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Capstone Multilingual Writing Tips: Blog

April 2019: Improving Scholarly Voice: Verb Choice

by Paul Lai on 2019-03-28T14:39:00-05:00 | 0 Comments


There are many components to scholarly voice. One simple place to start to improve scholarly voice and academic tone is with verb choice. English often has multiple choices for verbs—some contain more than one part (phrasal verbs or prepositional verbs), and some are one-word verbs (these single word verbs often have a Latinate origin; Swales & Feak, 2012).

Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs are used frequently in spoken English, but these verbs tend to be less formal than one-word verbs. Some examples are go up, look into, talk about, and point out. These verbs can often be identified with a verb + preposition combination.

If you can replace phrasal verbs with more formal, academic one-word verbs in your writing, there will be a shift in the tone of the writing, creating more scholarly voice.

Here are some examples (keep in mind that the replacement depends on context; not all these verbs are true synonyms):

  • Bring up = raise, introduce, mention
  • Come across = find, discover
  • Come up with = develop, create, invent, discover
  • Figure out = determine, learn
  • Get rid of = eliminate
  • Go down = decrease
  • Go up = increase
  • Look at = research, examine, explore, consider, study
  • Look into = examine, investigate, research
  • Look out for = identify
  • Look up/check out = verify
  • Talk about = discuss
  • Think about = consider
  • Point out = highlight
  • Put up with = tolerate
  • Run into = encounter
  • Show up = emerge, appear, surface


Revision Tip: Look back through your most recent draft of your capstone document and replace the phrasal and prepositional verbs you find with one-word verbs instead.

Reference: Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (3rd ed.). University of Michigan Press.

For more resources, visit the Scholarly Voice page and subpages.


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