At the beginning of the thesis writing process, many students have yet to develop an academic writing style. Often students either use overly formal vocabulary, including jargon or they draw on colloquial words and phrases, resulting in an inappropriately informal tone. Learning to write clearly and succinctly in an academic style takes time; however, working with an editor can help you accelerate that process.

The power of persuasive writing

Academic writing should be persuasive. The aim is to convince the reader that your topic is unique and worthy of study and that you have chosen an effective method of exploring it. In addition, you need to demonstrate your knowledge not only of the literature in your field, but also exactly how it has informed and shaped your study. Finally, it is crucial that you articulate how your results build on the current literature in your field.

Persuasion is partially accomplished by writing in a clear, concise, and objective tone. It is of paramount importance that you develop a style of writing that is neither verbose, overly complicated, nor informal.

Jargon alienates more often than it impresses

When writing a thesis, the author should come across as erudite and conversant, however this can result in language that alienates the reader.

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association defines jargon as “the continuous use of a technical vocabulary, even in places where that vocabulary is not relevant” (APA, 2010, p. 68). The authors also warn against the use of euphemistic phrases to replace familiar terms. If you are going to convince the reader of the strength of your argument, they need to comprehend it. Overly sophisticated vocabulary is more likely to confuse the reader than impress them.

Consider your use of vocabulary carefully. If you are using a technical term related to the topic of your dissertation, or one commonly used in the literature of your discipline, be sure you fully understand the meaning of the word and that it actually is the best word to use in that scenario. If there is any doubt that your intended audience will understand it, provide a definition the first time you use it. Many universities require a list of definitions in the first chapter in which these technical terms can be included.

Colloquial language creates doubt as to the seriousness of the writer and their subject

The use of colloquial language weakens your argument by suggesting that you have not considered the subject under discussion seriously. Writers sometimes adopt this language from less formal publications, such as popular periodicals and blog posts, or they may incorporate colloquialisms used in business contexts. In these cases, you should substitute a more formal way of expressing the same meaning. Examples include substituting approximate for ballpark, or saying manifest instead of play out. Text devoid of colloquialisms may seem dry, but this is the nature of academic writing and a professional, scholarly tone.

What is scholarly tone?

Advisors often cite scholarly tone as a criticism in their evaluations of thesis drafts. Your immediate inclination may be to reach for a dictionary or thesaurus to strengthen your vocabulary with more sophisticated words. Tone describes a way of approaching the subject, more generally, rather than just the vocabulary. Another option would be to utilise academic editing services.

Our consultants and editors are available to help you to develop a persuasive academic writing style. Our editors can also review and revise your drafts to help you identify and correct the use of jargon and colloquialisms. In the process, you will learn to develop an academic writing style that will persuade your committee and future readers of the value of your work.


















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