Limericks and Wisdom Opinions

Academic Writing

Written by Kashif Hussain

Writing can always be improved. This post goes through several errors you can avoid to improve your academic writing. They are minor errors that we all make and they will enhance your writing ability greatly- You can guarantee a higher mark with these subtle changes.

Ways to improve your Academic Writing

Short forms of verbs

Don’t use contractions e.g.

 I don’t think it’s very important for small kids to learn English.

I do not think it is very important for small kids to learn English.

Imprecise language

Avoid any ambiguity e.g.

I do not think it is very important for small kids to learn English.

I do not think it is very important for young children to learn English.

Personal pronouns

Academic writing should be relatively impersonal but where a personal opinion needs to be expressed then use ‘I’ or My’ but otherwise avoid words like ‘You’.

We should let people do any sport they want to.

Acceptable: People should be allowed to participate in whatever sport they choose.

Cautious language

Academic writing is often cautious, we use a lot of possibility and probability type words e.g.

We should let people do any sport they want to.

It is doubtful whether it is particularly important for young children to study French.

Beware of words like: should, ought, must and definite(ly).
Use enquiring words like: possibly, probably, likely, seems, may and could.

[blockquote cite=”George Orwell” type=”center”]‘A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?’[/blockquote]

Often we think academic writing is complex and long-winded, but in fact the opposite is true, readers need to understand exactly what you mean in as few words as possible. Use correct sentence structure, an active voice and be precise.

A basic sentence = subject + verb + object e.g. Jack stole an apple.

Jack is the subject here, the verb is stole i.e what he is doing and the object is the apple.

The sentence will be grammatically incorrect if its written as:

The apple is what Jack stole or

Jack has an apple which he stole


Make a point, provide evidence and justification then explain why you’re making this point e.g.

The subject is on capital punishment.

(Point) Murders take up too much space in prisons and cost the British public dearly. (Evidence) There are over 130 prisons in the UK and it is estimated that each new prison place costs £119,000 and that the annual average cost for each prisoner exceeds £40,000. (Explain) Therefore it is time to rearrange how we spend our limited resources since such soaring amounts fail to rehabilitate prisoners.


Each sentence in your document should follow smoothly from the preceding sentence, and each paragraph should follow smoothly from the preceding paragraph. Transition words make it possible to follow various ideas in the writing.

In practice, making smooth transitions is very difficult. One rule of thumb is that whenever you switch topics, you should try to provide a verbal clue that you are doing so, like “However, …”, “As a result, …”, “On the other hand, “, etc. If you are using more than three transitions in one paragraph, you need to reorganise your ideas to group related thoughts together, switching topics only when necessary.

Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are common as part of daily language, but they should be avoided in academic writing. You should reword your point in as least words as possible e.g.

Common Speech – The most important thing for the government is that they find out what the real needs are of the NHS.

Academic use – The immediate priority for the government is to conduct a needs analysis for the NHS.

[blockquote cite=”Cottrell” type=”center”]‘Be emotionally neutral: most academic writing requires you to stand back and analyse dispassionately, as an objective onlooker.’[/blockquote]
Compare and Contrast

Give the reader an insight to some of your thinking i.e let them know you are analysing various facts then coming to a conclusion. e.g,

Tesco is the largest supermarket but Morrisons believes it is stepping up. Although Tesco has a bigger turnover and many more stores, Morrisons has a higher number of daily customers. Therefore Morrisons has potential to become the largest supermarket.

Use of idiomatic language

Occasionally there is idiomatic language in academic writing but the more “colourful” the idiom, the less likely you are to use it in academic writing e.g

Bad use of Idiom – A new house costs an arm and a leg these days

Acceptable use of idiom – The board planned a course of action that would reduce costs.

Points in threes

Always make point in threes, three bullet points, three steps, three ideas, etc. A single point is too less for the reader, so is two, the reader still wants to know more. Four points are to many to consider so stick to three as often as you can e.g.

I like crisps, chocolates and drinks.

Verb where possible

Change any nouns to a verb if one is available e.g.

He gave him assistance
He assisted him

She conducted an investigation
She investigated


Define key terms so that readers can understand them exactly and clear up any misinterpretations e.g.

A university + is an institution + where students specialise in a core subject.

Use last names

Never refer to the authors by their first names.


Use footnotes only when the point cannot be made to fit into the main flow of the text, yet it is still so important that it must be mentioned.

[blockquote cite=”Proffessor Hagrid” type=”center”]‘Pretend that you are writing for an intelligent colleague from a related academic field, rather than for your professor who knows everything.’[/blockquote]

Write the first draft to lay out your thoughts. Then redraft and make sense of it so the reader can also understand what you are saying. For the final draft start paragraphing, transitioning and structuring. Also make your paragraphs precise, succinct and use good vocabulary.

Think of your piece like a sculpture. You create the main outline and shape first to get an idea of what you’re working with. Then you chisel out the unnecessary and chisel in the detail. Finally you have one more go at it to perfect it.

Once you have done the third draft, print out your work, put it away somewhere and come back to it after five days. Read your work out aloud- taking note on the flow and any other errors. Remember reading aloud is important, your tongue has to feel the shape and rhythm of the sentences. Either your mind or your tongue will trip up if the sentence does not make sense, or is not written in to a good standard (typos, punctuation, repetition.


Synonyms will allow you to use a diverse vocabulary but make sure you understand the exact meaning of the word otherwise you will sound like someone who is trying to sound be clever.

In order to get a better feel of academic writing I have written the essay below. Read the first paragraph followed by the altered second paragraph. Take note of the minor alterations and language..

[accordion id=”sample-essay”] [accordion_item parent_id=”my-accordion” title=”Sample Essay” open=”false”]  In the modern world, we often don’t rely on food that has been grown locally, but we have got used to buying food from all over the world. While this trend is good for buyers, I think that overall transporting food over long distances is not a good thing.

In the modern world, we no longer rely on food that has been grown locally, but we have become accustomed to buying produce from all over the world. While this trend has some clear benefits for consumers, I would argue that transporting food over long distances is disadvantageous.

The biggest argument against importing food is environmental. We know that transport and the use of fossil fuels is the biggest cause of global warming and climate change. This means that if we want to lead a greener lifestyle, we should try not to use transport so much and this includes transporting of foodstuffs when we don’t have to.

Firstly, the strongest argument against importing food are the environmental affects. Studies have shown that transport and the use of fossil fuels is one of the leading causes of global warming. Therefore, if we want to lead a greener lifestyle, we should aim to minimise the use of transport especially for foodstuffs as it can be grown locally.

Another point is that transporting food is bad for local farmers and traditional ways of life. This is because farmers and smallholders cannot compete in price with the supermarkets that import cheap, and often low-quality, produce from abroad. This is not just a problem for local farmers who will go out of business, it also weakens traditional communities that need those farms for employment and trade.

In addition, the impact of transporting food on local farmers is harmful. There is good research to show that farmers and smallholders are unable to compete in price with supermarkets who import cheap, and often low-quality, produce from abroad. This not only causes local farmers to go bust but impacts traditional communities that rely on farms and agriculture for food, employment and trade.

We should also think how food that has travelled across the world is not as good for you as locally grown, fresh produce. This is because if food travels a lot of miles before it reaches the consumer, it won’t be very fresh and experts say that fresh food is better for you. So, in my opinion, supermarkets and other stores shouldn’t transport food from other countries.

A further consideration is that food that has travelled across the world is considerably less healthy than locally grown fresh produce. Nutritionists say the further food travels before it reaches the consumer, the less vitamins it will contain. Therefore, it would be preferable if supermarkets and the like transported avoided transporting food over long distances.

In conclusion, I think that the trend for transporting food over long distances is wrong because it is not good for the environment, it is bad for local communities and means consumers eat less healthily.

In conclusion, I believe that the trend for transporting food over long distances is undesirable because it is environmentally unfriendly, threatens local communities and results in less healthy options for the consumer.

[/accordion_item] [/accordion]

You will notice the majority of the alterations is making the sentences more precise and using more academic-friendly words.

Finally, check out the following two links for transition words. Familiarise yourself with the different forms and contexts they are to be used in and then practice yourself:

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BEFORE YOU GO: Please check out some of my other posts.I have some intriguing topics that i’d like to discuss, if you would like to be notified just pop your email in to the form on the right hand column.


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