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Essay - ATK

Academic style

Academic essays use a precise and formal style of language when compared with the freer and more informal use of language in everyday spoken communication. There are conventions which should be followed when writing academically in order to create this style and to structure your argument.

Objective / 3rd person style
Academic writing avoids using personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘we’. It uses 3rd person objective style instead – eg. he / she / it / the practitioner / researchers.
The passive is frequently used to make the style more impersonal. Eg. 'People were invited to take part in the research' instead of ‘I invited people to take part in the research’.

Cautious language
Most academics use cautious language to indicate the complex nature of academic debate or to indicate their own opinion/speculation regarding a question. Use cautious language when providing unsupported / unreferenced comment or evaluation.
‘This may be because’ rather than ‘this is because’.

Cautious language: may, can, could, might, perhaps, possibly.

Supporting evidence
Remember that supporting evidence from your research into the topic needs to be referenced appropriately (see Referencing Support).

Signposting an argument

The relationship of one idea to another is clearly signposted in academic writing.

Useful words and phrases to structure your argument.


Avoid contractions such as: don't, isn't, it's, won't. These should be spelt out in full as: do not, is not, it is, will not. Contractions indicate pronunciation in spoken language and are therefore not appropriate in formal written style. 

 'Run on' expressions

Avoid using 'run on' expressions (etc., and so on). When making a list be specific about what you are referring to.

Direct questions

Direct questions with question marks should be avoided in academic writing (eg. Why is this? - can be reworded as a statement and answered - There are several reasons for this: firstly...)

Complete sentences

Write using complete sentences (These must have a clear subject and main verb - a complete sentence makes sense when read alone away from other content and context).