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Thursday, May 12, 2016 3 Keys to Professional Tone

So your professor wants you to write in a "professional tone," eh? Most likely, you're feeling confused by this request, so let’s break it down.

First, let’s talk about what professional means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, professional means "proper to a profession." So for you, professional means meeting the standards of appropriate writing for students.

But what are those standards? How do you begin?

Here are three ways to start writing with a professional tone.

1. Don't use contractions.

"What? I have to type two whole words when I could use one?"

Yes, you do. Contractions, using an apostrophe (this guy: ' ) to shorten a word or phrase, are not allowed in formal papers. This is because academic writing requires a higher level of respect than other forms of writing. Although contractions are appropriate for conversational settings like social media and blog posts, you should take no shortcuts with your academic audience.

Examples of contractions include the following: they're (they are), aren't (are not), isn't (is not), and can't (cannot).

2. Use the appropriate vocabulary.

Don't run and grab your SAT handbook. Using an appropriate vocabulary does not mean you use big words when little ones would do just as well.

Using an appropriate vocabulary means that you avoid slang and informal phrases. Instead, trade these phrases for specific and concrete alternatives.

It also means that, instead of using the biggest word, you use the most accurate word. Writing is a form of communication, and your readers won't be able to understand what you are communicating if you use words that died a hundred years ago.

For example: Instead of "pretty cool," say "impressive." Also, instead of saying, “he’s pushing daisies,” say “he died.”

3. Be concise and straightforward.

It's easy to think that using large words and complicated phrasing makes us sound more professional. And, it is important to use introductory phrases and vary your sentence structure, but you should never do this at the cost of sounding "wordy."

Be direct and don’t repeat yourself. Using active voice will also help you remove unnecessary words. Having a well-supported argument in clear terms is better than having a weak one in complex terms. Fill your writing with information and support, not just a lot of words.

Here’s an example: instead of saying, “The nature of his argument was one of using words to his advantage in a precise manner regarding definitions,” Try saying, “He used precise wording to his advantage in his argument.”

Posted at 2:18 PM | Comments (0)
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