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The Tone Of All Research Papers Should Be


  • Keep in mind that your paper should be written in an academic voice.
  • Use correct grammar



  • On Writing Well – William Zinsser

In most cases, your reader will just be your teacher, but write your paper as cleanly and professionally as if you were presenting it to all of academia.

Determining the audience is helpful because it sets the tone for your paper, which is essentially a dialog between you and your reader.
You want to speak to your reader in a manner that is appropriate for your material. If you were to speak with a group of professors in your field of research,
you wouldn’t address them as you would your close friends. Similarly, you wouldn’t write your academic paper like you would a text message or email.

Every teacher has specific pet peeves about writing. You’ll want to learn about the pet peeves of your teacher. If he or she doesn’t tell you what they are, ask for a sample research paper. Here are some general ground rules:

    • Don’t use contractions.

      (Do not use contractions.)

    • Keep the same tense.

      Most English papers are written in the present tense even though the author may be long dead: Dickens uses metaphorical imagery in Oliver Twist to bring out…
      Social studies papers are typically written in the past tense (since everything has happened already): Bonaparte’s decision to invade Russia was perhaps the most crucial decision in his campaign…

    • Avoid passive voice.

      Passive voice weakens your writing. It is a when the sentence focuses on the action, rather than the subject.

Example: A purchase was made. Here, the focus is on the purchase, rather than who was making the purchase.

Identifying passive voice is tricky and takes a bit of practice, but as a rule, passive voice follows the form: subject + finite form of to be + past participle.

Example: Change “The central conflict in the book–forbidden love–was intensified by Jane’s wedding scene with Rochester” to “Jane and Rochester’s wedding scene intensifies the central conflict: forbidden love.”

See how “was intensified by” is changed to “intensifies”?

One exception to this rule is scientific writing (in a lab write up, for instance). In some scientific writing, passive voice is encouraged. Ask your teacher whether or not this exception applies.

  • Avoid personal pronouns

    like “I,” “you,” and “us.” Most teachers don’t like them. One possible exception is a general “we” in English papers (ex. “We can observe in Dante’s Inferno…). Ask your teacher if this use of “we” is permissible. Although your paper is a dialog between you and your reader, you don’t want to address them in an informal way. Avoiding words like “I” helps you ensure that your paper is supported by facts and evidence rather than opinions (“I think that Dante’s Inferno…).

  • Avoid using colloquialisms in the body of your paper.

    There is no need for phrases like, “So then Juliet totally dumped Romeo and went for..” They cheapen your paper.

  • Carefully scan your paper

    to make sure it has correct grammar.

  • Never use emoticons, texting abbreviations, all caps, or multiple exclamation points.

    OMG!!! I <3 Odysseus! He is dabomb!! LOL! ROFL!!! 😉 will not impress your teacher (or anyone else).

Keep in mind that, although you want your paper to sound classy and academic, you don’t want your paper cluttered with meaningless words or redundancies.

Before: In this interesting and insightful manner, Hemingway both teases and tantalizes the reader, creating a cornucopia of literary magic that is both current and timeless.

Do we really need both “interesting” and “insightful’? “Teases” and “tantalizes”? Is the meaning of this sentence clear? Or is it just being obscured by fancy-sounding but misused words?

After: Hemingway’s unique choice of words produces a literary style that is both current and timeless.

- Academic Writing

Tips For Writing in an Academic Tone and Style

Writing in an appropriate academic tone and style can have a substantial impact on the grading of a paper or its likelihood of being published.

One of our specialities is improving academic tone and style in our clients’ papers. Our team of experienced academics has the knowledge and expertise across a broad range of subjects to help you to establish an appropriate tone in your writing.

Here are a few very brief tips for developing a suitable academic tone and style in your writing.

Academic writing Don’ts

Avoid: contractions, colloquialisms and personal pronouns

Unless it is a part of a direct quotation from another source, there should never be contractions present in a piece of academic writing.

Be careful with your choice of adjectives to avoid use of colloquialisms. You may hear these terms used often by students on campus but they should never be used in an academic context.

Do not use personal pronouns in your academic writing (e.g.I, my, me, mine). It creates an informal tone and makes your writing sound subjective, as opposed to objective. Third person pronouns are permissible, however.

Other devices to avoid include:

Intimate usage
Unnecessary passive voice
Combinative verbs
Click here for more advice on aspects to avoid in academic writing.

Academic writing Dos

Advanced vocabulary

Show a broad range of advanced vocabulary in your lexical choice. This will give the impression you are ‘well read’ and assists greatly in establishing a suitable academic style.

Be sure to use academic lexis in your writing also. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary has a list of words you will likely see used in academic contexts.

Use lexis to show a deeper understanding of your topic

Using subject-specific terminology and technical language can help to communicate a deeper understanding of the topic of the paper. That said, make sure you do so only where appropriate. Using such terminology incorrectly can have the opposite effect and give the impression of a writer that is ‘out of their depth’.

Correct use of abbreviations and acronyms

Before using abbreviations or acronyms, introduce the full term in the first instance, followed by the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses. For example, theWorld Trade Organisation (WTO). Thereafter, you may use the abbreviated form; in this instance,WTO.

Reference impeccably

Proper referencing style is critical to establishing an academic tone in your writing.

Incorrect or inaccurate referencing will weaken your final grade or publishing efforts significantly. Make sure you are very familiar with all the specifics and nuances of your chosen referencing style.

Use perfect grammar, punctuation and formatting

Proofread your work or have a professional academic editor do it for you. Few things will harm the quality and integrity of a piece of writing more than grammar and punctuation issues, and also poor formatting.

Get professional support

If you’d like us to proofread and edit your paper to improve academic style and tone, visit our order page. It’s quick and easy to complete.