The challenge in academic writing is to express complex ideas simply. Follow these guidelines to help improve your academic papers. Don't try to adopt a learned tone your message, not your writing style, should show your knowledge and expertise.
- Use active verbs.
- Keep your sentence length under control.
- Use simple words instead of complex words.
- Avoid jargon.
- Avoid abstract terms be as specific as you can.
- Avoid abbreviations and acronyms.
- Avoid padding.
- Use topic sentences.
- Link your ideas and paragraphs.
- Use examples to explain difficult points.
Use active verbs
Using active verbs is essential if you want to write with a direct authoritative style. Instead of using the impersonal passive verbs and third person viewpoint, you should write with strong, active verbs.
Almost every authority on writing encourages you to use active verbs. Heres some typical advice to authors publishing research papers for The American Society for Testing Materials.
As most everyone has agreed for some time now, use the third person in a paper not only adds nothing to scientific objectivity, it renders the paper gutless and lifeless . . . Scientists of the 19th century such as Darwin and Huxley wrote sensibly and clearly in the first person and turned out some very respectable prose. Let us begin anew . . . use active verbs.
Look at these examples:
An improvement in quality has been made leading to the decision being taken to raise the standard test so a higher mark means the same success rate being accepted. (29 words)
As quality improved, the standard test rose, leading to a higher standard mark to gain the same acceptable success rate. (20 words)
Notice the passive example sounds academic but takes an extra nine words to say the same information. It is no more objective than the alternative with active verbs. Although we naturally speak with active verbs, even when discussing academic subjects, the traditional academic writing style litters writing with unnecessary passive verbs. Any sentence can be either active or passive. It is your choice as the author.
Heres another example:
Most writers know that copying anothers work word for word without giving the author credit is considered plagiarism. But it is often assumed that this practice is considered cheating only when long paragraphs are involved paragraphs or whole pages. An honest paraphrase, however, is one in which the ideas of the source are stated in the writers own words. (59 words)
Most writers know that copying anothers work word for word without giving the author credit is plagiarism. But they assume this is cheating only when they copy long paragraphs or whole pages. An honest paraphrase, however, is one written in the writers own words. (44 words)
Whatever the subject of the essay, you can write with active verbs to make your writing style more direct, clear and forceful. If theres one piece of advice on writing style you should follow, its to use active verbs throughout your essays.