Is academic writing becoming more informal?

Hyland, Ken and Jiang, Feng (Kevin) (2017) Is academic writing becoming more informal? English for Specific Purposes, 45. pp. 40-51. ISSN 0889-4906

[thumbnail of Accepted manuscript]
PDF (Accepted manuscript) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (673kB) | Preview


Informality has become something of a contemporary mantra as, from the denim-clad offices of internet startups to the pages of business reports, we are encouraged to shed old constraints and relax conventions. This paper explores the perception that since informality has now invaded a large range of written and spoken domains of discourse, academic writing has also followed this trend. It asks the question whether academics are now freer to construct less rigidly objective texts and craft a more inclusive relationship with their readers. Taking a corpus of 2.2 million words from the same leading journals in four disciplines at three periods over the past years, we explore changes in the use of ten key features regarded by applied linguists and style guide authors as representing informality. Our results show only a small increase in the use of these features, and that this is mainly accounted for by increases in the hard sciences rather than the social sciences. It is also largely restricted to increases in first person pronouns, unattended reference and sentences beginning with conjunctions. We discuss these results and argue they represent changes in rhetorical conventions which accommodate more obvious interpersonal interactions in the sciences.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: academic writing,diachronic change,eap,formality,rhetorical practices
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2018 16:30
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 17:32
DOI: 10.1016/j.esp.2016.09.001


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item