Several times during my studies I have heard about American and European styles in writing essays. From what I've gathered, the American style is supposed to be more argumentative. On the other hand it seems to be unrelated to the issue of American vs. British spelling.

I would like to see a more comprehensive review of the two styles. The answer I would like to get should also contain a reference or two to an authoritative source on the subject.

Responses to comments

@Robert I have two references. First is is an excerpt from a handout in an Academic writing course that I translated:

[Hana Kostovičová] defines [the European style] as an effort to provide objective analysis and the American style as an effort to come up with arguments supporting the author's personal views. I confirm the existence of this difference and although I strongly incline towards the European, in style as well as in politics, I don't force you to choose one or the other. That is what makes me European.

The second is my personal experience. I wrote an essay about whether animal testing should be banned. I wrote more or less in the European style: The issues is controversial, there are good arguments against (1909 Syphilis cure), good arguments for (moral issues, in silico experiments), the recent trend is towards it (activists persuaded mayor Airlines to stop transporting research animals), it should be decided on case by case basis. The teacher who graded it was an American and the feedback I got was that I am supposed to pick a side, not to be on the fence.


2 Answers 2


Any reflection written in an European context is based on a philosophical idea of reasoning. It means the issue is deepened and put in perspective. Each development brings a new nuance. This however, has nothing to do with "not picking a side" (as this has to do with writing a report or a argumentative essay).

Any reflection written in an American context does indeed pick a side and will support a definite conclusion. This explains why more complex issues often have to be simplified or considered in a narrower focus.

When it comes to writing mechanics, the rules also change. As a general rule, the American conventions are stricter and more rigid. Quality of reflection is usually prized above all in European standards.


Wikipedia really explains it all.

I wouldn't say that there is a European versus an American style of writing essays. The difference is between the (traditionally often unstructured and meandering) reflections of a learned person, which in many cultures is called an essay in the French pronunciation, with the stress on the second syllable, and the structured written argument, usually written by a pupil or student in an exam or to receive study credits, which was originally called an essay only in English, but this term has spread to other academic systems with the Americanization of the European educational system and is pronounced as in English, with the stress on the first syllable.

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