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9 Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing

9 Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing


Don’t say: “The stepmother’s house was cleaned by Cinderella.” (Passive.)
Say instead: “Cinderella cleaned the stepmother’s house.” (Active voice.)

Passive voice construction (“was cleaned”) is reserved for those occasions where
the “do-er” of the action is unknown.

Example: “Prince Charming saw the glass slipper that was left behind.”

Improve Your Academic Writing.

2. Mix it up in terms of PUNCTUATION

Here are a few commonly misused punctuation marks that a lot of people aren’t
sure about:
The semi-colon (;) separates two complete sentences that are complementary.
Example: “She was always covered in cinders from cleaning the fireplace; they
called her Cinderella.”
The colon (:) is used…
a. preceding a list.
Example: “Before her stepmother awoke, Cinderella had three chores to complete:
feeding the chickens, cooking breakfast, and doing the wash.”

b. as a sort of “drum roll,” preceding some big revelation.
Example: “One thing fueled the wicked stepmother’s hatred for Cinderella:
The dash (–) is made by typing two hyphens (-). No spaces go in between the dash
and the text. It is used…

a. to bracket off some explanatory information.
Example: “Even Cinderella’s stepsisters-who were not nearly as lovely or virtuous
as Cinderella–were allowed to go to the ball.”

b. in the “drum roll” sense of the colon.
Example: “Prince Charming would find this mystery lady–even if he had to put the
slipper on every other girl in the kingdom.”


Don’t say: “Cinderella saw her fairy godmother appear. She was dressed in blue. She
held a wand. The wand had a star on it. She was covered in sparkles. Cinderella was
amazed. She asked who the woman was. The woman said, ‘I am your fairy
godmother.’ She said she would get Cinderella a dress and a coach. She said she
would help Cinderella go to the ball.”

Instead say: (there are multiple correct ways to rewrite this, but here’s
one) “Amazed, Cinderella watched as her fairy godmother appeared. The woman
dressed in blue was covered in sparkles and carried a star-shaped wand. Cinderella
asked the woman who she was, to which the woman replied, ‘I am your fairy
godmother.” The fairy godmother would get Cinderella a dress and a coach; she
would help Cinderella get to the ball.”

4. Closely related to this, avoid CHOPPINESS

Don’t say: “She scrubbed the floors. They were dirty. She used a mop. She sighed
sadly. It was as if she were a servant .”

Instead say : (again, there are multiple ways to do this) “She scrubbed the dirty
floors using a mop, as if she were a servant. She sighed sadly.”


Don’t say: “The stepsisters were jealous and envious .”
Instead say : “The stepsisters were jealous .” (…or envious. Pick one.)


Don’t say: “The mystery lady was one who every eligible man at the ball admired.”
Instead say : “Every eligible man at the ball admired the mystery lady.”

7.Use the VOCABULARY that you know

Don’t always feel you have to use big words. It is always better to be clear and use
simple language rather than showing off flashy words you aren’t sure about and
potentially misusing them. This is not to say, however, that you should settle for
very weak vocabulary choices (like “bad” or “big” or “mad”).

8. But also work on expanding your VOCABULARY

When reading, look up words you don’t know. See how they’re used. Start a list.
Incorporate them into your writing as you feel comfortable and as they are

9. Keep language FORMAL and avoid language of everyday speech

Don’t say: “Cinderella was mellow and good. She never let her stepmother get to
her .”
Say instead: “Cinderella was mild-mannered and kind. She never let her stepmother
affect her high spirits .”
So, essentially, when it comes to working on style, there are three things to

Empower yourself with knowledge
Learn to punctuate correctly, enhance your vocabulary, etc. Give yourself all the
tools there are so that you are free to mix it up! Avoid repetition of words and
sentence structure. Variance promotes good “flow” and is more interesting for your
“Write to EXPRESS, not to IMPRESS.”
Above all, write actively, clearly, and concisely.

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