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College Level Writing Expectations


College level or academic writing expectations are different than most other types of writing. In an college/academic setting the requirements are formal and require adhering to general writing conventions. To better understand these expectations, review the general guidelines below. As a reminder, these are guidelines and the actual requirements will vary based on individual assignments and instructor preferences.

Standard Written English (SWE)

Use of formal Standard Written English. Standard Written English is formal academic English and is based on specific rules of grammar, mechanics and usage. It avoids the use of slang, informal notations, and popular phrases.

  • Text shorthand is not acceptable in a formal document (e.g. Lol, ttyl, brb).
  • Use of formal grammatical rules. 
  • Avoid slang or popular phrases such as "They were so extra,"  meaning dramatic. Instead you would use the term dramatic.
  • Ensure correct use of punctuation through your writing. 
  • Write in an active not passive voice.
  • Link ideas using colons, commas, and conjunctions.
  • Carefully use the correct verb tense and ensure subject-verb agreement in writing.

DIRECT language

Encourages direct concise language. Phrases that are vague or that leave doubt about what is being stated are discouraged. Language should avoid statements like many, most and all as well as vague references to students, people, or 

Example Improved Language
The study might indicate that many students wish to avoid using the new software will fail. The study by the University Academic Office indicates that over seventy percent of the students enrolled in accounting  that refuse to use the new software will fail the course.
Many people say that avocados are great. Recent polling by the Avocado Growers Association indicates that the majority of people (57.4%) surveyed like avocados. 

In both examples above, the language is changed from non-specific to specific wording. In the first example, the origin of the study is listed and specific are given about the results. It could still be made more specific by indicating the exact name of the software, adding specific student numbers or by giving the exact title of the study. In the second example, the source is clearly indicated along with specific data.