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Academic Style: An Introduction

01 Feb 2016Homework Help Online

‘Academic style’ is more than just a convention – it can enable you to think more logically, more clearly and more realistically as you work on an assignment.

The features of academic style include:

  1. Objectivity
  2. Formality
  3. Emphasis


1. Objectivity

Since the goal of academic writing is to present results of research or evaluate the results of others’ research, personal opinion is often avoided. To that end, personal pronouns, especially ‘I’, ‘You’ and ‘We’ are rarely used in an academic style. Structures that help to establish an objective ‘distance’ from the topic under discussion include the use of passive verbs, topic as subject and ‘it’ as an “empty subject”.

2. Formality

When writing it’s very important to use the appropriate language, ie language fits the purpose of writing AND matches the audience. Appropriate language includes a level of formality, slang and idiomatic expression and group-specific jargon, etc. A level of formality is writing in a language that can be easily understood by your audience.

3. Emphasis

Emphasis is given to the choice of words, textual formatting, punctuation and sentence arrangement. It includes using ‘emphasis’ words, repetition and selecting initial or terminal positions of sentences, etc. Emphasis or intensity is not created through intonation and other spoken features.

Things to Avoid:

• Colloquial terms

Colloquial or Slang terms are only understood locally. Idiomatic expression shall be avoided because their meanings are often interpreted differently by different readers.

• Informal words

Informal words can only be used when addressing a specific audience that’s known to a writer. Yet, they can not be used when written to unknown audience / individual.

• Intensifiers

The simplest way to emphasise something is by using such words and phrases as especially, particularly, crucially, most importantly, and above all. Informal intensifies as pretty shall be avoided as they confer different meaning to different audiences (imprecise).

• Vague words

As a general rule, more specific words lead to more concise writing. To select specific and powerful word brainstorm and search a thesaurus.

• Contractions

Contractions: (e.g. don’t, won’t, can’t) are only used in spoken contexts. Use full forms of the words.

• Unspecified categories

Expressions such as ‘etcetera’, ‘and so on’, ‘and so forth’, may not help a reader to understand the text. Help your reader; name a category into which all your examples fit. For example Tariffs, embargoes, and other protectionist laws...

• Redundancy

Check every word to make sure that it is providing something important and unique to a sentence. If words are dead weight, they can be deleted or replaced. Some information does not require a full sentence, and can easily be inserted into another sentence without losing any of its value.

• Short, choppy sentences

Consider combining sentences with conjunctions. Join complete sentences, clauses, and phrases with conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, yet, for, so.

Link two related sentences to each other to show a connection. Use connectors such as below. after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, if only, rather than, since.

• Similar sentence patterns (structure & length)

Too many sentences with the same structure and length can grow monotonous for readers. Varying sentence style and structure can also reduce repetition and add emphasis. Consider the following: 1) Vary the rhythm by alternating short and long sentences, 2) Vary sentence openings. If you've found this article useful, you can also read the article that emphasises what is SAT essay.


Academic style largely refers to structuring arguments and putting them into appropriate words. It includes word, sentence, paragraph and document level work. The ability to interact with what has been priorly discovered is central to the academic writing. The goal is to deepen your understanding of what it is, how it works – and how you can apply it.


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