Academic English – The Dos and Don’ts

If you’re learning English, you may have come across an academic article or two. This may be confusing for an English learner, as academic English is a lot different from spoken English.

Academic English is quite different from the “normal” English you would use in the office, or even the English we use in this blog! Academic English uses a certain structure that is rarely (almost never) seen anywhere else. It’s more formal, scientific, and follows a certain formula.

Now, the tricky thing with academic English is that there are different style guides, meaning that there are different styles of academic writing that are accepted (allowed, required) depending on the situation. For example, I had one professor in college who accepted papers in MLA format, and another who accepted papers in Chicago format. That means I had to adjust to two styles of academic writing!

The good thing is, there are a few generalizations (overall, common things) that you can use across (over, with) all styles, so we’ve put together some tips and tricks for you about writing academic English if you’re still learning:

Write formally

There’s absolutely no way an academic paper would be considered (thought to be) passable if it was using text speakslangabbreviations, or other informal terms. Academic writing needs to be acceptable (okay, passable) in many different circles, so it’s best to use formal language.

What does this mean? Here are some tips:

  • avoid using contractions
  • do not write in the first person
  • write out numbers under twenty (“thirteen” instead of 13)
  • avoid slang

When all else fails (nothing else works), think of how you would speak to your professor or your boss. You wouldn’t say something like, “Hey yo, what’s happenin’ man,” right? I hope not! You are trying to write about something academic and your tone (the language or style) you use should reflect that.

Study Up

Curious as to what the different style guides have to say? There are lots of books outlining the requirements of the various styles, so order a few and check out what is expected by your professor!

Also, don’t be afraid to read other academic papers or books for a good example of these styles. Even if you don’t understand every word, they’ll be able to give you a good idea of what is usually done (standard, customary), and then you can apply (use) that to your own writing.

Outline

I have to say, I’ve never been a person who outlines her thoughts before starting to write a paper, but for some it’s extremely helpful.

For the record, Bespeaking definitely supports the effort (energy) to make a great outline before you start writing, regardless of how desperately you want to just start writing.

Outlining a paper before you write it can be a effective way to get your thoughts in order and figure out exactly what it is that you want to say AND WHEN you want to say it.

An outline helps to make sure that you don’t repeat yourself while also helping you to stay on track (focused, on topic).

Another great bonus of outlining is that it helps you set goals as you move from section to section. This is great if (like me) you get easily distracted and need a way to keep moving your point forward (staying on track, focussed).

Get Feedback

One of the best things you can do with an academic paper is to get feedback from other people. Don’t be afraid to take your paper to your teacher or professor to get their input (feedback, opinion) on it. They will be the one grading it, so it’s important to know their thoughts before turning it in. While it can be intimidating (scary, nerve-wracking) to meet with a professor on a one-on-one basis, don’t forget that they’re there to help you succeed.

If you want a second pair of eyes to look over any of your work, Bespeaking is here to help you, as well! We’re experienced in academic writing in English, and will be able to help you with any grammatical, formatting, or style questions that you may have. Find out more here!

Academic writing sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. Once you get the hang of (get used to) it, we’re sure that you’ll be able to write an academic paper in English without any problem. And as always, Bespeaking is here to help you along the way.

Buy Lessons


What tips do you have for other language learners who need to write in academic English? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Did you like this blog? Share it with others! Let us know what YOU think!

Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is so glad her academic paper writing days are over…at least for now! We’ll see what the future brings.

Looking for more phrases, ways to use English everyday, or get the conversation started? Sign up for our newsletter or check out the website!