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8 Characteristics of Academic Writing

Updated on January 23, 2013

In written English, academic writing has certain characteristics and needs to comply with a strict set of requirements. It offers factual information on a given subject and it doesn’t intend to entertain, but for most part, to inform.

The main purpose of academic writing in English language is to inform the reader. It offers factual information on a given subject and it doesn’t intend to entertain. This is why there is no place for repetition or digression when it comes to academic writing. This should be linear, having a main idea or theme, followed constantly. The writing should be structured around this main idea and every part of it should only provide information or arguments that support the central theme. Off topic information should not be found at all. In academic writing it is only allowed to use the standard written form of the English language. The text should be accurate and correct and it should use the words in a precise manner.

Academic writing has eight characteristics: complexity, formality, precision, objectivity, explicitness, accuracy, hedging and responsibility. They should all be taken into consideration when writing an academic text, but the one that is predominant also dictates the style of that writing. No concession should be made from these eight features and they should be kept in mind at all times by anyone attempting to be an academic writer.

1. Complexity in Academic Writing

Complexity in academic writing comes from the fact that the standard written form of the English language, which is compulsory to be used, is different than the language we speak daily. The vocabulary used by the written language is more varied than the one used in conversations. It also uses more complicated words that are not normally used when talking with someone face to face. The grammatical aspect of the written language is also different because we don’t normally use in speaking so many subordinate clauses and passives. The phrases in the written language are noun-based and those in speaking language are verb-based. This also makes academic writing different from face to face communication or other types of writing.

2. Formality in Academic Writing

In close connection with complexity is formality. Under no circumstances will academic writing make use of colloquial expression that we consider natural in daily dialogues we have with friend or colleagues. The degree of formality should thus be pretty high.

3. Precision or Words in Academic Writing

Academic writing should be very precise. Factual information, figures or charts, should all be provided and nothing written there should leave room to interpretation.

4. Academic Writing Objectivity

Another important characteristic is objectivity. Academic writing is not about the reader or the writer and it shouldn’t contain referrals to any of these. It should focus on the main theme and offer information about it, without the writer getting involved in a personal manner. This is why nouns are more used than verbs or adverbs.

5. Academic Writing in Explicit Form

The author of an academic writing is responsible for make it explicit and for making clear how different parts of the text are connected between them and why are they relevant for the central theme. There are certain words that can be used in order to emphasis this connection and they are called signaling words.

6. Accuracy of Academic Writing

An accurate use of vocabulary is a must in a text that wants to be academic. Extra attention should be paid when using words with a specific meaning and the writer should know that there is a clear distinction between phonetics and phonemics. This distinction is not so important when it comes to the general use of English language.

7. Hedge

Some academic writers choose to use a technique called hedge. This has to do with the way that writer decides to approach a certain subject and with how strong the claims he makes are.

8. Responsibility in Academic Writing

Last, but not least, academic writing should be treated with responsibility. Everything stated should be accompanied by proofs and justifications and no assumptions are allowed. Sources should also be mentioned.

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