Academic Writing

What is academic writing? 

In order to produce good academic writing, it is essential to be aware of its specific purpose. This can be described as conveying complex ideas to the reader in a clear and intelligible way. It need not involve lengthy sentences which can only confuse the reader, as such sentences can be unclear. Academic writing reports the results of research undertaken either by the writer or a third party or both. The writer needs to explain how the results of the research can be used to solve a problem and how such results can be applied practically and realistically. Citations must be given where the work of another person is quoted (either directly or indirectly). An appropriate citation system should be used and all quotations should be accurate, otherwise the writer could be open to misquoting the author. Quoting the work of another person and making it appear as if it is one’s own can mean that the writer can be accused of plagiarism which is a very serious matter. On the other hand, writers need to show their own initiative and that they have thought through the arguments and challenges and that they can logically justify any conclusions that they reach by providing evidence. When conducting research, writers should consider the works of others in a fair and unbiased way. This does not mean that writers should agree with the opinion of every person they quote, but rather they should justify their arguments (with examples) when they disagree. 


Academic writing should be formal, which is where it differs from other types of writing. Conversational style must be avoided, while popular informal phrases should not be used, but replaced by a formal style. Examples of such are ‘back in the day’ which should be replaced by ‘in the past’ and ‘when it comes to’ which could be replaced by ‘with regard to’. Similarly, informal phrases such as ‘It’s ok.’ should be replaced by ‘This is acceptable.’ The shortening of words such as ‘don’t’ and ‘can’t’ are not appropriate in academic writing. Needless to say, the style of language used in text messages has no place in academic writing. Phrasal verbs should generally not be used in academic writing; for instance, rather that ‘carried out’, a one-word verb should be used such as ‘conducted’.  

Word choice

If an idea is to be communicated effectively, word choice is particularly important. Most English words have numerous synonyms, but these should not be regarded as being interchangeable in all circumstances. Writers need to be aware of the context of the sentence, thereby enabling them to apply the most appropriate word choice. Another matter regarding word choice is to avoid repetition; for example, ‘The candidates for the survey were aged between 30 and 40, and the candidates were asked to complete questionnaire.’ The second use of ‘candidates’ is not necessary and should be replaced by ‘they’. Moreover, appropriate synonyms can be used to avoid repetition of a word. Over the course of time, words change their meaning and some words become overused. A currently overused word by the media is ‘iconic’ which has effectively lost its meaning and should be avoided in academic writing. 

Sentence structure

If the text is to be clear to the reader, a good sentence structure is essential. The text should flow naturally and be easy to read, even though it may be explaining complex ideas. A sentence which sounds ‘awkward’ will not impress the reader who will see the sentence as unclear or even unintelligible. 

Precision and accuracy

It is essential that words describe the topic accurately, especially in scientific and legal writings. Ambiguity must be avoided. Every field of study has its own jargon and specialist terms; therefore, the target audience can be expected to understand such expressions.

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation

Spelling should be correct and consistent; for example, if British spelling is used, it should be used throughout and not ‘mixed’ with American spelling. Consistency is paramount in this and in all aspects of academic writing. One exception to this is in citations. For instance, if the text of the document is in American English, any direct quotation in British English should not be changed to American. The purpose of grammar and punctuation is to make the writing clear to the reader, as well as following the rules. Writers should ensure that the subject agrees with the verb, otherwise the sentence will be unclear, and can also mean that the sentence is not grammatically correct, and therefore, not a sentence at all. Care should be taken in the use of capital letters which should be used only as the initial letter of a proper noun. For instance, in the sentence ‘The student is studying history, philosophy, and English.’, only the word ‘English’ is capitalised because it is a proper noun, while ‘history’ and ‘philosophy’ and not proper nouns. The correct use of punctuation marks is important, and writers need to know when to use the comma, semicolon, colon, question mark and others. A comma in the wrong place can change the entire meaning of a document, especially in legal writings. 


It is wise for writers to have their work proofread. This is mainly because when writers type a document, they actually ‘see’ what is in their mind, rather than what is on the page. Furthermore, writers for whom English is not their first language may have difficulty in word choice and be unsure which synonym to use. Moreover, writers may not be aware of the complex grammar rules. The Ultimate Proofreader provides editing, proofreading and paraphrasing services by our team of experienced proofreaders who are native English speakers. Please contact us for further information on our services.

The Ultimate Proofreader is a UK-based academic proofreading and editing services provider.