How to Write in an Academic Style


One of the requirements of the writing test is to use an academic style. So, how is academic writing different to other forms of writing?

Here are some of the main features of academic writing:

It is Formal

Academic writing uses formal forms so you need to avoid language that is more common in spoken English:

  • Avoid colloquial words and expressions such as “kids” (children), "lots of” (many), “in a nutshell” (in conclusion / to sum up), “etc.”
  • Avoid abbreviated forms such as "can't" (cannot), "doesn't" (does not), "wasn’t" (was not), “won’t” (will not)
  • Avoid multi-word verbs such as “put off” (postpone), “look into” (investigate), “come across” (discover) , “cut down” (reduce)
  • Avoid sub-heads, numbering and bullet-points in your essays

It is Precise

Academic writing uses precise information, dates and figures. If you are describing a graph then use precise and accurate data taken from the table or chart.


Do not write: “Thousands more people started using mobile phones between 2000 and 2005.”

Write: “The number of mobile phone subscribers increased from 250,000 in 2000 to 750,000 in 2005, an increase of 500,000.”

It is Complex

Academic writing uses complex sentences rather than simple sentences with more noun phrases, phrases using prepositions, passive voice and subordinate clauses.

A wide range of vocabulary with less common words and phrases used. These less common words are often taken from Latin or Greek

Look at this table and match the Latin or Greek words on the left with the everyday words or phrases on the right:

(Answer key at the bottom of the page)

It is Organised

Academic writing is structured and follows a linear, logical progression. The writing is organised into paragraphs and each paragraph has one main idea that is developed and expanded.

The essay is connected by linking words and signpost words to help the reader follow the line of argument and ensure that the main idea is clear.

The table below has some common linking words and phrases used in writing task 2 essays:

  1. (j) 2. (i) 3. (k) 4.  (c) 5.  (b) 6.  (l) 7.  (f) 8. (e) 9.  (d) 10. (a) 11. (h) 12. (g)

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