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Tutoring Service: What is Academic Writing?

Overview of the Avondale University Tutoring Service.

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing is focused, concise, well-structured and supported up by evidence. Although it “has a formal tone and style…it is not complex and does not require the use of long sentences and complicated vocabulary” (University of Leeds, 2020a, para. 2). It should not be unnecessarily complicated or difficult to follow. You should focus carefully on what it is you are trying to say, then write it as clearly and directly as you can, using credible and scholarly sources to support your argument.



Academic Language

Academic writing is generally quite formal, objective and includes technical vocabulary. The formality is achieved by avoiding contractions (isn’t, can’t, won’t), idioms, clichés and conversational language. The objective tone is achieved by writing with an impersonal voice, like in the third person. The technical element of academic writing is achieved by using discipline-specific vocabulary and terminology (University of Leeds, 2020c).

Academic Writing


To make your writing more formal:

  • Choose formal rather than informal vocabulary; for example, however, is more formal than but.
  • Avoid contractions; for example, use is not instead of isn’t.
  • Avoid emotional, descriptive words; for example, family member is less emotive than loved one.
  • Avoid absolute positives and negatives; for example, use often instead of always or rarely instead of never.


To keep your writing objective and impersonal:

  • Avoid personal pronouns; for example, Imewe.
  • Avoid intense or emotional evaluative language; for example instead of writing parents who smoke are obviously abusing their children, you could write something like second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on children's health.
  • Use sources that are considered authoritative in the field you are writing on. Refer to them in your writing to support the position you are taking.


As well as writing formally with an objective tone, you also need to write technically. To write technically you need to:

  • Develop a substantial vocabulary of technical terms that are specific to your discipline.
  • Understand the exact meaning of the technical terms that are specific to your discipline.
  • Ensure you understand the key categories and relationships in your discipline.

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Characteristics of

Academic Writing?

  • Planned and focused—it responds to an assignment question and demonstrates an understanding of the topic.
  • Structured—it is written in a logical order and in the required assignment format.
  • Evidenced—it supports its arguments with evidence and is accurately referenced.
  • Formal in tone and style—it uses the appropriate language (University of Leeds, 2020b).