Scholarly Writing: Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Dissertation
June 26, 2018
Academic writing is much different than writing for the general population, and it can take some time to get acclimated. By the time you’re writing your dissertation, though, you should be more familiar with the expectations of academia, based on prior papers, articles, and reports you’ve written. Even then, it’s easy to fall back on what’s most natural and familiar, so sometimes informal writing sneaks in. We get it; we’ve been there – especially when you’ve had a string of late nights and your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
While we can assist you with editing and formatting your paper, we can’t actually write it for you – so here are some tips for academic writing, as well as some overused words and phrases to try to avoid in your writing.
Avoid contractions. Try not to use “don’t,” “can’t,” and so forth. Write the words out; ie, “do not.”
Try not to use “always” or “never.” The thing with words like “always” or “never” is that they imply absolutes – and are almost always never (pun intended) true.
Avoid using “In conclusion…” This usage is sophomoric, and you should let your writing do the work for you – the reader should realize when you’re building your conclusion. Same with “finally.”
Don’t use informal language. Your dissertation is a professional, academic document and should reflect your education level and the formality of the process – hence, why you shouldn’t write it as you would, say, a Facebook status or blog post. Words or phrases like “I got these results” or “this chapter gives a summary;” and words like “a lot” and colloquial phrases should not be used. Instead, write sentences like “These results were obtained…” or “This chapter provides…” Same with clichés – they don’t have a place in a dissertation.
Try not to use “impactful.” People have strong feelings about this word, and in academic circles, it will often provoke eye-rolling and have editors wanting to take a red pen to the paper. While it IS a real word, it’s best to not put this one in your dissertation, as it’s overused and a bit hackneyed.
Avoid passive voice. Not to be confused with past tense, passive voice is one of the issues professors will take issue with. Passive voice can contribute to awkward and clunky sentences and can make interesting writing dull.
Be economical with language. When you’re trying to write professionally and convey a knowledgeable tone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using longer words and more words, in order to sound “scholarly” – when in fact, just the opposite is true. Using one good word instead of 3 merely adequate filler words is much more effective, and being concise allows you to convey your thoughts and research in a direct, clear way to the reader. True experts can take a complex concept and explain it in just a few words.
Academic writing differs greatly from other kinds of writing, but like many things, practice (aka revisions) makes perfect (or at least, better). Our editors can provide you with editing, feedback, and guidance to help polish your skills and improve your writing. Contact us today to learn about how we can help you with your project!