What does it mean to write with style? Particularly in an academic environment?

It doesn’t mean:

  • Using big words
  • Padding your writing to reach word/page minimums
  • Picking the right font

Writing teachers joke that “flow” is the “other four-letter ‘F’ word” because students use it as such a grab bag catch-all…

Writing style is difficult to articulate. If you’ve ever listened to a master comedian parse what makes something funny you’re in the right ball park.

The good news? Style in academic writing has some pretty concrete and, honestly, low barriers to entry.

Browse Style Articles:

Know your audience – presentation skills

Presentation skills culture varies widely from industry to industry, organization to organization. In the absence of specific guidelines or expectations use our concrete guidelines to design and give great presentations. If possible, review examples of previous presentations given at your organization and adjust accordingly.

“To Be” – An Overview for ESL Learners

The verb "to be" is one of the most versatile and important verbs in the English language. It is used as a main verb to describe the existence or presence of something or someone, and it can also function as an auxiliary verb to form various tenses, passive voice, and...

100 Irregular Verbs in English

English has lots of different verbs that don't follow the same rules as other verbs. This is because English has changed a lot over time, and has mixed with other languages.  English used to have two ways of making past verbs. One (that we still have today) is by...

A Poster Child for Persuasive Speech: Pharrell Showcasing Rhetoric on The Voice

A recent episode of NBC's The Voice, featuring Pharrell and Xtina battling for a contestant, showcased rhetoric in a compelling and relevant way. After 16-year-old Koryn Hawthorne killed her audition, Pharrell and Xtina went back and forth, trying to...

Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns are words that describe intangible things, such as ideas, emotions, or qualities. They are the opposite of concrete nouns, which describe tangible objects that we can touch or see, such as "love," "happiness," or "freedom."  Abstract nouns are...

Adjectives – Overview for ESL Learners

Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns or pronouns in a sentence. They give us more information about the noun or pronoun and help us to better understand and visualize it. For example, in the sentence "The red car drove down the street," the adjective...

Adjusting Expectations: Excessive Elaboration

Longer is not always better! Limit your sentences to a few clauses, and alternate long sentences and short sentences. Academic writing in English tends to have long, sophisticated noun phrases, but it is not a requirement to include complex sentence structure and long strings of joined clauses.


Few things do more to distinguish skilled writers from amateurs than the way in which they use adverbs (words that modify verbs and usually end with -ly). The following examples demonstrate why: Example 1: Jane ran quickly past the guard, jumped high over the counter,...

Adverbs – Overview for ESL Learners

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They tell us how, when, where, or to what extent something is done. Adverbs can be single words or phrases, and they usually appear before or after the word they modify. Here are some common adverbs...

Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree are words that modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. Adverbs of degree can be used to show the degree of intensity of something, such as how much, how little, how well, or how badly something is done. There are several different types of...

Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner are words that describe how something is done or how something happens. They can be placed before or after the verb in a sentence. Some common adverbs of manner include: Slowly: She walked slowly down the street. Quickly: He ran quickly to catch the...

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place describe where something happens or is located. They can be used to answer the question "Where?" in a sentence. Here are some common adverbs of place: Here: in or at this place Example: I left my keys here on the table. (Here describes the location of...

Adverbs of Time

Adverbs of time are words that describe when an action occurs. They can be placed in different positions in a sentence, depending on the language and the emphasis you want to give. Some common adverbs of time include: Now: used to indicate the present moment. Example:...

ANALYZE Evidence to Support Your Thesis

Actionable tips and examples to help you move deeper into the evidence you’ve already got.

Analyzing Audience to Maximize Your Impact (and Grades)

Understanding how most teachers view student attitudes and approaches to work can help you succeed.

Analyzing Your Audience – the First Rule of Effective Writing

The first step to effective communication? Understanding your audience – including TEACHERS. Specific help for writing for the teacher audience.

Analyzing Your Business Audience

In an early scene from the film Limitless, down-on-his-luck novelist Eddie Morra is getting screamed at by his landlady for not paying the rent. But as she relentlessly berates him for being a shiftless loser, a wonder-drug he’s swallowed...

APA Paper Formatting with Sample & Comments

Summary of APA document formatting basics with a sample paper you can download from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue. The sample includes annotations explaining the various rules (PDF).


It’s sometimes difficult to know with an apostrophe where its proper place is. The answer is that you put an apostrophe in a word to show that letters have been left out. We call these words “contractions” and we use them a lot in daily speech. If you have trouble...

Article Use (a, an, the…)

Using articles appropriately is one of the most difficult grammatical points in English to master. It is not necessarily essential in speech, but it’s something that should be checked for when writing.

Assignment Expectations: Excessive Adherence to Inappropriate Structures

It may be confusing, even annoying, but some of the structures you may have learned in test prep classes and English language classes, such as the five-paragraph essay, may not be appropriate for use in other classes. Be careful to follow assignment instructions.

Assignment Expectations: Reflection Writing

Reflection writing assignments are common in many classes, especially as a response to reading assignments. It is distinctive from other types of academic writing because it encourages the writer to write in the first person, but usually it has the same expectations as other academic writing assignments in other ways.

Audience, Purpose, and Tone: Hedging – good and bad

Hedging is a way of using language to make an argument more effective by softening or strengthening it. An idea expressed without appropriate hedging may seem too general, too confident, or too extreme. Specific vocabulary and writing strategies can be learned and used to hedge appropriately.

Audience, Purpose, and Tone: Objectivity

Attempt to cultivate objectivity. Objectivity is an overall goal in academic writing, even if the goal is to convince the reader of something. It demonstrates that the emphasis is on the object – your writing, your research – not on you yourself.

Avoid ‘Just’ Opinions

While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, facts are independent of anyone’s beliefs, feelings, or perspectives. When writing persuasively, try to avoid opinion statements as these can weaken your argument, particularly when it comes to thesis statements. The...

Avoid a VAGUE Thesis

The more specific your writing, the more successful you will be at convincing others and communicating your ideas. Set yourself up for success in academic writing by crafting a specific thesis. Not a vague one. What is a vague thesis? Assume the general subject is...

Avoid Logical GOOFS (Logical Fallacies)

Fallacies are statements that sound logical but, if you stop and think, really aren’t. Avoid in your own writing and critique in others’.

Awkward Construction

Sometimes a sentence sounds awkward or is difficult to understand because it contains multiple grammatical or punctuation errors or it might be that the idea you were trying to convey was too complicated to fit into a single sentence. It can sometimes be difficult for...

Balancing Repetition and Variety

As you learn to write in English, you will learn how to balance repetition and variety, to ensure cohesion. One strategy to accomplish this purpose is to vary the way you refer to people and things. After the first reference to a noun form, you can refer to it with pronouns and demonstratives until the topic changes.


The word “bibliography” literally means: a writing of books. In academic writing it is a list of works that were referenced or quoted in the text and it usually appears at the end of the text. Depending on what topic you are writing about, you might need to use a...

Blasting Through Writers’ Block

Think you’re the only one who stares at the blank screen with feat/anxiety/anger/boredom? Nope. Every writer who ever lived has felt the same way. This resource will walk you through the most common and suggest some ways to deal. There’s always cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes – if you REALLY want to avoid writing.