Academic writing is not something you learn in a day. Academic texts follow their own structure and style, and getting good at writing them requires practice. Not sure how to do it? We give you five tips. These are mostly habits; do them regularly and you'll improve your writing - you’ll see.
1: Read, read, read
If you’re writing a thesis or article, you’ll be reading a lot. While reading, try to focus not only on the content but also on the language used. See how other authors are using certain words, how they discuss other sources, and how they present their findings. Write down any wording or phrase you like, as inspiration for your own work (but be careful not to plagiarize!).
2: Identify authors whose style you like
While reading, you might come across articles that are well written. How does the author accomplish this? Look at his/her articles and try to discover what makes him/her a good writer. Maybe you notice, for example, that the author varies nicely in sentence length, or that he/she explains difficult concepts using easy terms.
3: Read your own texts aloud
This might feel a bit funny at first, but it really helps. When reading your own text aloud, you notice it when things sound funny - more easily than when you read it silently. This is because when reading, we glance over sentences more quickly, automatically ‘correcting’ mistakes.
4: Have others read your work
Asking a peer or your supervisor to read your work, and to focus on the writing while doing so, can be very useful. Style issues like repetitions or verbosity are spotted more easily by others than ourselves. If English is not your first language, you might want to ask somebody with another mother tongue (be it English or another language) to read your work. They are more likely to spot any mistakes you make because of your first language.
5: Take time to edit
Once you’ve finished your text, you might have little energy left for editing. But editing your work is crucial - not just for the text itself, but also for you as a writer! While checking and improving the last details, you’ll learn to perfect your writing.
About the author
Hilde is Chief Applied Linguist at Writefull.