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        The Top 5 Dos & Don’ts of Academic Writing | Useful Examples

        • calenderJun 27, 2022
        • calender 7 min read

        While formal writing spans everything from academic essays to a thesis, there are a few basic rules that apply to all types of academic writing. To a student, writing in different formats can sometimes be nothing short of a specifically designed torture! But if you pay attention to the basic rules of academic writing, these assignments become significantly less daunting. So, we’ve summarized these rules in the top five dos and don’ts of academic writing, with examples to help you understand better.

        Rules of academic writing

        We get it, you find it tedious to follow the many rules of citing and referencing in a paper. Plus, if you’re finishing your essay at the last moment, it makes matters even worse!

        So here’s a list of dos and don’ts of academic writing that’ll make your life much, much easier:


        1. Write objectively

        Academic writing is objective by nature: it’s factual, logical, unemotional, and precise. So, you need to be impersonal while stating facts, and take care not to distort factual data with personal feelings and prejudices.

        You’re expected to present your reading, research, and analysis of the topic in an impersonal, objective manner. This ensures that your efforts translate well and your argument has no obstructions.

        This is how you can achieve objectivity in formal writing:

        1. Use credible sources and substantial data to back up your arguments.
        2. Avoid using slang and clichés.
        3. Write in the third person, rather than the first or second person.

        Let’s take a look at an academic writing example to make this clear:

        • I found that Dr. Melbourne’s essay on genetic mutations is old and irrelevant.
        • The data suggests that Dr. Melbourne’s research on genetic mutations has become dated.

        2. Write clearly

        Clarity should be your primary concern in formal writing. All the rules of academic writing are designed to ensure that the presentation of your analysis or research is easy for others to go through.

        Make sure that your audience understands the presented ideas readily without having to read too much into your paragraphs.

        Follow these tips to write clearly in academic papers:

        1. Begin each new paragraph with a topic, a subtopic, or a new idea that is introduced.
        2. Let the beginning of each sentence be brief and simple, and put intricate information at the end.
        3. In the sentences that follow, add data to support your statement and elaborate further on the topic.
        4. Write a connecting sentence that ends your current paragraph while also introducing the next idea that you can pick up in the following paragraph.
        5. Develop your entire topic in this manner, from the first sentence to the last.

        Here’s an example from an academic paper:

        [Introduction:] In Virginia Woolf’s short story “The Haunted House”, the narrator’s lack of clarity, the eerie interplay of light and shadow, and the changing tenses indicate that this is a surreal narrative (central idea). [Elaboration:] The events in the story take place inside the mind of the narrator, bearing an imprint of their unconscious mind. [Connecting sentence:] This seems to prompt the provocation that “nothing really happens in A Haunted House.”

        The word “really” supplies the assumption that there is only one reality…

        3. Use technical vocabulary

        Every subject you study has some jargon associated with it. It always helps to include this terminology in academic essays or papers. This makes your writing pointed and precise, also showing your expertise in the subject.

        One main tip to get this done is to go through the glossary of terms that most textbooks have at the end of the chapter or the book. Refer to this section to use such terms correctly. However, remember to use these terms accurately. If you use technical terminology in the wrong manner, you may come off as an amateur!

        Here’s a formal writing example:

        • Women being given additional reservations under the existing reservation system empowers women from all sections of the society.
        • The interlocking of vertical and horizontal reservations for women helps empower women from all social sections.

        4. Proofread carefully

        Sometimes your essay or paper can end up being too long, a bit contrived, or carelessly worded. But even if writing your essay at the last minute is an agony common to all academics, grammar mistakes and formatting errors should not have a place in your document. They make for a loathsome impression, no matter how ingenious you are with your ideas.

        The ideal tip here is to start writing early and leave time for you to proofread later. But when you’re struggling with twelve different assignments at any given moment, it can get hard to carve some time out and leisurely go through your hard work. Sometimes, even an entire day doesn’t provide enough distance and clarity for you to catch all the errors.

        If you can, it’s always great to hire a proofreading service. When a language and formatting expert goes through your words, they’ll check your writing for clarity, vocabulary, and objectivity. Meanwhile, you can take the time to start writing your next assignment!

        We can’t really offer an example here, since proofreading is a post-writing activity, but you can visit this page for a free sample of how an editing and proofreading service can improve your work.

        5. Structure your academic sentences

        No matter your target audience, a series of long winding sentences is always uncomfortable to read. This becomes important especially in scientific papers, where the language needs to be precise and clear, instead of confusing and misleading. Even if you’re writing for some other discipline, the rules of academic writing will always tell you to aim for directness over embellishments.

        Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should always go for short and concise sentences. Reading a series of short sentences feels rushed, and it’s difficult to communicate the full scope of your ideas through such sentences. The way out of this is to vary the length and construction of your sentences.

        Adding some variety to your writing makes it interesting to the reader. Here are some formal writing tips to help you achieve this:

        1. Break up long, winding sentences into two or more parts. Run-on sentences (in which two or more clauses are inappropriately joined) are always better off as a series of concise sentences.
        2. Avoid using sentence fragments. They’re creative in informal writing, but improper and unprofessional in formal writing.
        3. A series of short sentences is as off-putting as a series of long winded ones. Find a balance between the two.

        Academic sentences =/= boring

        Notice how both of the following paragraphs go wrong with sentence structure:

        Each of the chapters is complemented with a wealth of data, concepts, and ideas, while chapter One: “Climate Crisis and Capitalism”, is the most extensively revised with significant scientific data and sociological insights, detailing the factors involved in the establishment of the Paris Agreement and also delving into its potential to affect global climate change.

        Each of the chapters is complemented with a wealth of new data, concepts, and ideas. Chapter One is named “Climate Crisis and Capitalism”. It is the most extensively revised chapter with significant scientific data and sociological insights. The chapter details the factors involved in the establishment of the Paris Agreement. It also delves into its potential to affect global climate change.

        The first version tries to stuff all the information into one sentence, while the second one goes overboard with the short sentences. Here’s how you can balance the two:

        Each of the chapters is complemented with a wealth of new data, concepts, and ideas. Chapter One: “Climate Crisis and Capitalism”, is the most extensively revised with significant scientific data and sociological insights. It also details the factors involved in the establishment of the Paris Agreement and its potential to affect global climate change.


        1. Don’t use colloquial language

        Be careful about language usage in your papers. It’s natural for everyday conversational English to flow into your writing, but you must learn to eliminate them from your writing. The rules of formal writing make your ideas easy to understand for anyone in the world, so colloquial phrases and sentences don’t work in an academic paper.

        Be careful about language usage in academic essays. It’s natural for everyday conversational English to flow into your writing, but you must learn to eliminate them when you write academically. The rules of formal writing make your ideas easy to understand for anyone in the world, so colloquial phrases and sentences don’t work in an academic paper.

        Once you finish writing, go through your paper again and systematically edit your work to replace informal words, phrases, and sentences with their acceptable forms so that your writing is sincere in presentation and objective in tone.

        Consider the following sentences:

        1. Othello loved Desdemona to the moon and back.

        2. Othello loved Desdemona deeply.

        At this point, do we even need to tell you which one’s the right choice for academic essays?

        2. Avoid inappropriate fonts and styles

        Research papers are meant to communicate knowledge with directness and precision, so getting creative with fonts is obviously not what you need to do here.

        One of the first things we learn when we’re taught to write essays in school is that your ideas take center stage here, and beautification is nothing but a distraction.

        So, restrict yourself to the fonts recommended in your study guide. Usually, it’s either Arial or Times New Roman in 12 points, in black.

        3. Don’t change the verb tense

        The tense of a verb indicates whether the time of an event is in the past, present, or future. Whether it’s formal writing or informal, it’s a well-known writing rule to not change the verb tense randomly.

        Sadly, academics are quite prone to such mistakes, and especially so if the academic essays are being written at 3 AM, fueled by nothing but willpower and strong coffee. So it’s common to end up with something like this (crude) example:

        All due procedures are followed at the time of the interviews. From the start of the timer to the end, the interviewer goes through their list of questions and volunteers answered as many as they could. Afterwards, the answers are saved in a confidential file.

        Suffice to say, make sure that you’re not jumping tenses in your paper if the time frame of a given narrative remains the same. This is one of those places where a human proofreader might just help you better than a software, and that’s the only tip we can give you for this one, we’re afraid!

        4. Don’t use personal language

        Research, analysis, and communication takes priority in academic essays or articles, so using personal language in formal writing is the most amateur mistake you can make. While this can’t always be helped, you need to avoid personal pronouns in academic writing as much as possible.

        The only time you can use personal language is when you’re writing an admission essay to describe a personal experience or anecdote. Once you start with your academic course, give a rest to your personal voice and start writing objectively.

        Replace your opinions with factual findings, and suspend your personal beliefs and prejudices. Most importantly, never address the reader directly. The following example can reveal how you can avoid using “you” in an essay:

        • You may have observed that Dr. Jordan’s study is lacking in data.
        • It is easy to deduce that Dr. Jordan’s study is lacking in data.
        • One may observe that Dr. Jordan’s study is lacking in data.

        Here are a few examples to help you avoid using personal pronouns in academic writing:

        • I discovered that the case is much more complex than we first assumed.
        • In my opinion, we should study this phenomenon a bit further.
        • I believe that the article is sexist and misogynistic.
        • The data reveals that the case is much more complex than previously assumed.
        • The results suggest that the phenomenon requires more research.
        • The assumptions made in the article are based in sexism and misogyny.

        5. Don’t exceed the word count

        Students often find it annoying to write academic essays with small word limits. But these limits encourage you to write succinctly and remove redundant information from your work.

        The word limit helps you write with precision and ensures that your readers aren’t put off by unnecessary introductory paragraphs or long winding sentences. So, you shouldn’t exceed the word count in an academic document.

        Dos and don’ts of academic writing

        Here’s a table that can sum up the five dos and don’ts of formal writing for you:

        Do Don’t
        Write objectively. Use colloquial language.
        Write coherent, clear paragraphs. Use inappropriate fonts and style.
        Use technical vocabulary. Change verb tense randomly.
        Proofread your document. Use personal language.
        Structure your sentences. Exceed the word count.

        Further Reading:

        1. This Is How Citations Are Done in APA Dissertations and Theses
        2. Top 10 Resources for Academic Research


        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

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