Some essentials of good academic writing

When discussing in class what makes certain academic writing higher quality than other writing, your instructors and classmates may bring up many different complex aspects of academic writing. While those aspects may indeed be some of the hallmarks of quality writing, it can be confusing for a student who is still learning the ins and outs of university level written assignments. This guide takes a simpler point of view, to help those who are new to academic writing learn to write high quality pieces. Here are some of the basic essentials of good academic writing for new writers.

  1. Clarity
  2. Academic writing has a purpose: to communicate academic ideas. These ideas are often complex or unusual, and may require citing many different sources, historical events, studies, or other evidence. Because the ideas are complex and because the goal is to communicate them clearly to the reader, one of the primary essentials you must incorporate in your writing is clarity. Here's how:

    • Use the simplest word that adequately expresses your idea.
    • It's great to have a large vocabulary, but you should only use technical and complicated words when they actually increase the clarity of your writing.

    • Use simple sentence constructions whenever possible.
    • Again, using complex sentence structure is great - when you absolutely must use it. However, if you're utilizing structure that's more complex than necessary, you're actually taking away from the clarity of your work. Furthermore, it's better to use simple structure accurately and correctly than it is to use complex structures that are grammatically incorrect.

  3. Well-supported and free of plagiarism
  4. These two ideas go hand in hand. First, when you're writing academically, you're building on academic tradition and you should use academic sources to support your ideas. You're not trying to reinvent the wheel, so look up what others have written on the same subject and incorporate their ideas. However, you shouldn't take credit for their ideas, either. To ensure that you aren't inadvertently plagiarizing, you should always cite your sources, both in the text and in a works cited page following whatever format your instructor has indicated should be your style guide.

  5. Edited and proofread.
  6. Finally, quality academic work is an exercise in detail. Go back and read through what you've written. Edit it to make sure sentences flow well and there are good transitions from topic to topic. Proofread to correct any grammar and spelling errors.