What Is Academic Writing? —Dos and Don’ts for Students

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  • May 27, 2021
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  • 9 min read


What is academic writing?

­­Academic writing is a formal writing style that is clear, focused, concise, and well-structured, along with proper evidence. This type of writing style is preferred and required in academies. The main purpose of academic writing is to educate and inform so that the reader may understand the subject.

One of the things that are quite attributed to academic writing is that it is completely formal in tone. However, that is not the case. This formal writing style does not have to be complicated and complex with a long sentence in the passive voice. Likewise, it does not demand the usage of difficult vocabulary in the paper. As long as a person’s reading material is understandable and communicable with proper structure, it is fit to be called academic.

To make things clear, the academic writing style is different from everyday English and other languages of the world. It requires some effort to ensure that your writing is aligned with the writing guidelines. Thus, one can say that academic writing is somewhat scientific, formal, and seeks to follow a certain thoughtful pattern. There are different types of academic writing, such as:

  1. Essay Writing
  2. Research Proposal
  3. Research Paper
  4. Thesis/ Dissertations
  5. Literature Review
  6. Report Writing

Like every writing niche requires particular skill sets and guidelines, this style also requests certain attributes to be followed. The general characteristics of academic writing are discussed below.

Well- Planned

To write in this style, your ideas and arguments should be focused and organized all in all. The more well-thought and elaborative your expressions are, the more strongly you can convey your arguments and the message of your paper. Even though if it is essay writing, book writing, or research paper writing.

Proper Structured

When all the arguments and ideas are aligned properly, the second step is to organize them in a proper structure. Different writing guidelines are followed, such as APA, MLA, Chicago manual, etc. Therefore, check with your teacher to see which writing style they prefer. To give you an example, APA is mostly used in Social Sciences subjects such as Psychology or Linguistics. In contrast, MLA is utilized in subjects related to Arts and Humanities.

Accurate Evidence

Evidence in academic writing refers to the knowledge, opinions, arguments, and references that demonstrate your knowledge of the subject and how many commands you hold on the topic. Likewise, citing the authors and other research papers make your arguments strong and unwavering. This way, you are also able to avoid information fallacy and inaccurate information. Evidence in your paper is inculcated in two different ways, such as In-text citations and bibliography.

Formal tone and style.

Since the readers of your paper would be mostly individuals of academic background, therefore, your tone, voice, and language should be formal. Avoid colloquialism at all costs and other informal aspects of languages. Your language should be unbiased, neutral, and appropriate. Having the attributes of precision and balanced writing.

There are some do’s and don’ts that must to followed in Academic writing:

The Dos of Academic Writing: 

Use Appropriate and Formal Language: 

As mentioned earlier, academic writing is a formal writing style. Therefore, You should construct the sentences objectively. Rather than showing emerging emotion and biases towards a particular subject, it should maintain a neutral tone because personal feelings and prejudices show that we are writing an ulterior motive.

How to ensure you are writing objectively?

  • Use data and in-text citation to back your argument
  • Write in the third person narrative as it established neutrality in writing.

You can use personal pronouns such as I, we, us. However, only when you are putting your case forward to the audience or sharing your results, i.e., Introduction and conclusion.

Write with clarity of meaning. 

Academic writing is clear, simple, effective, and communicable. To establish your argument, you need to have clarity of the arguments. If you have to break your sentences into various sentences, do it. Varying your sentence length helps readers to read the text smoothly. Likewise, they can avoid confusions that may arise within the text.

How can you bring precision to your text?

  • Start your introduction with a thesis statement and provide all the supporting details discussed in the body paragraphs. Similarly, each body paragraph will have a separate topic sentence that will be discussed further. In short, you need to begin your paragraph with the main topic sentence that would summarize the main arguments of the paragraph. Your ideas should follow logical connection, making your work naturally flow and coherent.
  • Write a complete sentence that links your topic of discussion with each other.
  • Be concise.
Be consistent in your writing. 

When writing for academic purposes, make sure you are using all the writing convention properly. Your grammar should be correct; your punctuations should be properly placed where they need to be, and ensure that you follow specific stylistics throughout your paper. In this retrospect, make a list of the stylistic you will follow and make sure it remains constant.

 If your professor gives you an assignment, don’t forget to ask him which style he or she prefers. If you belong to social sciences group, there are chances that you would be required to utilize the APA style of writing. Henceforth, you have to create your paper accordingly.

Download the APA 7th editing writing guide and follow the convention accordingly. This will also help you to stay consistent throughout your paper.

  • Numbers
  • Abbreviations
  • Verb tenses
  • Capitalization
  • Spelling (there is a difference in UK and US English spelling)

Use proper citations: 

One of the important elements that separated academic writing from any other form of writing is Citations.

As mentioned earlier about the writing style. Each of the writing style guides establishes its rules of referencing the paper. However, the main goal is to cite accurately.

There are two types of citations:
  • In-text citations: This type of reference is used when we paraphrase, summarize, or quote someone else’s work in our paper. This mostly used the name of the author and the year of the publication in the body text.
  • Work cited/ Bibliography/ Reference list: All these refer to the list of the resources you have utilized throughout your text. This list is created at the end of your research paper. There are different ways of citing the resources —website, book, article, journal article, and report— are cited differently. Please refer to the style guide you are following to understand better how to cite your reference in your paper.

Some benefits of citations:

  • Your work becomes well-structured.
  • Your work follows a consistent pattern.

The Don’ts of Academic Writing:


Personal Pronouns in the Body Paragraph: 

Academic writing seeks to avoid the usage of personal pronouns such as I, We, Us. However, there are times when personal pronouns are allowed and applicable —Introduction, acknowledgment, personal reflection, or in conclusion.

It is also advisable that you ask your professor what style he would like to prefer; it is generally observed that personal pronouns are being utilized in academic writing. However, so far, they are discouraged in the body paragraph. Thus, keep your writing in the third narrative, as they establish objectivity in writing.

Using Emotions: 

This type of writing discourages emotionally charged language, whether it is journalistic or marketing research. Your goal is to create an unbiased text that avoids grandiose and exaggerated language. To convince your readers, you need to use logic, argumentative tone, and truthfulness as your resource.

There is a time when we are writing on a close to our hearts, and we are sensitive about it. Nevertheless, you can employ other strategies that can help-p you write effectively and creatively.

In the same way, it discourages flowery and ornamental; language. Stick to concrete vocabulary rather than vague and empty words.

Don’t use incorrect font and font size.

When you are writing in APA style, the communicated font style in Arial/ Times New Roman in 11 pt, in MLA, the font should be readable, and it should be 12 pt. Henceforth, using font size and fonts other than these may cause you to lose marks. Besides, you can always ask your professor which font style would they prefer.

Your main goal should be to avoid fancy and illegible fonts. Be consistent in your paper, and don’t try to impress your professor with a cool new font. Chances are they might not like it, and you will have to lose your grades.

Key Characteristics and Profound Details

Aspect Key Features Impact on Academic Writing
Nature of Academic Writing Formal, clear, concise, and well-structured. Focused on educating and informing. Establishes a standard for academic discourse and ensures clarity of communication.
Style and Tone Formal in tone, avoids complexity and difficult vocabulary. Emphasizes understandability. Makes academic texts accessible while maintaining a professional standard.
Structure and Evidence Well-planned and properly structured with accurate evidence and citations. Strengthens arguments and adds credibility to the academic work.
Language Use Formal language, unbiased and precise. Avoids colloquialism and emotional biases. Ensures objectivity and clarity in presenting information or arguments.
Dos: Objectivity and Clarity Use of data and citations, writing in the third person, clear and concise sentences. Enhances the reliability and readability of academic texts.
Don’ts: Avoiding Pitfalls Avoid personal pronouns in body paragraphs, emotional language, incorrect fonts and verb tense inconsistencies. Prevents bias, maintains professionalism, and improves overall coherence.
Citations Importance Proper in-text citations and bibliography/references as per style guides (APA, MLA, etc.). Adds legitimacy to the work and acknowledges the contributions of other scholars.

Verb Tense

Consistency is increasingly important in academic writing. When you are writing, do not switch in between verb tenses —Past, present, future. If your event is happening in a single time frame and supposes it is present, then stick to the verb’s present form, avoid using a past form of verb tense.

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