ENGL001 Study Guide

Unit 4: Finishing Touches

4a. Identify and apply concepts of style to academic writing

  • What does it mean to write in an academic writing style?
  • What should your sentence structure strategy be for academic writing?
  • What should your word choice strategy be for academic writing?
  • How can you use parallel structure in academic writing?
  • What is the difference between active and passive voice, and when should they be used in academic writing?

An academic writing style should be one that is simple and clear, but not too casual. You should vary your sentence structure between simple, compound, complex, and compound complex sentences.

Your word choice should be specific and clear, avoiding misused words or words with vague meanings. Be careful about using jargon, cliches, and loaded language, and replace long phrases with more concise words.

Parallel structure is when words within a sentence are united by consistent use of grammatical forms. Academic writing uses proper parallel structure within a sentence or list.

Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence; in active voice, the subject remains the "doer" of the action. Active voice should be your default academic voice, but there are occasions for passive voice, mainly in scientific writing, to emphasize an object, and when readers don't need to know who is responsible for the action.



4b. Practice applying stylistic techniques to a variety of writing exercises and assignments based on unique rhetorical situations

  • What are stylistic techniques to practice?
  • What are the four kinds of sentence structure patterns?
  • When should you use each sentence pattern?
  • How can you recognize awkward, vague, or unclear word choices?
  • What is wordiness, and what techniques can you practice to combat it?
  • What are cliches, and how should they be included in academic rhetorical situations?
  • What is the most important goal of academic writing?
  • How can you use key terms in your academic writing? What should you watch out for?
  • What are other strategies for successful word choice?

Stylistic techniques involve sentence structure, accurate and clear word choice, parallel structure, and voice.

Sentence structure patterns include simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Simple sentences include just one independent clause: "Mr. Potato Head eats monkeys". Compound sentences are composed of two or more independent clauses, and connected by conjunctions or a semicolon: "Mr. Potato Head eats them for breakfast every day, but I don't see the attraction". A complex sentence includes one independent clause, plus at least one dependent clause: "Although I am curious, I am still skeptical". Compound-complex sentences include two or more independent clauses, plus one or more dependent clauses: "Mr. Potato Head said that he would share the secret recipe; however, if he does, Mrs. Potato Head will feed him to the piranhas, so we are both safer and happier if I don't eat monkeys or steal recipes". You should vary your sentence structures by arranging the clauses differently, and look for places where you can separate complex sentences or combine simple sentences.

When working on word choice, look for:

  • Misused words: The word does not actually mean what the writer thinks it does.
  • Words with unwanted connotations or meanings. These can distract your academic audience if unintentional.
  • Using a pronoun when readers cannot tell to whom/what it refers. 
  • Jargon or technical terms: Only used when necessary for your target audience. If you are writing for a professional audience, jargon may be appropriate, but if your audience are not experts, then avoid it.
  • Loaded language: Sometimes writers know what they mean by a certain word, but may need to spell it out more clearly for their target audience.

Wordiness is when you use words that your readers may regard as "extra" or inefficient. Typically, for any rhetorical situation, the more concise word choice you have, the more effective your writing is. Look for phrases that you can replace with shorter substitutes such as "If" instead of "In the event that…" and "Because" instead of "Due to the fact that…"

Cliches are catchy little phrases so frequently used that they have become trite, corny, or annoying. You should limit them in your academic writing. Examples include "agree to disagree" (replace with "disagree") and "last but not least" (replace with "last").

The most important goal of academic writing is not to sound smart – it is to communicate an argument or information clearly and convincingly.

Use repetition to highlight key terms in your academic writing. Repeating key terms emphasizes important points and signals to the reader that the argument is still being supported. Repetition contributes to your writing's cohesion. However, if you feel that your argument's clarity is escaping you, you are probably being redundant, and should look for synonyms or other ways to reword your sentences.

Practice these strategies for successful word choice:

  • Look up any words that you are not familiar with, and even synonyms, to ensure they are used appropriately in context.
  • Use accurate and strong nouns and verbs.
  • When you get stuck, try the slash/option technique to write out two or more choices for a confusing word or sentence. Pick the word that works best.
  • Look for repetition vs. redundancy.
  • Write your thesis in five different ways.
  • Read your paper out loud at a slow pace, to yourself or to someone else.
  • Talk through your argument as concisely as you can.
  • Have someone unfamiliar with the subject read your paper and point to places they find confusing.



4c. Apply techniques for using research to support various logical structures and rhetorical strategies, including analysis, discussion, and comparison/contrast

  • What research techniques can you use to support your writing?

Use the following steps to help you practice research techniques:

  • Review the primary purposes of researching: To provide factual information, and provide arguments for and against your position.
  • Gather evidence through your research: Print any electronic sources, observations, interviews, surveys, experiments, and personal experience.
  • Determine whether you have enough evidence by making a reverse outline, color coding your paper, or playing Devil's Advocate.
  • Make sure your sub-claims and counterarguments are supported by your research.
  • Evaluate the quality of your sources by doing the CRAAP test on them.
  • Integrate your research into your writing by using quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.
  • Determine the appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and follow those guidelines.
  • Avoid plagiarism by using citations and taking careful notes about bibliographic information.



4d. Demonstrate competence in analysis, persuasion, and stylistic variation by developing, analyzing, and editing essays that embody various rhetorical, stylistic, and logical requirements

  • What does it mean to revise? Why is revision important?
  • How is revision different from proofreading and editing?
  • What are some steps in the revision process?
  • What is sentence-level revision?
  • What are some strategies for revising an essay's organization?
  • What is cohesiveness, and how can you check it in your essay?

Revision means to "see again", so it is an ongoing process of rethinking your paper. Writing is a process of discovery, so revision helps you produce your best work by helping you see what is really worth saying and if a reader is likely to understand what you are saying. Proofreading and editing take place at the sentence and word level, looking for small errors such as misspellings.

When revising, you should check the focus of your paper, think honestly about your thesis, and think about your purpose. Later, examine your paper's balance and check the organization, information, and conclusion.

Sentence-level revision asks you to examine each sentence and cut out extra or vague words, use forceful verbs, delete prepositional phrases, check sentence variety, and include precise word choice.

Paragraph-level revision asks you to examine the organization of the paper. You can accomplish this by creating a reverse outline, talking through your ideas, sectioning, listing and narrowing your topic, and visualizing your organization through clustering or mapping.

An essay has achieved cohesiveness when the words and ideas flow smoothly and connect logically. You can check for cohesiveness by reading your work aloud and asking if it makes sense, if the ideas flow logically and sound unified, and if there are any grammatical or usage errors that need to be fixed.



Unit 4 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes the terms that you will need to know to successfully complete the final exam.

  • academic writing style
  • active voice
  • cliches
  • cohesiveness
  • complex sentence
  • compound sentence
  • compound-complex sentence
  • editing
  • key terms
  • parallel structure
  • passive voice
  • proofreading
  • redundant
  • repetition
  • reverse outline
  • revision
  • sentence structure
  • simple sentences
  • stylistic techniques
  • word choice
  • wordiness