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Language and style

Convey your opinion

How do you show what you think about a subject without writing “I think...”? When you want to put your perspective forward in academic writing, you can use both evidence and language to help you.

You can demonstrate your opinion or position on a topic by selecting and referring to evidence that supports your viewpoint. The evidence could include books, journal articles, data or first-hand accounts of an experience, if appropriate. Using several sources which have a similar perspective can strengthen your argument.

For example: Children with hearing difficulties in the Early Years may find it harder to engage in whole class activities (Jones, 2004; Harkness, 2008; Cooper, 2011).

Demonstrating caution and confidence

In academic writing, you can use language to show how confident you are about an argument or claim you are discussing. Research, ideas and arguments should always be open to being challenged, so it is important that the language you use acknowledges this.

You may want to demonstrate caution in your writing rather than presenting an idea as an absolute fact. Alternatively, you might want to show that you think an idea is very convincing. You can also use different reporting verbs to convey your feelings or attitude towards a topic.

Showing caution

When writing, be careful of using words such as "definitely" or "proves". Ask yourself whether your statement is a fact or whether there may be some doubt either now or in the future.

It is very common in academic writing to use more tentative vocabulary, to allow for alternative interpretations or answers. Language that introduces caution is sometimes referred to as “hedging” language.

Some useful hedging words and phrases to use in your work are:

  • This suggests...
  • It is possible that...
  • A possible explanation...
  • Usually...
  • Sometimes...
  • Somewhat...

Other examples of hedging phrases are:

In what appears to be the first formalised study on caregiver burden...

If students experience a positive, helpful attitude from the librarians they encounter, it might help them to adopt a positive perception of academic librarians in general.

He claims that luck is a major factor in whether people are successful in all aspects of their lives.

Showing confidence

You might want to express certainty or conviction in your writing to persuade the reader of your perspective. Language that demonstrates confidence is sometimes called “booster” language.

Some useful booster words and phrases to use in your work are:

  • Clearly (only use if you are certain it really is clear)
  • There is a strong correlation...
  • Results indicate...

Take the same sentence as used in the previous section:

1. “Research suggests that high consumption of fizzy drinks containing sugar may contribute to the development of type II diabetes.”

2. “Research indicates a clear link between the high consumption of a large volume of fizzy drinks containing sugar and the development of type II diabetes.”

In sentence 1, the writer has used the hedging language “suggests” and “may contribute”, to show that while there is evidence to link sugary drinks and type II diabetes this may not be true for every person and may be proven to be incorrect in the future.

In sentence 2, the writer still uses language to allow for doubt and argument but it is clear that this writer is more convinced by the research.

Reporting verbs

Reporting verbs can be grouped into the three main categories of strong, neutral and tentative:

  • Strong verbs convey a degree of certainty about an issue.
  • Neutral verbs do not indicate any value judgements on the part of the author. They are rather descriptive in tone.
  • Tentative verbs show that the writer tends to feel a certain way about an issue but is not wholly sure.

Below are common examples of strong, neutral and tentative reporting verbs.

This table compares the three types of reporting verb: strong, neutral and tentative, by listing examples of each.

Comparison of strong, neutral and tentative verbs
Strong verbs Neutral verbs Tentative verbs

counter the view that
strongly believe that
support the view that

point out

posit the view that
question the view that

The Manchester Academic Phrasebank provides many more examples of words and phrases that you can use to put forward your perspective in your written work.