Informal vs. Academic Language


Informal Speaking Vocabulary Academic Writing Vocabulary What is the difference?
a lot of


go up/go down/stay the same

Retirement is something most of us must face sooner or later.

a considerable amount;



Retirement is inevitable.

More formal, doesn’t use colloquial language



Respiratory infection

Traditional Italian cuisine

Portable electronic devices

More specific




does not

will not

Use full forms rather than contractions
Researchers looked at the way strain builds up around a geological fault.Researchers examined the way strain intensifies around a geological fault.Avoids phrasal verbs
It caused a really big reactionIt caused a significant reaction.

(Or considerable/dramatic


Avoids adverbs such as ‘really’, ‘very’, ‘just’.
Everybody needs his own copy.Everybody needs his or her own copy


Everybody needs their own copy

Gender inclusive
There is no way that the design concept can be implemented within the budgetIt seems unlikely that the design concept can be implemented within the budgetUse a more cautious tone. How cautious depends on the level of certainty provided by your evidence.
Everybody knows that we have had a good year. You can see from the graph that sales have gone up significantly over the quarter.It is generally accepted that this year has been favourable with respect to profit margins. As can be seen from the graph, sales have increased significantly over the quarter.Academic writing is impersonal, so avoid using personal pronouns.
It is my belief that …

I am sure that ..

It can be concluded that …

In light of the evidence, …

It can be argued that …

It is evident from the data that …

Use 3rd person or ‘it’ constructions or refer to the evidence.
The situation deteriorated. It was because people did not communicate well with each other. The issues were eventually addressed, but it was too late. Then the project had to be cancelled.







Toxic chemicals are handled carefully in industrial environments.


In spite of the belated attempts to address the problem, poor communication led to an irreversible deterioration of the situation.








Careful handling of toxic chemicals in industrial environments, such as nuclear power plants and chemical plants, is a necessary safety measure.

In the Academic Writing example, the ‘people’ have been removed. This was done by turning the verb deteriorated into a noun – deterioration.


Turning verbs into noun is a common feature of academic writing; it is called nominalization. It’s a useful way to turn actions into ideas. That allows you to leave out the people and create a more impersonal tone.


Nominalization gives you the chance to say more about a concept. The whole sentence can be turned into a noun group, which can then be linked to another idea. This is one of the skills in making complex sentences.

In conclusion, in this essay I

have argued that

multiculturalism is good for economic development.

In conclusion, in this essay it is argued that multiculturalism is beneficial for economic development.

Even better:

The argument that multiculturalism is beneficial for economic development has focused on …. (a list of the essay’s main arguments).

Information is organized so that focus is on the argument (through use of nominalization).
Most of the eye tissue is transparent. Consequently, the frequency and focus of the laser beam can be adjusted.Because most of the eye tissue is transparent, the frequency and focus of the laser beam can be adjusted.Instead of two short sentences, use more complex

sentence structures

Nurses must take into consideration allergies, medication, medical conditions and so on.Nurses must take into consideration allergies, medication and medical conditions


Avoids run-on expressions such as ‘and so forth’; ‘and so on’ or ‘etc’.
What is a team? A team can be one person but will usually end up including many more.A team can include one person but usually involves many more.Avoid rhetorical questions (a question for which no answer is expected).
Prescribing anti‐psychotic

drugs to patients suffering

from post‐operative

dementia is harmful.

The fact that prescribing anti‐psychotic drugs to patients suffering from post‐operative dementia care is harmful has been supported by Matheson (2007).

Watkins’* study indicated that recovery rates were 20% faster for patients given daily therapy in the form of specially designed mental exercises. (2010)

*Can you find other authors and compare what they say about this issue? Do you think the ideas of the authors are valid?

Support your statements with evidence from readings, and cite them using the appropriate referencing guide.

Synthesis ideas from a range of authors and makes critical

judgements about them




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