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Impersonal style

Compare the changes in these sentences from informal to academic style.

Comparison of sentences from informal writing to academic writing
Informal writing Academic writing
When I look at the situation in emergency wards, with many staff leaving, it's hard not to worry about how many doctors will be available to treat patients in the future. If we consider the situation in emergency wards, with increasingly low staff retention rates, there are concerns about the capacity of hospitals to maintain adequate doctor to patient ratios.
It's so obvious that people were given jobs just because they were male or female. I don't think that is an acceptable approach and is even against the law. It appears that in a number of instances jobs were assigned on the basis of gender. Given the current anti-discrimination laws, this raises serious concerns.

You will notice that, in general, in academic writing we:

  • minimise the use of the personal I in the text: avoid writing 'When I look; I don't think this is an acceptable approach'
  • use formal verbs, and fewer verb phrases (verb + preposition), use consider rather than look at
  • use impersonal expressions: there are…, this raises
  • use more nouns than verbs: concerns, rather than to worry
  • avoid emotional expressions, such as it's so obvious ( it appears is preferable); just because ( assigned on the basis of is preferable)
  • aim for concise, often abstract expression, gender, rather than male or female.

Objective writing

  • In general, academic writing aims to be objective in its expression of ideas. Therefore specific reference to personal opinions, or to yourself as the performer of actions, is usually avoided.

Expressing opinions

Expressing opinions
Personal 'Objective'
In my opinion

I believe that…

In my view…

It has been argued that

Some writers claim…


It is clear that…

There is little doubt that…

Avoiding too much reference to yourself as agent in your writing

Avoid reference to yourself as agent in your writing
Agent or performer No agent or performer
I undertook the study… The study was undertaken…
I propose to … It is proposed to…
In this essay I will examine… This essay examines…

There are times when it is important to emphasise authorial stance – ie that it is specifically your position or view. Check with your tutor in the unit as to how much of yourself as the author it is appropriate to acknowledge and include in your writing.

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