Academic Writing

10 Features of Academic Writing You Should Know


Academic writing in English is linear, which means it has one central point or theme with every part contributing to the mainline of argument, without digressions or repetitions. Its objective is to inform rather than entertain. As well as this it is in the standard written form of the language. There are ten main features of academic writing that are often discussed. Academic writing is to some extent: complex, formal, objective, explicit, hedged, and responsible. It uses language precisely and accurately. It is also well organised and planned.

1. Complexity

Written language is relatively more complex than spoken language. Written language has longer words, it is lexically denser and it has a more varied vocabulary. It uses more noun-based phrases than verb-based phrases. Written texts are shorter and the language has more grammatical complexity, including more subordinate clauses and more passives.

2. Formality

Academic writing is relatively formal. In general, this means that in an essay you should avoid colloquial words and expressions.

3. Precision

In academic writing, facts and figures are given precisely.

4. Objectivity

Written language is in a general objective rather than personal. It, therefore, has fewer words that refer to the writer or the reader. This means that the main emphasis should be on the information that you want to give and the arguments you want to make, rather than you. For that reason, academic writing tends to use nouns (and adjectives), rather than verbs (and adverbs).

5. Explicitness

Academic writing is explicit about the relationships in the text. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the writer in English to make it clear to the reader how the various parts of the text are related. These connections can be made explicit by the use of different signalling words.

6. Accuracy

Academic writing uses vocabulary accurately. Most subjects have words with narrow specific meanings. Linguistics distinguishes clearly between “phonetics” and “phonemics”; general English does not.

7. Hedging

In any kind of academic writing you do, it is necessary to make decisions about your stance on a particular subject, or the strength of the claims you are making. Different subjects prefer to do this in different ways.

A technique common in certain kinds of academic writing is known by linguists as a ‘hedge’.

8. Responsibility

In academic writing, you must be responsible for and must be able to provide evidence and justification for, any claims you make. You are also responsible for demonstrating an understanding of any source texts you use.

9. Organisation

Academic writing is well organised. It flows easily from one section to the next in a logical fashion. A good place to start is the genre of your text. Once you have decided on the genre, the structure is easily determined.

10. Planning

Academic writing is well planned. It usually takes place after research and evaluation, according to a specific purpose and plan.

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