Everything English

Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)


Contact a customer support specialist at 1-206-494-5992

Category : Writing Tips

Setting the Right Tone in Academic Papers

How to set the proper tone in academic writing? Certain words are standard, while others should be avoided. Some standard (and generally interchangeable) terms are:

Examined, considered, studied, explored

  • Nordlund examined the effects of …
  • Nordlund considered the effects of …
  • Nordlund studied the effects of …
  • Nordlund explored the effects of …

Association, relationship, correlation

  • … to determine whether there was an association between income and standardized test performance.
  • … to determine whether there was a relationship between income and standardized test performance.
  • … to determine whether there was a correlation between income and standardized test performance.

The previous sentences could also be written as:

  • … to determine whether income was associated with standardized test performance.
  • … to determine whether income was related to standardized test performance.
  • … to determine whether income correlated with standardized test performance.

Noted, observed, mentioned, cited, explained

  • Previous literature has noted the discrepancy in …
  • Previous literature has observed the discrepancy in …
  • Previous literature has mentioned the discrepancy in …
  • Previous literature has cited the discrepancy in …
  • Previous literature has explained the discrepancy in …

Argued, contended, asserted, held

  • Jones argued that
  • Jones contended that …
  • Jones asserted that …
  • Jones held that …

Unlike, by contrast, departing from

  • Unlike Genovese, Hughes argues that …
  • By contrast, Hughes argues that …
  • Departing from others in his field, Hughes argues that …

In addition, moreover, what is more, furthermore

  • In addition, numerous studies have mentioned …
  • Moreover, numerous studies have mentioned …
  • What is more, numerous studies have mentioned …
  • Furthermore, numerous studies have mentioned …

Like, likewise, similarly, agrees

  • Like others in his field, Davis argues that …
  • Likewise, Davis argues that …
  • Similarly, Davis argues that …
  • Davis agrees that …

“Too” and “also” may be used in academic writing – but generally only in certain ways:

  • Davis, too, contends that there is an association.
  • Davis also contends that there is an association.

But not:

  • Also, Davis contends that there is an association.
  • Davis contends that there is a relationship, too.

Other words/phrases to use sparingly (if at all): “pointed out”, “a lot of”, “lots of”. Instead of “a lot of” or “lots of”, try “numerous” or “many”.

Transitional Words and Phrases: Keeping your ideas together and preparing your reader for what’s next

Imagine a world where only abrupt transitions took place. Imagine, when a change took place, you didn’t have time to prepare or even think about it. For example, imagine the following:

Wednesday morning you and your spouse find out you’re having a baby. Wednesday night, the baby is here. There was no nine months of preparation to get ready for the baby. The abrupt change would not be easy.

Now, imagine if your writing transitioned abruptly as well. For example:

My husband and I are facing a difficult decision. We are debating between sending our children to private school or public school. We like the fact that private schools have uniforms. We like the idea that public schools are more diverse in just about every aspect. We don’t like that private schools can become costly. We do like that the education and discipline there is taken seriously. Public schools are often scared to discipline too harshly. There are pros and cons to both and we must reach a decision.

Below, the same paragraph as above is written, but you will find transitional words and phrases (that are underlined) making the writer’s ideas flow smoother.

My husband and I are facing a difficult decision. Currently, we are debating between sending our children to private school or public school. We like the fact that private schools have uniforms. However, we like the idea that public schools are more diverse in just about every aspect. Meanwhile, we don’t like that private schools can become costly; although, we do like that the education and discipline there is taken seriously. Public schools are often scared to discipline too harshly. All in all, there are pros and cons to both and we must reach a decision.

Having transitions in your writing allows the reader to prepare for what is next and keeps your ideas together.

On a personal note, I was co-teaching a tenth grade English composition course several years ago. The teacher I was closely working with created an entire unit on Transitions. At first, I asked myself why she would devote so much time to transitional words and phrases rather than making it a quick lesson. I thought it would be a pretty easy concept for tenth graders to grasp. But, I was wrong! My co-teacher required the students to use an excessive number of transitional words and phrases in their writings. I thought she was crazy. But again, I was wrong! Making the students use an absurd amount of transitions for practice in their works made them see just how important it is to connect ideas correctly and smoothly. 

Using transitional words and phrases allows your words to flow forming a cohesive work, which allows the reader to move from one point to the next point more smoothly. Look below to see examples of transitional words and phrases and the purpose of each.

Transitional Words and Phrases Purpose
In addition, again, as well as, furthermore, moreover, etc. To add a thought
As a result, consequently, hence, therefore, subsequently, etc. To show an outcome
On the other hand, likewise, nevertheless, therefore, however, similarly, etc. To compare
Above all, over all, in conclusion, after all, all in all, etc. To conclude
Generally speaking, usually, in general, etc. To generalize
Firstly, lastly, secondly, finally, in the meantime, meanwhile, afterward, later, etc. To show order
In other words, as mentioned earlier, etc. To restate
Specifically, in particular, for instance, especially, etc. To stress something

There are many more transitional words and phrases with the purpose to make your thoughts flow and connect, which results in your reader easily understanding your writing.

That and Which: Interchangeable or Not?

Many writers use the words that and which interchangeably – as if they mean the same thing or tackle the same task within a written work. While either may sound correct within a body of words, it is important to understand the role each word plays.

Take a look at the following table and discover the difference between that and which:

Term Usage and Example
That The word that is used to introduce information within a sentence that cannot be omitted because it would then alter or lessen the meaning of the sentence.

Example 1: Eating a variety of foods that are packed with nutrients is good for your brain and body. 

Which The word which (set apart with commas) is used when there is extra information in the sentence, but can be omitted without changing or lessening the meaning of the sentence.

Example 2: Eating a variety of foods, which are packed with nutrients, is good for your brain and body. 

 

Looking at the above two examples, you can note that in Example 1 the author finds it important to mention that eating a variety of foods packed with nutrients is good for your brain and body. Meanwhile, the author in Example 2 is simply providing you with extra information (foods packed with nutrients); the author finds that it is enough to mention that eating a variety of foods is good for your brain and body.

Always remember that there are exceptions to every rule. There may be times where which will be used to introduce important information without being set apart by commas.