Although characterized as a “local concern,” style is an incredibly important aspect of writing. In this section, you will learn how to craft engaging, dynamic prose and how to best communicate your information and purpose as a writer. For a brief introduction to this topic, see Style: An Introduction.


Learn how to negotiate between formal academic writing and conversational prose by maintaining an academic tone while staying true to your own voice in Making Sure Your Voice is Present.

Sentence Structure

Reusing the same sentence pattern in your writing makes for monotonous reading. Learn to engage your readers by experimenting with different sentence patterns in Select an Appropriate Sentence Pattern. Then focus on individual sentences with the Sentence-Level Exercise.

Active Voice

Whereas writers in the sciences tend to use passive voice in research reports, writers in other fields such as the humanities emphasize the importance of active voice. Learn to revise sentences to make them active and more engaging in Use the Active Voice. Another key to crafting engaging prose is to maintain a high verb-to-noun ratio.

Point of View

Different genres call for different points of view. Most students assume that academic papers should be written in the third person, but the first person has become increasingly accepted in more formal genres. Learn when the first person is an appropriate choice and how to successfully use first-person pronouns in Use the First Person, The First Person, and Using the First Person in Academic Writing: When is It Okay? To better understand why second-person pronouns should not be used in academic writing, read Understanding Second Person Point of View: Wizard Activity.


When detailing their own ideas or the ideas of other scholars, successful writers communicate information in a clear and concrete manner. Learn how to craft concrete sentences in Avoid Vagueness and how to write clear, concise sentences in Write with Clarity. When appropriate, writers include figurative language in their texts. Learn why they do this and how to successfully employ figurative language in Incorporate Figurative Language into Your Paper.


Being able to identify and address grammatical mistakes is important because those errors can not only make your draft appear sloppy, but they can also change the meaning of your sentences and confuse your reader. Enhance your understanding of grammatical principles by reading Subject-Verb Agreement, Subject-Pronoun Agreement, and Avoid Vague Pronoun References.


Learn how to use proper punctuation.

Below is a summary of how to punctuate different sentence patterns and how to analyze the likely effect of different syntactical forms on readers’ comprehension.

  • Commas: Understand conventions for using commas and appreciate the likely effects of particular sentence lengths and patterns on reading comprehension.
  • Dashes: Create emphasis and define terms by interrupting the flow of a sentence using a dash; know when the dash must be used as opposed to the comma.
  • Colons: Use the colon when the first sentence anticipates the second sentence or phrase, thereby creating an emphatic tone.
  • Semicolons: Use a semicolon to join two sentences or to punctuate a series or list of appositives that already include commas.