Stylistic do’s and don’ts in academic writing

The internet is littered with conflicting advice on the do’s and don’ts of academic writing. Some say avoid personal pronouns altogether, while others urge you to use personal pronouns carefully when necessary.

Some say to avoid phrases like “In this paper I will…” and word like “thus,” while certain disciplines (such as analytic philosophy) all but require you to use phrases like “In this paper I will…,” and a good number of prolific academic writers use relatively archaic words such as “thus” (especially the British).

One thing that they all agree on is that there is some set of relatively stable stylistic conventions that academics abide by, most of the time. What follows is a set of some of the most common stylistic issues that I’ve seen.

To make sure I don’t further contribute to the already conflicted body of internet advice on academic style, where there is some room to deviate from the conventional approach, I’ll try to make note.


  • Serial commas
  • Active sentence constructions
  • Be conscious of your adverb placement
  • Clarify your “this”


  • Informal writing
  • 2nd person
  • Gender bias
  • Not integrated quotations
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Taboo words

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Required fields are marked *