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Everything you need to know about Academic English and here’s how you can improve your skills
(9 August 2019)


English is the most widely used language in the world and, apart from native speakers, the language is increasingly used by non-native speakers from all corners of the world.

A few centuries ago, English language was mainly confined to the British territories and it gradually reached other parts of the world on the back of Colonization and migration. The language further gained traction on the account of globalization, when all the non-English speaking, developed and developing, countries geared up to do business with the English-speaking world.

Many countries started imparting English education in their academic institutions to prepare students for the globalized and interconnected world.

The penetration of English movies, television series, songs, bands, social media, news channels, etc. have also popularized the language more than ever before. More and more people from remotest parts of the world in Far East, Southeast Asian, European, African and Middle Eastern countries are using English in their daily lives.

However, using English in day-to-day interactions is far different from using the language for academic purposes.

Academic English is the form of English language that is used for the purpose of reading and understanding subject materials and reproducing it in writing or typing in assignments or tests.

Academic English is also used to describe a process, describe a situation or an object, or explain something.

Although it is difficult to establish a concrete set of rules, academic English tends to be more complex, precise, clear, simple and nuanced compared with the language that we use in our general interactions.

Key features of Academic English:

1. Impersonal in style and formal in tone

Unlike everyday English, which we use to communicate with our closed ones and friends, academic English is always impersonal in style and formal in tone. The main purpose of academic English is to communicate particular information and is intended for a wide range of readers starting from students to professional educators.

2. No contractions or shortened verb forms

In academic English, the usage of contractions and shortened forms of verbs must be avoided. It may be convenient to shorten a few words like we do in our social media posts or text messages, but it will create an unfavorable impression on the mind of readers.

Instead of writing it’s, doesn’t, won’t, it is advisable to write it is, does not, will not.

3. No conjunction at the beginning of a sentence

In academic English, starting a sentence with a linking word, or conjunction, is detrimental to the efforts of the writer. Conjunctions such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’, etc., is best kept for any part of the sentence except the starting one.

4. No personal pronouns

As a writer, please avoid using personal pronouns such as ‘you, ‘your’, ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’, in academic English. The goal is to have a formal tone and impersonal style and the usage of personal pronouns work against the very objective.

5. Usage of passive forms of verbs depending on the context

Passive forms are best used in the cases when the actor is ambiguous or irrelevant, you are talking about a general truth (common in academic writing), you want to emphasize the thing or person acted on, you are writing scientific topics.

6. Minimal/no usage of phrasal verbs

In academic English, the usage of phrasal verbs, the verbs composed of more than one words, should be avoided.

It does not make sense to combine more than one words to convey a meaning of a verb when it can be achieved with the usage of one. Example: Instead of writing ‘call for’, ‘give up’, ‘put up with’, ‘let go’, and ‘reach out’, write ‘demand’, ‘quit’, ‘tolerate’, ‘release’, and ‘extend’ for respective words.

7. Usage of cautionary words before coming to a conclusion

It is imperative in academic English to use cautionary words such as ‘could’, ‘may’, or ‘it is possible that …’ prior to explaining findings, study results, or coming to a conclusion.

8. Usage of specialized vocabulary

Academic English may require the usage of specialized vocabulary, esoteric words, terminologies, or jargons that are used in a particular field of study.

So, writers need to familiarize themselves with such words and if required explain those in simpler terms such that a layperson or a beginner can be able to understand the content.


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