Improve Your Academic Writing in 5 StepsThursday, August 19th, 2010
How to achieve an outstanding academic writing style
Why is it so difficult to write well? How come some student write the best academic writings while others are always trying harder and harder for nothing? Is it that they are gifted writers? Or is there such thing as an “writing recipe” that they know of? The truth is that some people are more skilled for writing tasks than others. Linguistic intelligence, though, can be exercised and improved, so you can always get better at writing. You just have to practice more.
Some linguistics agree that oral language is something innate in human beings. On the contrary, writing is not something biological but cultural, and that is why it is an ability that has to be learned and practiced. Since writing is not something that is in our nature but a cultural ability, it is natural that so many people find it difficult and challenging. After all, no one ever asks for “speaking advice”, but so many happen to find “writing advice” something useful…
If this is your case, and you feel your academic writing could improve significantly but you don’t know how to do it, you will find the next tips very useful.
Step 1: Read a lot
There are books and authors you could read in search for inspiration: the most important essay writers, for example. Reading other writers is the best way to obtaine some ideas for your own academic writing. So if you are looking for writing techniques or strategies, going straight to the sources implies a visit to your local library.
Step 2: Improve grammar and spelling
Practise writing down those words you always misspell. Look up the words in a dictionary every time you are uncertain on how to write them. This may take a while, but a proper spelling will certainly show in the assignment’s final mark.
As for paraphrasing, rewrite each sentence more than once and try to find out how the ideas sound better and clear. Remember that everything can be expressed in more than one way.
Step 3: Use synonyms
For improving your writing style, avoid repeating constantly the same words and expressions. Start by using the thesaurus and changing some words into their synonyms. Of course, always make sure they still make sense when changed, since not every synonym is appropriate in any context. You can also use pronouns or relative clauses to avoid repetitions.
Step 4: Use an appropriate register
In all your academic writings, you should keep in mind there should be a formal distance between you and the potential reader (that is, the teacher correcting and grading your work). So improve the style by changing phrases like “I think” or “I believe” by others a bit more formal, such as “Based on my experience”, or “In my opinion”.
Step 5: Get the reader’s attention
The best possible writings are always those everyone loves to read. They apply to the reader’s interests and motivate their curiosity by displaying little bits of information at the time. Good writers combine facts and examples, and show their own thoughts as well as an opposite point of view some readers may have.