The Business School lecturers expect students to use an appropriate academic writing style rather than most styles used in school essays, or in everyday and personal forms of writing, such as emails. Academic study uses a fairly formal style (often using the passive mode) but this does not mean using lots of overcomplicated words. Academic English is basically good, clear and precise use of language.
Address the task
Many of your assignments will contain words which ask you to ‘analyse’, ‘explain’, ‘discuss’, ‘evaluate’, ‘compare’, etc. These are examples of important instructional verbs (see ASU Guide to Instructional Terms). You are rarely asked to ‘describe’, so be careful to focus on the exact task set.
Use clear, plain English
To be clear in your writing, avoid long complicated sentences with lots of difficult and unnecessary words. Remember KISS: Keep It Short and Simple. Complex words and phrases do not impress lecturers and only makes your work harder to read and understand. This often creates more errors, particularly if you are not sure of the exact meaning of the words. If you have difficulty in understanding English or expressing yourself clearly, attend the Business Communication open sessions (see ASU window (M012) for details). Jargon words must be used carefully. If your points are unclear, you may get a lower mark. Clear English also requires very good attention to punctuation (see page 9-11).
Use accurate British English spelling
Use a reliable British dictionary where necessary. Use the spell check programme on your computer. Do not use American English unless you are quoting from American sources, and then ensure you keep to the original spelling. There are A-Z of Business English guides in Marketing, Tourism, and Accounting terms, and these will help you in your business studies.
Using the ‘third person’ subject
English has three grammatical ‘persons’. The personal pronouns ‘I’ (singular) and ‘we’ (plural) are in the first person. The personal ‘you’ is in the second person. It refers to the addressee and is used in both the singular and plural. ‘He’, ‘she’, ‘it,’ and ‘they’ are in the third person. Any person, place or thing, other than the speaker and the addressed is referred to in the third person. Third person subjects are very common in academic writing, for example essay, research, author, theory, experiment, idea and argument. Academic writing normally uses the ‘third person’, for example: This essay will firstly outline the main factors which the company should consider. (√)
Using the third person allows you to avoid using I or you, which can sound too personal. In this essay, I will outline the main factors that the company will consider. (X) In this report you will find three sections. (X) This report has three sections. (√)
Using the passive mode
Academic style also uses the passive mode, as this allows you to be more ‘distant’ and neutral and to avoid saying who did something. Importantly, the passive mode is also used: to highlight what was done, rather than who did it; it appears objective rather than subjective.
We will investigate the advantages of joint ventures for international companies. (X) The advantages of joint ventures for international companies will be investigated. (√) I feel that Maslow’s theory is no longer relevant. (x) Maslow’s theory can be seen as no longer relevant. (√)
When the assignment requires personal reflection you can be less formal and use the first person, because you are evaluating your own actions and suggesting things that you could improve upon. For example:
I found the process of researching for the case study very interesting and enjoyable. During this process, I realised that it would have been better if I could have conducted some…