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Choice of language

Informal language

Many academics think that informal verbs, such as ‘put off’, ‘came up with’, ‘come across’, ‘put up with’ ‘go up/down’ ‘got’, should be avoided. You can nearly always find a more formal alternative. However, ‘set up’ and ‘carry out’ are generally acceptable.

Example 1

Example: According to Statistics Finland, seasonally adjusted industrial output went up by 1.5 per cent in July 2006.

This would be better written as:

Example: According to Statistics Finland, seasonally adjusted industrial output rose/increased by 1.5 per cent in July 2006.

Example 2

Example: One advantage of the survey method of research is that useful data can be got from a large number of people in a fairly short time.

This would be better written as:

Example: One advantage of the survey method of research is that useful data can be obtained/collected from a large number of people in a fairly short time.

Colloquialisms

You should also avoid colloquial language or overused expressions. In general, you should not write as if you were speaking.

Examples

  • ‘besides’, choose ‘in addition’
  • ‘in this day and age’, choose ‘now’ or ‘today’
  • ‘brought to an end’, choose ‘ended’
  • ‘came to nothing’, choose ‘failed’

Do not use words like ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘very’ as they are imprecise and can be emotive.

Instead of ‘good’: successful, rigorous, original, elegant, comprehensive, thorough, etc.

Instead of ‘bad’: limited, flawed, small-scale, etc.

Jargon

Do not overuse jargon (specialised or technical language). Many words or phrases have a special meaning within a particular academic field, but may not be clear to a wider, multi-disciplinary audience. If you have to use highly specialised jargon or technical terms, you may need to explain what the words mean if the reader is likely to be unfamiliar with them.