental pollution, so why do we still
||The question surrounding the continued use of industrial
sites, given their vast pollution production, still remains.
|What is a team?
A team can be one person but will usually end up including many
||A team can include one person but usually involves
|The question is, however, does
the "Design School Model" provide a practical solution to the problem
of how to formulate strategy?
||It is questionable whether the "Design School Model"
provides a practical solution to the problem of strategy formulation.
Notice that you can change your rhetorical questions into statements and
still use them effectively in an essay.
5. Place adverbs within the verb
Adverbs should be placed within the verb group rather than in the
initial or final positions. In informal English, adverbs often occur as
clauses at the beginning or end of sentences; for example:
the solution can be discarded.
||The solution can then
|The blood is withdrawn slowly.
||The blood is slowly
Comments and questions should
be directed to Unilearning@uow.edu.au