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Academic writing styles

Do you know the difference between academic written English and informal spoken English?

Most students who have studied for an English exam know that it is important to have an idea about the difference between academic written English and informal spoken English. Most would recognise which of the following sentences is the most appropriate for an essay.

There’s no way I reckon people should have to pay to go to uni. That’s ridiculous!

I strongly disagree with the idea that young people should be liable for the cost of their university education.

I’m hoping and guessing that you prefer the second. However, sounding academic in your essays is difficult for both language learners AND native speakers. There are lots of exercises in exam books to help you but they require practice and patience.

The problem is that exam candidates frequently confuse academic style with sounding complicated. Often, I have asked students to explain to me some puzzling parts of their essay. When they explain, the idea is usually clear to me. So, my question is always, ‘Why didn’t you write that?’ And usually, the answer is that they were trying to sound clever. It is important to remember that you should be trying to make yourself clear, not hiding your message.

My advice, therefore, is, when in doubt, write your idea as you would say it; not to your friend in a café but to your teacher in clear, neutral English. Then, in time, when you’ve practised a lot with academic style, you can start to practice more sophisticated structures.

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