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University Section


1. Overview

2. Analyse Question

3. Research

4. Essay Structure

5. Tone

6. Paragraphs

7. Argument

8. Introduction & Conclusion

9. Final Draft

10. References



Cambridge Dictionaries Online

Study Tools: Dictionaries, encyclopaedias and more >

5. Writing Style: Tone


The Right Grammar & Vocabulary

You've probably been told that university essays should be written in an 'objective and semi-formal' tone, but what does that mean in terms of your choice of grammar and vocabulary.



Things to Avoid

A quick overview of the kind of language to avoid. From Canterbury Christ Church University College. Go>

Impersonal 'It'

Useful ways to begin sentences in academic writing, such as 'It is worth considering whether...' Go>

The pronoun 'One' - Note: this is sometimes considered too formal


Improve these sentences by using the passive voice instead of 'somebody' 'they' or 'people'. Go>

More ways to use passives


More nouns are used in academic writing than in everyday spoken English. This can help make your writing more formal, but be careful not to overuse this technique as it can make your writing too verbose. Go>

Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Excellent advice from Leeds University about when and when not to use these in academic writing. Go>

Making Tentative Statements

Notice how modal verbs might, may and could are very common in academic writing. Read this article to find other ways that writers create a more cautious, tentative tone. Go>

Gender in Essays

Advice about the generic 'he/his/him' and the generic 'man/mankind'. Go>


Useful expressions, as well other elements of writing style, are included on page 6 (Paragraphs).




Advanced Points


Presenting what you have studied learned, rather than your thoughts and beliefs. Go>



High-level but useful advice on avoiding 'wordy' sentences, i.e. being concise. Go>

Present or Past Tense?

General and special uses of past and present tenses, such as 'the literary present'. Remember to be consistent in your use of tenses. Go>




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