I have had many students enrolled with me to get 7 bands in IELTS writing. Despite scoring high in listening, reading and speaking modules, their writing score couldn’t meet the requisite. (For those who are not aware- for permanent residency and academic scholarships, a minimum of 7 bands in each module is needed).
One common thing that I found in their write-ups was colloquial English. Though contextually their responses were strong, the style of writing remained casual.
You can write a letter to your friend, or an update on Facebook, or may be a caption for your Instagram pictures. There are different levels of writing, but academic writing is a skill that many don’t learn. Before beginning to write an academic piece, it is important to learn the various aspects that differentiate formal writing from an informal one.
Today, we would be looking at four major characteristics of formal/ academic writing.
1. Using Impersonal style
First and foremost, avoid the usage of personal pronouns and instead, generalize the subject.
The impersonal style of writing would unconsciously lead to the usage of contextual words.
Let’s consider the below sentence:
“If you look at it that way, it’s true that humans and animals have conflicting interests.”
This can be paraphrased by removing ‘you’ and generalizing the subject:
"Looked at from a broad historical perspective, it is true that human and animals have conflicting interest. "
2. Use more Passive voice structures:
Using more passive structures aids in emphasizing the right idea. In academic writing, we would always want to focus on the one who is receiving or experiencing the action, but not the one who is doing it. Passive voice helps in highlighting the most important participants or actions by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.
"People believe that mixed schools provide students with the exposure that facilitates easy adjustment to the workplace in future."
The more important idea in the above sentence is the belief regarding mixed schools, and thus a better way to state that would be:
"It is widely believed that mixed schools provide students with exposure that facilitates easy adjustment to the workplace in future."
3. Concise Writing:
The third feature of a formal writing is the art of sculpting concise sentences. Sometimes students write very long sentences leading to wordiness in the essay. This is due to the misconception that the longer the sentence, the better is the impact on the reader. On the other hand, concise sentences make the message clear and strong.
"When I started my own business, it has given me the whole new perspective to see the bigger picture when it comes to finding a work/life balance."
(Important words in the above sentence are in bold)
More clear and concise version would be:
"Starting my own business has given me a new perspective on work/life balance."
4. Avoid neutral verbs & adjectives:
Neutral words obscure the meaning of the sentence. Instead, use contextual words that provide a detailed understanding of the situation.
Neutral words refer to those words that can be used in any situation. For instance, give, told, take, good, bad are very common words that are not topic specific and could be used for a range of topics.
"The doctor told me to take complete rest." (told is a neutral word)
Instead, better way would be:
"The doctor advised me to take complete rest." (advised is a more contextual word)
Do not believe that achieving 7 bands in writing is an unattainable goal because you can get it right with the above strategies and practice.
GOOD LUCK !!