Research has found several common features of academic writing which distinguish it from everyday and informal writing. In this two-part series, I’ll show you how your students can practice writing in a more academic style using grammar that they already know.

The first strategy is to use relative clauses rather than conjunctions. Although subordinating conjunctions are useful and common in academic writing (as in this sentence!), coordinating conjunctions are much more common in speech and informal writing. Academic writers often choose relative clauses instead of coordinating, and even some subordinating, conjunctions.

 

EVERYDAY: More manufacturers are building hybrid cars, and they are better for the environment.

MORE ACADEMIC: More manufacturers are building hybrid cars, which are better for the environment.

EVERYDAY: Some crimes do not obviously harm other people, so they are called “victimless crimes.”

MORE ACADEMIC: Crimes which do not obviously harm other people are called “victimless crimes.”

 

After making the move to a relative clause, an academic writer might take another step. If the relative clause can be reduced without losing meaning or confusing the reader, the writer may choose the reduced form.

 

EVERYDAY: When people take dietary supplements without a doctor’s recommendation, they can experience negative health effects.

MORE ACADEMIC, FULL CLAUSE:  Dietary supplements which are taken without a doctor’s recommendation can cause negative health effects.

MORE ACADEMIC, REDUCED RELATIVE CLAUSE:  Dietary supplements which are taken without a doctor’s recommendation can cause negative health effects.

 

Next month, I’ll describe the second technique for making writing more academic: nominalization.

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