Distinguishing features of academic writing #3: Formality

formalityAmerican poet, W.S. Merwin once said, “The idea of writing, to me, was, from the beginning, writing something which was a little different from the ordinary exchange of speech. It was something that had a certain formality, something in which the words were of interest in themselves.” Perhaps this same sentiment is the foundational principle from which academic writing has gotten its distinguishing feature of formality – to provide something in which the words are of interest in themselves.

In our third discussion of the distinguishing features of academic writing, we discussed what makes academic writing formal, the purpose of such formality, effect of formality on tone and word choice, whether there are levels of formality acceptable in academic writing, and ways to improve the formality of academic writing efforts. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #2: Complexity

complexityAlbert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If this is true, why does it seem that academic writing is distinguished by complexity?

In this second discussion on the distinguishing features of academic writing, we aimed to understand why complexity is not only present, but acceptable in academic writing, and the challenges and benefits of reducing complexity while maintaining academic rigor. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #1: Precision

precision - pencil line being drawn with ruler on paperDuring the course of Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) in November 2019, we explored five distinguishing features of academic writing – the first of which being precision.

What does it mean to write with academic precision? In this article, we recap the event where we sought the answer to this question. During the discussion, we also explored the importance of academic precision and the effects of word choice, active voice, redundancy, and organization on the goal of precision in our manuscripts. [Read more…]

How to write clear, concise (and more enjoyable to read) scientific academic articles

Scientific writingAcademics are often trained to write in a way that actually runs directly contrary to the principles of effective scientific writing, said Kristin Sainani, an associate professor at Stanford University, who has taught a popular open online course on writing in the sciences.

“What we need to do in science and academia is to convey our ideas in a clear, concise, and even enjoyable way,” she said, during her TAA webinar, “Principles of Effective Scientific Writing”. “Even if we are talking about complex ideas, we don’t need to use complex language. I think a lot of times when academics sit down to write we don’t really have in the back of our minds, ‘oh, I want to make it enjoyable for the reader’. But we should think about that because we do want people to read what we write, and if it’s very hard to get through and not enjoyable, people aren’t going to read it.” [Read more…]