4 Language Rules to Improve Your Academic Writing

Four Language Rules to Improve Academic Writing

When first embarking on a hefty academic research paper or essay, the words themselves can seem intimidating. There is a lot to worry about, from subject-based vocabulary to proper grammar, spelling, and formatting.


You may have a few questions about academic writing, especially if you’re a beginner.


The following post will address various questions by providing four key language rules aimed at helping you improve. Take a look below to help jump-start your writing.



Rule 1: Clarity Is Key in Academic Writing

At first glance, academic language may seem intentionally heady or intellectual. Usually, this results from several language rules related to formality:

  • Do not use contractions
  • Avoid colloquial or conversational tone
  • Generally, keep the voice in the third person (them/their/they/he/she/etc.)


These rules can aggravate and frustrate you if this is your first venture into academic writing. But these formalities are there for a good reason.


In renowned author Dan O’Neill’s Top 10 Rules for Academic Writing, number one on his list is all about keeping things clear. These language rules are important for one fundamental reason: clarity.


The idea of academic writing is to use unambiguous language. That way, people from all disciplines and backgrounds can read and understand a paper without confusion.


Clarity should remain the first aspect of academic writing. With that said, avoid using “big” words just for the sake of them. Similarly, only use words that you understand.



Rule 2: Understand Your Audience

Successful academic writing also entails writing in a way that connects with your intended audience. Clarity can only go so far if you do not understand your reader. Fortunately, making that connection is not too challenging.


In academic language, your audience is comprised of the readers and scholars in your discipline who may refer to your content. A few examples of an audience include the following:

  • Your professor, teaching assistant, or fellow students in a class
  • Your academic advisor or thesis committee
  • Other scholars or researchers in a particular subject field or discipline


The best advice to understand how to write for a particular audience is to spend some time reading other work in that discipline.


Ask your professor for sample papers so you can understand expectations. Then, head to your library website and search for journal articles and other publications in your field. Learning how others write in your discipline can help you recognize the common “do’s and don’ts” in your own writing.


Rule 3: Outline and Reverse Outline to Structure Your Writing

Sometimes, more is better with your academic writing. For example, you may feel a sudden burst of inspiration that leads to a grand output of script.


While this is certainly a positive thing, the problem may come if you lack structure or organizational understanding. You could find yourself writing on subjects or topics that do not logically connect to your paper's overall theme or thesis. And this could lead to the dreaded deletion of some writing – and lots of work – you have already produced.


Clarity counts in successful academic writing. This is why a little legwork ahead of your paper through planning and outlining will go a long way.


Take some time to outline your work. There are two directions to outlining:

  1. Normal Outline: Early on in your writing process, find a structural backbone for your writing and research. You do not have to understand your entire paper before making an outline. And you can always change your paper’s layout and structure if your research leads you to different areas.
  2. Reverse Outline: If you need help organizing and clarifying your writing, this technique can help. Write a small summary in the margin of each paragraph you complete. Then, analyze all the sections to make sure they connect, reflect your thesis, and contribute to your overall project.


Rule 4: Get Proofreading and Editing Help When You Need It

The long and short of academic writing is simple: it can be very challenging. Unfortunately, this can become a source of incredible strain, anxiety, and suffering for writers. The stress may also significantly affect your productivity – slowing down your progress.


Many people mistakenly think they are on their own when it comes to producing this labor-intensive writing. However, there is never any harm in seeking out some additional help for yourself when you need it.


Editor World offers results-oriented proofreading and academic editing for papers and projects of all types. Their editors bring years of experience in academic writing and all the language rules they require. As a result, they can help you improve your writing, clarify your ideas, and produce your best possible work.


To learn more about how Editor World can help you get the most out of your academic writing, contact us today.