Read on to find out how you can improve your academic writing by leaps and bounds.
People get into academic writing either due to a passion for learning or as a way to kick start their careers. Regardless of the field, you pursue, specific skills help you advance professionally across all subjects and disciplines. Whether you’re a chemical researcher or an art historian, your ability to produce well-written essays and reports certainly sets you apart from the rest.
What do you mean by writing skills?
Writing skills refer to the specific knowledge and abilities that help people put their thoughts and opinions into words in a meaningful way. It includes a good understanding of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Though it sounds simple, a lack of good writing skills often results in disorganized, scattered pieces of information that are difficult to receive and understand.
Effective writing can be pretty challenging since it requires more than just correct grammar and solid punctuation. You’ll need a good grasp of sentence and paragraph structure, an ever-growing vocabulary, and more to get your message across effectively.
Why are writing skills important?
Good writing skills are essential to succeed in any workplace. Be it emails, sales proposals, or project reports, your writing reflects your attitude towards the work you do. Like communication skills, understanding the importance of good writing can affect how you’re perceived in the workplace.
Helps you get hired.
A well-written, well-presented CV or resume is bound to impress employers a lot more than a poorly written one, and this inevitably increases your chances of getting hired. Good writing is essential to convince recruiters that you have what it takes.
Shows your commitment.
Going the extra mile to polish your writing skills shows your drive to improve. It exhibits your attention to detail and how committed you are to the work you do, which is key to leaving a good impression on your employers.
Boosts your professional image.
As in the previous point, good writing skills demonstrate a solid command of the language. Knowing how to convey your ideas and information in a polite, concise, and transparent way avoids room for misunderstandings. This boosts not just your professional image but also overall work efficiency.
Makes you a better leader.
Knowing how to convey your ideas and information in a polite, concise, and transparent way avoids room for misunderstandings. This increases overall efficiency and eliminates any negative feelings caused by misinterpretations.
Common writing styles
Your audience and writing purpose determine the writing style you should adopt. The main writing styles are persuasive, expository, narrative, and descriptive. Let’s briefly get into what these types and their defining features are.
As the name suggests, the writer is trying to persuade or convince the reader of the validity of a particular opinion or argument in this style of writing. Examples of persuasive writing can be found in cover letters and letters of recommendation. (The 50 Most Persuasive Speech Topics of 2022)
This type of writing presents evidence or statistics to explain and share an idea with a more significant number of people. It’s a matter-of-fact style of writing that doesn’t involve opinions and can be found in news stories and textbooks.
When a writer uses a narrative writing style, they aim to share information in the form of a compelling story. Often found in longer texts like novels and short stories, they usually involve characters and some amount of conflict.
In descriptive writing, writers use imagery to build a vivid picture in readers’ minds. This helps readers immerse themselves in the text more by appealing to their imagination. Examples of descriptive writing are found in fictional novels and poetry.
How to improve your academic writing skills
Now that you’re aware of the importance of good academic writing skills and different writing styles let’s move on to how you can improve. These tips require regular practice but are guaranteed to help you improve in due time.
1. Plan before you write.
Thinking and planning before writing will help your writing appear effortlessly put together. Planning out your writing beforehand reduces the amount of time you have to spend on editing, as it gives you a clear mental picture of what you’re trying to get across. It helps you break down a large message into more straightforward, transparent terms.
2. Do your research.
Work reports and documents often require thorough research and clarification. While writing marketing copies or creating sales proposals, you might encounter a few things you don’t know a lot about. In situations like this, your ability to conduct thorough research and pick up relevant information is vital for smooth communication.
3. Make an outline.
Creating an outline before you start writing can help you organize your thoughts and simplify the daunting task. When it comes to detailed business documents, you often need to approach them from different perspectives to ensure everything aligns well. So, making a linear outline will see to it that you don’t leave out any critical information.
4. Understand your readers.
Before starting work on any report or document, you need to identify the people you want to address. Whether you’re writing a business document or a simple text message, you need to get into the reader’s perspective. Is there enough context for you to understand the text? Is the language coherent and straightforward enough? These are the questions you should be asking as you write.
5. Write as you would speak.
When you’re writing up a document for work, it’s easy to get carried away by formal language and lose sight of what you truly meant to convey. To avoid suffocating your writing with unnecessarily complex terms, try to write as you would normally speak in a business setting. This helps your readers understand the text quickly and leaves little room for doubt or confusion.
6. Keep it simple.
As I mentioned in the previous point, keep your writing simple and to the point. Focus on presenting information in the most direct, brief, and precise way possible. Analyze the data and try to convey only the most relevant details, in short, concise sentences that get the message across easily. You want to provide enough information without overwhelming them with minor details.
7. Improve your word choices.
Try to be as precise as you can with your word choices. Avoid words or phrases that imply vague or informal meaning, such as “incredibly” or “not really”. Additionally, adverbs that end in -ly can often be replaced with more impactful words. For example, “we worked carefully” can be modified to “we were meticulous”.
8. Avoid contractions and abbreviations.
Using multiple contractions and abbreviations in your writing makes it appear unprofessional and informal—that’s not what we want. A contraction is a form of combining two words into one, shortened word, such as “shouldn’t,” “isn’t,” and “don’t.” Instead of using these, stick to their expanded, two-word versions.
9. Cut down filler words.
As fun as creative writing is, it’s best to keep it out of your academic writing. Cutting down some of the repetitive filler words in your writing is one surefire way to enhance its clarity. There’s always this one word we find ourselves unintentionally repeating in our writing, right? Take those out and, if needed, replace them with more impactful words.
10. Write shorter sentences.
Clarity allows complex messages to be understood. Long, complicated sentences often mean you’re not sure of your message. Readers tend to lose interest in making an effort to read when you present them with a wall of text. Try breaking down your long sentences into 1 or 2 lines. It also helps if you explain only one idea in each sentence instead of coupling several of them together.
11. Always use an active voice.
Active voice is used in most academic writing. Using an active voice for most of your sentences makes its meaning more apparent for readers. It’s less wordy and complicated, so your ideas or information can get through crisp and clear. Even in non-academic writing, using passive voice too much simply makes it confusing for readers.
12. Keep your tenses consistent.
The tense of a verb helps you express when an event has occurred, which is why you must maintain consistency. The most commonly used tenses in academic writing are the present simple, past simple, and the present perfect. Irregular tenses tend to make it confusing and illogical for readers to understand what you’re trying to express. So, in order to maintain clarity and logic, your sentences should employ tenses correctly.
13. Read your writing out loud.
Sounds unnecessary, but bear with me. Hearing your writing out loud helps you identify any grammatical or syntactic mistakes a lot faster. It also allows you to check whether the text flows easily or not and to make adjustments as required. If your writing sounds too wordy, you can simplify your sentences. On the other hand, if your report is too simple, you can simply add words that enhance its meaning.
14. Use online editing and proofreading resources.
There’s still the general assumption that tackling a task yourself with no outside help makes you more praiseworthy. However, in real life, you’ll be able to produce much better work if you make good use of the resources available to you. Especially when it comes to academic writing, online tools might be your best guide. There’s a vast array of both free and paid options you can choose from on the internet, such as the Readability Score and apps like Hemingway.
15. Read and write more regularly.
There’s nothing that could improve your writing skills as much as consistent reading and writing can. Writing each day, even if it’s only for around 5 minutes, can help increase your confidence and be more at ease with it. As for reading, you’ll find yourself paying more attention to the language and writing style of the texts you read. These, in turn, will inspire you to make better choices as a writer.
Writing has always been an essential part of communication in the workplace. The way you convey and present your ideas to your clients, colleagues and managers speak volumes about your passion to advance in your career. So, what are you waiting for? Follow these tips to effectively improve your academic writing skills!