Scholarly Writing

Academic Writing Language

Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; Andy Tan; Arina Bogdan; Frances Dimaranan; Rachel Frantzke; and Nada Savicevic

Language to avoid

Language to avoid Examples

Refers to language, abbreviations, or terms that are used by specific groups, typically people involved in a profession. Using jargon within that group makes conversation simpler, and it works because everyone in the group knows the terms.

The problem with using jargon when writing is that if your reader has no idea of what those terms mean, you’ll lose them.

If you decide jargon is useful based on your audience’s knowledge, then at least explain each complex term when you first introduce it.

Biological and social capital are influenced by material conditions.

Better option: A client’s socioeconomic status influences their social relationships and health and wellness state.

Colloquial phrasing

Colloquial phrasing is familiar, everyday slang language. It includes informal words that often change with passing fads. Many people use slang when speaking or texting, but understanding may be limited to a specific group of people.

On the other hand, it has been noted that the tympanic route enhances temperature accuracy.

Better option: Conversely, it has been noted that the tympanic route enhances temperature accuracy.

The study found that drug seekers are frequent flyers.

Better option: The study found that people with addictions seek healthcare often.

They made a big deal of the issue.

Better option: The issue was viewed as an important problem.

The healthcare team was stuck in their old ways of nursing practice.

Better option: The healthcare team was comfortable with the status quo in terms of their nursing practice.


Clichés are descriptive expressions that are often not understood because they have lost their original meaning due to overuse. Writing that uses clichés lacks professionalism and original insight.

Only time will tell whether these therapeutic interventions are effective.

Better option: Further research will provide evidence about the effectiveness of these therapeutic interventions.

It is important that nurses read between the lines when reading new policy.

Better option: It is important that nurses look for hidden or implied meaning when reading new policy statements.

Use of Abbreviations

Be sure to indicate the meaning of any abbreviations prior to use in your writing. Use the term in full, followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis for the first use in your writing. For instance “Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) have advanced educational competencies that support a broader scope of practice. CNS practice is defined by provincial, regional, and employer policies.”

Point of View and Pronouns

Point of view (PoV) is the perspective used when writing a text. PoV is best understood through pronoun usage and described as first person, second person, or third person. See the table below for more guidance

PoV Examples When it is used in nursing

First-person PoV uses pronouns such as I, our, and we.

I didn’t know how to respond when I observed the way the nurse spoke to the patient.

Our study findings illuminate the need for handwashing when nurses come in contact with body fluids.

We reviewed the literature and garnered the following insights.

Used when referring to yourself (I) or when you are referring to yourself with others (we/our). Typically used when the author is reflecting on a personal/professional experience. Also commonly used when presenting findings from qualitative research and sometimes quantitative research. The benefits are that it is a clear way of writing and the reader always knows who is speaking. It also helps to avoid anthropomorphism in your writing. You should avoid language such as “The chapter outlines the steps of the research process.” Remember: “the chapter” is a non-human object and can’t “outline” anything. A better alternative is: “In this chapter, the steps of the research process are outlined.”

Second-person PoV uses pronouns such as you, and your.


Your diet should include a variety of healthy foods each day.

You will note from the exemplar, the following four main ideas.

You should look at your incision every day for signs of infection such as redness.

Used when you are addressing one or more readers specifically. Often used for informational and instructional resources for clients and families. Use of the pronoun you makes the message applicable to the reader and draws them into the message. This is only used when you have a clearly defined audience.


Third-person PoV uses pronouns such as she, he, they, it, and their. It also identifies people using nouns (e.g., the researcher)


The researchers concluded that effective communication leads to enhanced therapeutic relationships between the nurse and client.

Their assessment of the literature revealed that discussions about the home environment led to more open discussions about interpersonal violence.

Research conducted by Trudeau and colleagues influenced how nursing care was delivered.

Used when the intention is to provide an objective perspective to the writing and eliminate subjectivity. In nursing, it is typically used in policy papers and often when presenting quantitative findings.


Here are some other important points to consider when choosing your pronouns:

  • Whatever PoV you use, consistency is paramount. If you start writing a text in third person PoV, use it consistently throughout your text. Don’t move back and forth between third person and second person, or first person and second person. It confuses the reader!
  • Your choice of PoV is influenced by the purpose and audience for your writing. Reflect on how the use of (first person), you (second person) and the researcher/they (third person) will influence your message. For most writing assignments, you will not have a clearly defined audience, so should limit the use of the second-person point of view.
  • Watch out for gendered assumptions in your use of pronouns like he or she. Assumption of gender is a common error. For example:
    • Historically, nursing has been a female profession, but now all genders are represented in the field. Avoid statements like: “A nurse should assess her client’s preferences before suggesting healthy ways of eating.” This is incorrect because the pronoun use of her assumes that all nurses are female. It is also incorrect because it sounds possessive: as if the nurse owns the client. It can easily be modified to: “Nurses should assess clients’ preferences before suggesting healthy ways of eating.”
    • The second error related to pronouns and gender is to assume a binary in which only two genders exist. Gender exists on a continuum, and you may already be aware of the recent movement to embrace the pronoun they in both a singular and plural capacity. Before starting a class assignment, you might want to have a discussion with your instructor about this.
    • Don’t assume gender when citing an author. Avoid using she or he if an author’s name is traditionally perceived as female (e.g., Lisa Dottie) or male (e.g., Martin Lin). Rather, it is best to use their last name (e.g., In Dottie’s research, it was found…).

Attribution statement

Content from the final paragraph and content on jargon was adapted from (with editorial changes):

The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.Download for free at:

About the authors


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Academic Writing Language Copyright © 2021 by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; Andy Tan; Arina Bogdan; Frances Dimaranan; Rachel Frantzke; and Nada Savicevic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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