All writing you do at university should be in a clear, formal and professional style, with correct grammar. You also need to adapt your style to the task which you have been set.
Often we communicate with friends and family in an informal style. This can include avoiding capital letters, using informal verbs, making grammar mistakes and using less formal vocabulary. In the paragraph below click on 10 words or styles which are not professional enough for a reflection on a work placement.
For your assignments, you should aim to use formal vocabulary. As a rule try to avoid
Words which are spoken more than written: pretty, fairly, gonna,
Contractions: didn't, won't, can't
Informal verbs: turn up, sort out
Words which are vague: bad, get
Below are sentences from a report on an experiment. From each pair of sentences, select the option which use more formal, professional vocabulary.
Active and passive sentences
You may notice that the more formal sentences above use impersonal and passive verbs. Passive verbs put the focus on the result of the activity rather than the person carrying out the activity. This makes the writing sound less subjective, and more measured. Passive verbs are common in reports.
Active verb: We recruited 20 students for the study.
Passive verb: 20 students were recruited for the study.
Passive verbs are constructed is/are/was/were + past participle.
Identify which of the sentences below are active and which are passive. Select your answer, then click check to see if it is correct and use the blue arrow to move on to the next question.
The subject of a sentence is the person or thing which does an action.
I wrote the report.
We carried out the experiment.
The group analysed the data.
The subjects used can indicate how personal or objective a piece of writing is. Some tasks, such as reflective writing, encourage you to use 'I' and put yourself and your experience at the heart of your writing. Other tasks, such as reports, require a more distanced, objective style. In this case, the subject is often less personal:
The project involved a number of different stages.
The results indicate that more work needs to be done in this area.
Click on the subject in each of the following sentences.
Different types of professional style
There is no single 'correct' professional or academic style. In each profession and for each type of writing, pay attention to the type of language used. Look out for the features described above, including subject of the sentence, active or passive verbs, technical language and sentence length.
Nurse reflection vs boat design report
Below are two short extracts of assignments. The reflective writing is from the perspective of a nurse and the report extract relates to the design of a boat. Move the slider to see the differences and similarities in style.
Analysing a paragraph for style
Use the form below to analyse the style of writing associated with one of your assignments. Select a good, clear example for your analysis and focus on two or three paragraphs of the text.