Unit 8: Academic Writing Resources

49 Academic Writing Tips

Below are some useful tips for academic writing.

  1. Avoid first person pronouns such as “I,” “me,” “my,” and “we” as well as the second person pronoun “you.” These words are (almost always) inappropriate in academic writing. The tone of it is too personal; moreover, there are very few academic occasions in which their use is needed.
  2. Avoid gendered pronouns such as “she,” “he,” “hers,” or “his” when referring to a person whose gender is unknown. Use the singular “they” (or “theirs”) in order to be inclusive to all people and avoid making assumptions of gender. For more information, see APA Style: Singular They.
  3. Avoid “etc.” and “and so on.” These expressions are general and imprecise. Using them after examples is redundant. In other places, you should use “and other _____”, filling in the blank with a noun that categorizes what you are listing. (Example: Wars are going on in Iraq, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, etc. versus Wars are going on in Iraq, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, and many other countries around the world.) Also avoid the use of the ellipsis ( . . . ).
  4. Avoid absolutes, such as “all,” “every,” “none,” “never,” “always,” and “absolutely.” These words leave you no “wriggle room”: they commit you to a position or a statement that allows for not even one exception. This includes superlatives (“the most dangerous,” “the biggest topic,” and other such extremes.). Refer back to the chapter on “Hedging” (Unit 6, Chapter 43)
  5. Avoid informal vocabulary, including “a lot of,” “lots of,” and “really.” Especially, avoid such informal terms and phrases as “gonna” and “wanna.” In addition, “such as” usually works better than “like.” In addition, avoid vague words such as “things” and “stuff.”
  6. Avoid using idioms (e.g. “Tuition costs an arm and a leg”) and proverbs (e.g. “Every coin has two sides”). They will make your writing sound informal.
  7. Avoid using phrasal verbs. (Phrasal verbs are essentially idioms.) There is always a verb that has the same meaning; use it. Example: instead of “look up to,” use “admire.”
  8. Avoid contractions such as “isn’t,” “aren’t,” “can’t,” “he’s,” “they’re,” and “it’s.” Spell all the words completely.
  9. Avoid questions. Instead of asking and answering, state your point directly. (Example: How do parents influence their children beyond merely passing on their genes to them? They serve as role models for their children. In addition to passing on their genes, parents influence their children by serving as role models.)
  10. Avoid “magazine” style of writing. For example, never write a one-sentence paragraph; your paragraphs will include a topic sentence and supporting sentences. Also, avoid using “hooks” in your introductions. Refer to the “Introductions” chapter on how to engage the reader without using a catchy “hook” (Unit 4, Chapter 31)
  11. Avoid unnecessary adverbs of intensity (e.g., really, very, definitely, and absolutely) and such phrases as without a doubt, beyond a doubt, there can be no doubt).
  12. Avoid starting sentences with and, but, or so. Use more formal alternatives (e.g. In addition, however, therefore) instead to begin a sentence. (Those words are perfectly fine within a sentence.)

Adapted from: Lane, J. & Lange, E. (1999). Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide, 2nd edition.

Correction Guide

Your instructor may use a Correction Guide when marking your writing to indicate that you have made an error. Your teacher will use these numbers or a similar code. Each number represents an area of usage. Refer to your instructor’s Correction Guide to determine the type of error you have made and then make the necessary correction.



     1                     1
He have been here for six month.

He has been here for six months.


Word Form

I saw a beauty picture.

I saw a beautiful picture.


Word Choice

She got on the taxi.

She got in the taxi.


Verb Tense

He is here since June.

He has been here since June.


Add a Word

I want go to the zoo.

I want to go to the zoo.


Omit a Word

She entered to the university.

She entered the university.


Word Order

I saw five times that movie.

I saw that movie five times.


Incomplete Sentence

I went to bed. Because I was tired.

I went to bed because I was tired.



An accident occured.

An accident occurred.



What did he say.

What did he say?



I am studying english.
I am studying English.



I had a accident.
I had an accident.


Meaning not Clear

He borrowed some smoke.


Run-On Sentence

My roommate was sleeping, we didn’t want to wake her up.
My roommate was sleeping. We didn’t want to wake her up.


Faulty Parallelism

My favorite hobbies are skiing, jogging and to cook.
My favorite hobbies are skiing, jogging and cooking.


Combine Short Related Sentences

Bill Clinton was the 42nd US President. He was elected in 1992.
Bill Clinton, the 42nd US President, was elected in 1992.


Inappropriate Tone / Informal

     16                        16
New stuff like smartphones are way too easy to over-use.
New forms of technology like smartphones are far too easy to over-use.

Adapted from: Azar, B. (2009). Understanding and Using English Grammar, 4th edition.


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