Friday, November 6, 2009

Don't aspire to write like an academic, aspire to find your smart and clear writing voice

Hi All, I have occasionally had students who told me they were concerned that their writing did not sound "more academic." Well, you definitely don't want your papers to read like a text message or a facebook post. However, I strongly encourage you to not to use five words when one will do just fine, just so you can "sound academic." I believe that the best academic writing conveys complexity and confidence. Academic writing should not include slang (unless the research topic is "slang"!), shouldn't sound like you when you're chillin' with your friends. Academic writing should convey professionalism and should reflect that you are a scholar, that you research, think, and write with depth. At the same time, I strongly prefer writing that is clear and accessible, rather than writing that was penned by someone who is trying to impress me with a big vocabulary or a density of thought.

Having said that, folks at the University of Chicago have created a fun online toy "Make Your Own Academic Sentence" -- this is a hoot and reminds us what happens when academic writing goes wrong. Give it a try:

Good luck with the work!

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