Writing well stylistically is crucial for creating a successful essay, yet, it is not always easy, as there is a number of difficulties students encounter in terms of style.
The most commonly observed stylistic problems are as follows:
- Word repetition.
The problem of word repetition usually results from the desire of a student to emphasize a certain idea. However, using the same lexical sets can make your essay look boring and childish. A good way out in this case is to use synonyms. Another effective technique is to use word substitutes like one, the former, the latter, etc. to avoid repetition of the same nouns.
- Inappropriate words and phrases, which are either too formal or too informal.
The problem of creating a stylistically inappropriate piece of writing is mainly accounted for the fact that students tend to forget that an academic essay requires a totally different layer of vocabulary, than the one we use in our everyday life. In order to make your essay sound good, avoid using slangish expressions and nonstandard verb forms, like gotta, wanna, etc. However, it is equally important not to use the constructions and vocabulary, characteristic of other more formal styles (e.g. the lexis of legal writing style or dated invertical constructions). So, keep the balance and consult a good dictionary if you are not sure.
- Too many passive structures.
Many students see the passive voice as an indispensable prerequisite of the academic style. It is certainly true up to a point, as it makes your sentences sound more impersonal and objective. However, passive sentences are usually longer, harder to read and, thus, can hinder understanding of the text. On the contrary, active sentences are clearer and more direct. So, in order to create a powerful piece of writing, use both types, but make sure you use not more than 20% of passive constructions and only in the cases when the emphasis is on the action, receiver, or result, you do not know who performed the action or it is of minor importance and in case you want to sound objective.
- Too long or too short sentences.
The problem of using too long or too short sentences has a lot to do with the way you convey your ideas to the reader. If a sentence is too bulky, it can easily absorb your idea and make it difficult to perceive. On the contrary, if the sentences are too short, they destroy the logical development of the idea and make your writing sound choppy and incomplete. So, try to find a happy medium and use a variety of long and short sentences.
- Sentences beginning with coordinating conjunctions.
Another common problem for many students is inappropriate use of coordinate conjunctions (e.g. and, but, as, or, yet, for, etc.). They are mainly used to coordinate, join ideas within the same sentence. Sometimes they can also be used to begin a sentence. However, when the text has too many coordinating conjunctions in the beginning of the sentence, there is lack of smooth connections and links between the sentences. So, try to use them only when it is justified by the emphatic usage.
These rules may seem difficult at first. But if you try to apply them to your personal style, you will soon find out that your writing has improved dramatically and your essays have become a sheer pleasure to read.