Even from first year, your role should be one of an objective critic.
1. Draw on logic and evidence, rather than emotion and uninformed opinion
Objective writing involves making evaluations based on evidence, as well as existing points of view that are supported by evidence. And it is not only research essays and reports – even personal reflective writing is often somewhat objective to the extent that it draws on theory and is limited to reflecting on your professional learning experience (rather than your personal life).
It is important to understand that, even from first year, your role is one of an objective critic. Language that is judgemental and based on uninformed opinion, rather than fact, has no place in good academic writing.
Pronouns such as our and we should be avoided, as they imply a gross generalisation and are often used by writers for manipulative emotive effect.
Evaluate how you describe things in your own writing. Words such as terrible, outrageous, awful, glorious, wonderful and shocking imply personal judgement, which should be avoided in academic writing.
|Avoid emotive / judgemental phrases|
Direct the reader to specific examples and evidence
|Our national values are …|| In the survey, respondents identified their adherence to ‘national values’ |
in the following ways …
|shocking statistics|| The statistical increase was |
significant, for example …
Goran’s work exemplifies the writing style of a number of nineteenth-century classics, namely …
|This was a sad moment in history.||According to several historians (Hobbes 2012; Melville 2006; Smith 2009), contemporary commentators reported the event as ‘catastrophic’.|
2. Avoid stereotypes
Uninformed assumptions and generalisations are not acceptable in academic writing.
In your writing at university you will need to express your opinion, or point of view, fairly and without bias. This means not making careless assumptions or generalisations about groups of people. You will need to ensure that you think carefully about any statements you make about people based on their gender, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, age or belief.
You are expected to critically analyse evidence, hypotheses and opinion. The language of stereotypes – uninformed assumptions and generalisations – is never acceptable in academic writing.
Also, keep in mind that a person’s gender, ethnicity, or other attributes, need only be included where it is relevant to the topic. For example, is the fact that the person you are describing is Aboriginal or a woman or a Muslim relevant to your topic? If not, consider removing these descriptors.
Here are some examples of gender-neutral language that can be used:
Avoid language that is unnecessarily gendered
|Use language that is gender neutral|
|police man||police officer|
|business man||business person|
3. Objective vs. subjective language
In most assessments, you will be expected to use objective language. This means avoiding the use of personal pronouns, such as I and my. However, there are always exceptions, so discuss this with your lecturer or check your unit guide to determine exactly what is expected for each assessment. In reflective writing assignments and tasks, for example, you may be expected to use these personal pronouns when drawing on your personal experience of the course.
|Subjective form||Objective form|
|In this essay, I will discuss …||This essay discusses …|
|This shows us that …||This shows that …|
|My approach to this was to …||One method considered was …|
|In my research I found that …||The research showed that…|
DEFINITIONS OF WRITING TERMS
Alliteration: The repetition of the same sound in successive words, usually, but not necessarily, at the beginning of words: Blown buds of barren flowers...
Apostrophe: A figure of speech in which the absent is addressed as if present, the dead as if alive, or the inanimate and abstract as if animate and concrete: Come, Sleep; O Sleep!
Argumentation: Writing or speaking in which reasons or arguments are presented in a logical way.
Arrangement: The order in which details are placed or organized in a piece of writing.
Audience: Those people who read or hear what you have written; readers to whom a piece of writing is addressed.
Balance: The arranging of words or phrases so that two ideas are given equal emphasis in a sentence or paragraph; a pleasing rhythm created when a pattern is repeated in a sentence.
Body: The paragraphs between the introduction and conclusion that develop the main idea(s) of the writing.
Brainstorming: Collecting ideas by thinking freely and openly about all the possibilities; used often with groups.
Central idea: The main point of a piece of writing, often stated in a thesis statement or topic sentence.
Clincher sentence: The sentence that summarizes the point being made in a paragraph, usually located at the end.
Coherence: The arrangement of ideas in such a way that the reader can easily follow from one point to the next.
Composition: A process in which a writer's ideas are combined into one unified piece of writing.
Deductive reasoning: The act of reasoning from a general idea to a specific point or conclusion.
Definition: (See Extended definition, below)
Description: Writing that paints a colorful picture of a person, place, thing, or idea using vivid sensory details.
Details: The words used to describe a person, support an argument, persuade an audience, explain a process, or in some way support the central idea.
Emphasis: Placing greater stress on the most important idea in a piece of writing by giving it special treatment; emphasis can be achieved by placing the important idea in a special position, by repeating a key word or phrase, or by simply writing more about it.
Essay: A piece of factual writing in which ideas on a single topic are presented, explained, argued, or described in an interesting way.
Exposition: Writing that explains.
Expressive writing: Writing in which the author's primary purpose is to describe or communicate personal feelings, attitudes, and opinions.
Extended definition: Writing that goes beyond a simple definition of a term in order to make a point; it can cover several paragraphs and include personal definitions and experiences, figures of speech, and quotations.
Figurative language: Language that goes beyond the normal meaning of the words used; writing in which a figure of speech is used to heighten or color the meaning.
Focus: Concentration on a specific subject to give it emphasis or importance.
Form: The arrangement of the details into a pattern or style; the way in which the content of writing is organized.
Free writing: Writing openly and freely on any topic; focused free writing is writing openly on a specific topic.
Generalization: An idea or statement which emphasizes general characteristics rather than specific manifestations.
Grammar: The study of the structure and features of language; rules and standards which are to be followed to produce acceptable writing and speaking.
Hyperbole: A figure of speech in which there is conscious exaggeration for the sake of emphasis: His hands dangled a mile out of his sleeves.
Idiom: A phrase or expression which means something other than what the words actually say. An idiom is usually understandable to a particular group of people: Up the Boohai (a New Zealand idiom meaning "all wrong.")
Inductive reasoning: Reasoning which leads one to a conclusion or generalization after examining specific examples or facts; drawing generalizations from specific evidence.
Inverted sentence: A sentence in which the normal word order is inverted or switched, usually so that the verb comes before the subject.
Irony: A figure of speech in which what is meant is emphasized by asserting the opposite: You're going to love what the wrecker did to your car.
Issue: A point or question to be decided.
Jargon: The technical language of a particular group that is inappropriate in most formal writing since it is frequently not understandable by those outside the group.
Journal: A daily record of thoughts, impressions, and autobiographical information, often a source of ideas for writing.
Juxtaposition: Placing two ideas (words or pictures) side by side so that their closeness creates a new, often ironic, meaning.
Limiting the subject: Narrowing the subject to a specific topic that is suitable for the writing or speaking assignment.
Literal: The actual or dictionary meaning of a word; language that means exactly what it appears to mean.
Loaded words: Words that are slanted for or against the subject.
Logic: The science of correct reasoning; correctly using facts, examples, and reasons to support the point.
Malapropism: the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context (Merriam Webster): "The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder"(Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor).
Metaphor: A figure of speech that makes an implied comparison of two unlike things by declaring them to be identical: The ship plowed the seas.
Metonymy: A figure of speech in which one word is used in place of another word that it suggests: He loves to read Dickens (Dickens' work); or the substitution of the part for the whole - I saw fifty sails (ships with sails).
Modifier: A word, phrase, or clause that limits, alters, or describes another word or group of words.
Narration: Writing that tells a story or recounts an event.
Objective: Relating information in an impersonal manner; without interjecting feelings or opinions.
Observation: Paying close attention to people, places, things, and events to collect details for later use.
Onomatopoeia: The use of words in which the sound suggests the sense: The silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain...
Overview: A general idea of what is to be covered in a piece of writing.
Oxymoron: A two-word phrase containing contradictory elements: jumbo shrimp, friendly fire, numb feeling.
Personal narrative: Personal writing that covers an event in the writer's life; it often contains personal comments and ideas as well as a description of the event.
Personification: A figure of speech in which abstract qualities or inanimate and natural objects are given the attributes of human beings: Virtue is bold and goodness never fearful.
Persuasion: Writing that is meant to change the way the reader thinks or acts.
Point of view: The position or angle from which a story is told, for example, first-person ("I"), third-person ("he").
Process: A method of doing something that involves several steps or stages; for example, the writing process involves prewriting, planning, writing, and revising.
Prose: Writing or speaking in the usual or ordinary form; prose becomes poetry when it is given rhyme or rhythm.
Pun: A play upon words of the same sound but of different meanings or upon different meanings of the same word: They went and told the sexton and the sexton tolled the bell.
Purpose: The specific reason a person has for writing; the goal of writing, for example, to inform, entertain, or persuade.
Revision: Changing a piece of writing to improve it in style or content.
Simile: A figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things, using words such as like, as, or than: The fallen leaves wandered like lost children through the empty streets.
Spontaneity: Doing, thinking, or writing without planning.
Subjective: Thinking and writing that includes personal feelings, attitudes, and opinions.
Theme: The central idea in a piece of writing (lengthy writings may have several themes); a term sometimes used to describe a short essay.
Thesis statement: A statement of the purpose, intent, or main idea of an essay.
Tone: The writer's attitude toward the subject; for example, a writer's tone may be light, serious, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, solemn, or objective.
Topic: The specific subject of a piece of writing.
Topic sentence: The sentence that contains the main idea of a paragraph.
Transitions: Words or phrases that help clarify the relationships between ideas and tie them together, for example, nevertheless, moreover, most important, as a result.
Unity: A sense of oneness; writing in which each sentence helps to develop the main idea.
Usage: The way in which people use language; usage may be standard (formal and informal) or nonstandard.
Vivid details: Details which appeal to the senses and help the reader see, feel, smell, taste, and hear the subject.