Academic writing style generally follows formal language, grammar, and syntax. According to mydissertations.com, it is also usually well structured, with introductions, explanations, and conclusions. This article will cover rules on vocabulary choice, sentence structure, essay writing tips, and tricks on how to write better.
Here are 12 tips to help you improve your writing style:
- Use formal language – academic texts are typically written in formal English, focusing on achieving exact word meanings (rather than achieving a more conversational tone or voice). Formal English follows strict rules on grammar, syntax, and sentence construction.
- Use concise, active verbs to make writing more lively – focus your words on the verbs in a sentence. Most sentences can be improved by focusing on the verb and adding another word to make it more precise or active. For example, avoid writing: ‘The man was walking down the street.’ Instead, write: ‘The man walked down the street.’ It is more precise, gives better direction information (i.e., the man is walking), and sounds more lively.
- Use adjectives to add meaning, not to repeat nouns – avoid repeating words by adding an adjective to explain or describe what something is. For example, avoid writing: ‘The cat is black.’ Instead, write: ‘The black cat.’
- Avoid nominalization – an overuse of nouns can make sentences difficult to read and follow. Nouns are generally more formal than verbs and should be used for emphasis only when necessary. An example of a nominalization is ‘This is an interesting finding,’ rather than ‘This finding is interesting.’
- Use punctuation marks correctly – it’s easy to get confused by the rules, but using them correctly makes a big difference to how you are perceived in your ability to use language. Two common errors can be easily avoided by simply reading your work out loud before submitting.
- Avoid long paragraphs – paragraphs should be no longer than 5-7 sentences. A simple rule to follow is that if a paragraph is longer than 7 sentences, divide it into 2 or more paragraphs.
- Keep sentence length regular – this will ensure your writing flows well and sounds more natural. Generally, try to keep sentences under 20 words and aim for an average of 12-15 words per sentence.
- Use transition words – transitions are a great way of linking ideas and expertly constructing an argument. These include ‘furthermore,’ ‘however,’ and ‘on the other hand.’ Another useful type of transition is coordinating conjunction linking two related clauses, such as ‘for example’ or ‘but.’
- Avoid sentence fragments – sentence fragments can make writing appear disjointed and difficult to understand. Sentence fragments should be avoided like the plague.
- Use precise and active language – when you are writing, think about the proper and most precise word to use. In addition, make sure that your words are active rather than passive; i.e., ‘he was struck by a ball’ is more precise and active than ’a ball struck him.’
- Avoid repetitive phrases – this can make your writing sound repetitive and monotonous. If you find yourself using the same words several times in a paragraph or sentence, consider using synonyms.
- Avoid jargon – academic writing should be understandable by all audiences.
Academic writing style is typically formal and written in the passive voice. The aim is to be precise, accurate, and objective. People from disciplines such as law and medicine typically have to learn this writing style early on; however, it’s not necessary to stick to this style if you don’t want to. If you have a very personal and emotional story, for example, you are better off using an informal tone and active voice to tell your story.
It’s often the case that writers will use the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ too much in their writing. The best advice here is to get someone else to read your work before you submit it. It is also a good idea to read your work out loud before submitting it.
In many cases, you can repair your sentences by simply adding an adjective here or a prepositional phrase there. Besides, there are many words in the English language that can be used to avoid repeating nouns. It is one of the more common errors that beginning writers make when constructing sentences for their essays.
Not all people know what nominalization is, and it is a somewhat complex concept to describe. The basic idea here is that nominalization refers to the use of nouns where another verb form might be more appropriate.
For example, consider the following sentence:
‘This is an interesting finding.’
Here, the word ‘finding’ is a noun that has been used in place of the verb ‘find.’ The sentence could thus be re-written as follows:
‘We found an interesting finding.’
This sentence tells the reader exactly what it is that you did. In addition, this sentence is active – it gives direction information to the reader. On the other hand, using a noun does not give any information about what you did. It also takes longer to say.
The best way to avoid nominalization is to make sure you are using verbs in your sentences rather than nouns. Also, think about whether or not you need the word. If you find yourself using the same word over and over again in a paragraph or sentence, replace it with a synonym.
When writing an essay, you will typically have paragraphs with 2-6 sentences each. In short, you should be able to fit all of your main ideas into 2-4 paragraphs. Less complex topics may require fewer paragraphs; however, complex topics will generally require more paragraphs to explain the overall point you are trying to make. As a rule of thumb, if you have more than 6 sentences in one paragraph, it is usually time to think about breaking that paragraph up into two or more.
It’s also essential for writers to remember the importance of cohesion and coherence within their essays. Cohesion refers to how sentences and paragraphs are linked together. Coherence refers to how ideas flow throughout the essay. These are both important concepts when constructing your essay and something that you should consider as you write.
There is no simple method for determining how many words to use in your introduction or conclusion. However, some basic guidelines can help you get started.
In general, the introduction should be the smallest part of your essay. It serves as a place to introduce the reader to the topic at hand and will serve as a foundation for everything else that you say. The conclusion is simply a way to sum up your main ideas and show how they connect to the entire essay. Besides, it gives you a chance to restate your thesis statement to remind readers of what you said in the very beginning.