Mastery of academic language is inseparable from production of best academic papers. Often, tutors commend on various aspects of language and style when giving feedback on academic and term papers, essays, and other forms of writing assignments. For instance, tutors may criticize the language used for being, among others, “superfluous”, “general”, “chatty”, ‘informal”; writing style as not being “concise or accurate enough”; and work may be referred to as “dense”, “verbose” or “obscure”. Accordingly, academic language should be formal, concise and explicit, clear and precise, factual and cautious, objective and analytical. This paper highlights some vital features of academic language expected when writing papers:
Choice of words
In English, words with similar meanings may not be necessarily interchangeable; some words fit more in informal contexts, while others are appropriate in neutral or formal contexts. In academic writing, the neutral or formal words are often applied. For example:
- Writers should avoid colloquialism and idioms in formal writing like “tremendous” instead of “major” and “kids” instead of “children”, among others.
- Writers should avoid the use of the verb “get” like “improved” instead of “get better”, and “became ill” instead of “got ill”.
- Writers should avoid the use of two-word verbs and instead use an equivalent single-word like “rejected” instead of “turned down” and “reduce” instead of “bring down”.
In a nutshell, grammar encompass a body of principles and rules imposed on a given language for speaking and writing it, based on the study of: morphology (forms and structure of words), syntax (arrangement of words in phrases and sentences), phonology (language sounds), and semantics (word meanings). Tutors are often keen on the aspect of grammar usage, and although there are some software which can proofread to identify some errors, the writers still need to have adequate understanding to produce best academic papers. Some of key skills include:
- Use of nominalization; involving a noun phrase derived from another class of words to express an impersonal and objective tone. Nominalization can also enhance concise texts formation by expressing a lot of information in a few words.
- Use of pre-modifiers and post-modifiers; used in academic papers writing to precede or follow nouns by one or more words or phrases termed as modifiers. This allows writers to express much information through limited words; thus, improving conciseness.
- Writers should avoid the “not + verb” negative form, particularly in contracted form, in case an alternative word or form is available. For instance, use “there is little research on the issue” instead of “there isn’t much research on the issue”.
- Avoid using the use of the second person pronoun “you”; for instance, “As can be seen” instead of “As you can see”.
Furthermore, academic paper writers should make use of signposting to signal the key components of the work like “the aim of this study is to…”; and linking words and phrases to reveal connections between sentences and paragraphs like; listings (firstly,…), addition (besides,…), contrast (however,…), reason (because of,…), result (consequently,…), reform of thought (in other words,…), and exemplifying (for instance,…).
In academic writing, hedging implies a writing skill in which writers often present claims or statements in tentative or cautious language. Hedging is used to indicate a level of certainty, and to make claims that are proportional to the evidence and exist at the writing time; hence, to make more accurate claims. These include; the modal auxiliary verbs (can, could, may,…), Other modal verbs (appear, seem, tend,…), probability adjectives (likely, possible, probable,…), probability adverbs (perhaps, possibly, probably,…), frequency adverbs (usually, often, occasionally, seldom,…).
In order to write an authoritative and effective academic paper, writers are required to use accurate grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation. This part includes; the subject-verb agreement, consistency in the use of tenses, and checking of word order connections in case of indirect questions. Moreover, the academic language required by tutors is keen on the proper use of punctuation marks like full stop, comma, semicolon, colon, and apostrophe.