Unprofessional tone

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When writing college or post-graduate papers, one must be careful to write in a professional sounding, academic tone. This means language, wording, claims, or descriptions that are unbiased, objective, scholarly, precise, and fully supported by evidence. A negative or unprofessional tone can arise from language forms such as these.

Writer voice
  • Use of second person forms ("you, your")
  • Use or overuse of first person forms ("I, we, our, my")
  • Subjective first-person expressions, e.g., "I think, we believe"

Sentence form
  • Overuse of quotations and quoted expressions
  • Use or overuse of questions
  • Using questions, especially non-rhetorical questions, that a writer poses and then immediately answers, i.e., topic-raising questions
  • Overuse of hypothetical questions, or suggestive questions (which imply a certain answer or assumption)

  • General level discussion, e.g., using common, general knowledge; not providing informative, new, insightful, or unique ideas or information
  • Arguments or main ideas that are common and not original, unique, or derived from careful thinking


Problems here arise from using modifiers whose meaning is not logically called for or appropriate, e.g., in making statements whose degree of meaning are not logically and clearly supported by evidence. This can include unnecessary use or overuse of adverbs and adjectives to qualify or emphasize statements, such as:

  • Misuse or overuse of degree, manner or frequency adverbs, e.g., really, clearly, a little, definitely
  • Over-sweeping adjectives, e.g., outstanding, obvious
  • Making broad generalizations, e.g., with always, every time, everyone, never

Emotional language: This includes wording that is emotional, negative, inflammatory, judgemental, or that shows a bias, e.g.:

  • It is heartbreaking that so many mice are starving.
  • His performance was terrible, sickening, and sad.
  • His policies incur the hateful wrath of the public.

Informal language
  • Slang or colloquial language, e.g., "But hey, that's totally cool, man."
  • Clichés, e.g., "But every cloud has a silver lining."
  • Colloquial idioms, e.g., "As they say, there are more fish in the ocean."
  • Colloquial figures of speech, e.g., "So don't worry if you haven't hooked the right man yet."
  • Imprecise or vague terms instead of more formal, precise terms, e.g., "take out" instead of "remove, excise"
For example
X We got good results, like, in our latent space model we got a near-perfect fit.
✔️ Satisfactory results were obtained, for example, in our latent space model, we obtained a near-perfect fit.

The following are informal, or can be informal if used too often, and can be better expressed with more formal equivalents in academic writing. Synonyms for such words can be found from a thesaurus (a synonym dictionary) such as www.thesaurus.com.

Informal → More formal
Adverbials & connectors
about approximately
afterwards afterward
anyway, anyways [ = topic shift marker] As mentioned, ....
For / As for ...,
Or a sentence starting with another prepositional phrase; or start a new paragraph.
besides Furthermore, / Also, / In addition, / Additionally,
like this like so, thus, accordingly, similarly, respectively, ...
nowadays currently, in recent times, recently,...
Adjectives & modifiers
big, huge, gigantic large, extremely large, enormous, great, voluminous, massive, exorbitant, significant, substantial...
good advantageous, excellent, desirable, effective, suitable, beneficial, of considerable quality, greatly appreciated, ...
kind of, sort of slightly, somewhat
a little slightly, somewhat, fairly
lots of, a lot of many, a large amount of, a large quantity of, numerous
more and more increasingly __, __-er (e.g., increasingly fierce, increasingly fiercer, fiercer; more daunting, increasingly daunting)
pretty fairly, somewhat, generally, very
really extremely, greatly, dramatically; indeed
Nouns & pronouns
part partition, section, component, sector, element, entity, portion, aspect, paragraph, ...
people individuals, participants, subjects, men, women, humans, citizens, voters, students, adults, population, researchers, Canadians, ... (The appropriate noun would depend on the context.)
thing item, object, material, entity, device, ...
stuff, thing(s) items, objects, material, entities, devices, ...
someone, something a certain person/item, a specific person, a/this/that particular individual, an entity, a person, an item
Use a specific noun phrase; or use a passive voice verb and omit the vague subject.
way manner, method, means, methodology, instrument, aspect
do conduct, perform, ...
get receive, obtain, acquire ... ; become
don't, can't, won't, they're...
Uncontracted forms:
do not, can not / cannot, will not, they are