Activity 1: Choosing formal vocabulary

Exercise 1:

The following words are considered formal in English: ameliorate, coerce, disparate, obviate and proscribe. If you would like to check the meaning of these words you can follow this link to an online dictionary http://www.macmillandictionary.com/

The following words are better avoided in academic writing: get, likewise, e.g., a lot of, and stuff. It is more advisable to use “obtain“, “acquire“, “become” or some other more formal equivalent to get, but be careful as get can have a variety of different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. “Similarly” or “In the same way” are preferable to the very colloquial likewise; “for example” is more appropriate than e.g. in university essays; “numerous” or “many” (or “a great deal of” or “much” if the noun is uncountable) are preferable to a lot of; and stuff is much too colloquial a word ever to be suitable for use in an academic composition.

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Exercise 2:

The following words are considered suitably formal: variable, interpretation, evaluation, validity, and parameters. If you would like to check the meaning of any of these words, follow this link http://www.macmillandictionary.com/

The following words would be considered inappropriate in an academic essay: horrendous, it’s, ask for, set up, and furious. Although words like furious and horrendous may be considered formal, they are also considered too extreme or too emotionally charged for use academically. Contractions such as it’s (other examples include: they’ve, I’d, don’t and shouldn’t) should always be written out in full, as “it is” or “they have“. Phrasal verbs (or multi-part verbs) should be avoided and their more formal Latin based alternatives used instead: ask for becomes “request” and set up becomes “establish“.

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Exercise 3:

The following sentences would be considered appropriately formal: 3.) 5.) 8.) 9.) and 10.)

The following sentences would be considered inappropriately informal: 1.) 2.) 4.) 6.) and 7.)

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Activity 2: The Academic Word List

Exercise 1:

The following words were spelt incorrectly above (here is the correct spelling): environment, consequent, commission, criteria and initial.

If you would like to check their meaning follow this link http://www.macmillandictionary.com/

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Exercise 2:

The following words were spelt incorrectly above (here is the correct spelling): professional, psychology, equivalent, acknowledge and discriminate.

If you would like to check their meaning follow this link http://www.macmillandictionary.com/

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Activity 3: Use of the personal pronoun ‘I’

One possible alternative wording:

This assignment will present the point of view that expenditure on education in recent years has been insufficient in the area of new technologies. Arguably, the lack of investment is primarily a governmental failure and there may well be a negative impact on computer literacy. Therefore, in conclusion, alternative funding policies will be proposed that hopefully will be considered more forward looking.

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Review of main points

In conclusion then, certain features of informal English are best avoided when writing an academic essay: contractions, colloquial language, the word ‘get’, phrasal verbs, and extreme or emotive language. Vocabulary that has its origins in Latin or French is usually considered more formal and therefore more suitable for use in an academic essay.

The Academic Word List is a resource which greatly facilitates the selection of vocabulary most suitable for memorisation and inclusion in your compositions. For more advice and information, you can follow these links to external sites:

Academic Vocabulary Exercises
Using English for Academic Purposes: Academic Word Lists
Word and Phrase . Info BYU

In many disciplines the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ should be avoided or at least kept to a minimum. However, remember this preference is dependent on discipline and the lecturer to whom you are submitting your work.

Most importantly, the more academic literature you read that is relevant to your studies, the easier you will find it to adopt the appropriate academic style.

References

JORDAN, R.R., (1997) English for Academic Purposes 7th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
SKELTON, J. (1988). The care and maintenance of hedges. ELT Journal, 42 (1), pp.37-43.

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