SPOCSHOP: Formality in Academic Writing


This workshop aims to develop students’ understanding and application of the academic tone, register and style in formal writing for university level written tasks.

As students make the transition from secondary school to university, one of the expectations in their writing that they may not be aware of is the need for an academic tone. For some formal written assessment such as essays, adopting a formal register strengthens students’ arguments, create a stronger impact for readers and help students’ paper become more sophisticated and scholarly. This workshop draws students’ attention to a range of linguistic features which should be avoided in formal writing, and gives students the opportunities to review and polish their writing skills in order to achieve an academic tone and style.


The workshop will take the form of:

  • 2 hours of pre-workshop online videos and exercises to get participants familiarized with key elements of formal writing; 
  • 2 hours of workshop to review learning points and receive feedback; and as needed,  
  • follow-up support via email and course discussion forums. 

Workshop Content 

This workshop has 4 main units:

  • Avoiding first personal pronouns, contractions & abbreviations
    • How to use the third person and passive voice
    • How to include acronyms properly
  • Avoiding casual expressions
    • Colloquialism and slangs, idioms, figure of speech, clichés and proverbs
  • Avoiding direct reader engagement
    • Questions and imperatives
  • Avoiding excessive language
    • How to hedge your statements

Final written task

Upon completion of the online components, students should produce a short essay and apply the formal writing skills acquired. They will receive feedback from the instructor, revise their work and engage in discussion and practice activities in groups during the workshop.

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