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4.6 Using academic language

Writing is a social act - a way we communicate with people and make meaning of and respond to what's around us. We always write for a particular purpose and to a specific audience. In the case of academic writing, writers generally address those people with knowledge about and an interest in a particular area, in order to advance that discipline's knowledge (Henderson, 2012). 

Academic writing is therefore often objective, formal and impersonal. To write objectively, academic writers create distance between their personal opinion and their subject area. They build their opinion through reasoning and evidence from research findings, rather than through their personal attitude towards the subject matter.

Assignments at university will require you to craft your writing in an academic manner, although the way you achieve this for different subjects and even different courses will often vary.

To fit your purpose as a writer, in some cases you may need to break the longstanding rules of academic writing. However, before you do so, it's important that you understand these rules and follow the directions of your lecturers and tutors.

Further reading

• Should I use "I"? (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
• Personal or impersonal? (Royal Literary Fund, UK)
• Using active voice in the sciences (University of Toronto)
Using gender-inclusive language (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
• Using tentative language (Monash University)
• Taking a stance (UEFAP)
• Using academic style and tone (Hong Kong Baptist University)

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