[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e write for different purposes and for different audiences. When you write a personal email to your friend, you are not bound by any strict rules that dictate how you should begin your message and communicate your ideas. Academic writing, however, is more structured and adheres to specific rules depending on what you are writing about and who you are writing for. Let’s take a closer look at these two important elements.
This refers to the type of writing you are doing and it ranges from a simple narrative essay to a more complex data-driven research paper. Each of these types have a specific purpose and are, therefore, structured in ways that help you, the writer, achieve the intended effect for a specific audience. These are some of the most common types of academic essays:
Expository: The purpose of an expository paper is explain, discuss, or inform your audience about a given topic. Therefore, the expository approach offers an ideal structure for identifying features and characteristics in a given topic as in most research-driven papers, comparison-contrast essays, reaction essays, and business writing.
Narrative: When you write a narrative paper, you are “narrating” or telling a story. A strong narrative essay is one that paints a vivid image of the story using a variety of writing techniques (characterization, descriptions, plot…etc). Like other types of essays, a narrative paper must have a clear structure and must include an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion.
Descriptive: In a descriptive essay, you describe an experience, a character, an object, a state of mind…etc. While this essay form comes with a level of freedom by allowing you to decide how to approach the task, you still need to effectively structure your ideas. Use vivid structures that are rich in sensory language to help your readers not only understand what you are describing, but visualize it.
Argumentative: The primary objective of an argumentative essay is to establish a point of view in regards to a particular topic and defend that point of view using logical arguments and relevant examples. Your point of view or perspective must be clearly stated in the thesis statement (generally in the introduction) that needs to to be supported in the body of the essay using supporting evidence, counter-arguments and refutations.
Audience is the actual person(s) who will be reading your paper. In an academic setting, your audience is generally your professor, your classmates and sometimes other professors who may be assessing your work at the end of the semester. It is, therefore, critical to consider how you will articulate your ideas in order to reach the desired objective for that specific audience.
Rhetoric and Style:
Academic papers are written in formal academic tone, so they must be free of cliches and slang language. You must also ensure that your writing does not include language that may be considered offensive or sexist.
Ex: “I think the author is wrong about this issue” vs. “ I disagree with the author’s perspective on this issue”
Ex: “She was acting crazy” vs. “Her behavior was unacceptable”
Avoid making generalizations about a given point, especially when you are providing strong evidence to defend your claim. Instead, use like “most”, “may”, “it seems”…etc
Ex: “Teenagers love Apple products” vs. “Most teenagers love Apple products” or “It seems that most teenagers are attracted to Apple products”
While your goal is not to impress your audience, academic writing is certainly more involved and requires a higher level of sophistication compared to high school writing. You are, therefore, expected to vary your sentence forms, using complex and compound sentence structures. Transitions help you establish relationships between ideas and paragraphs and improve the overall quality of your writing. The most common transitions are conjunctive adverbs such as “moreover, therefore, consequently…etc” and transitional phrases like “ in addition, in contrast…etc)
Consider your readers’ familiarity with the content of your writing. Assess your readers’ background knowledge of the topic and their ability to understand implications and references. In general, the less your audience knows about your topic, the more details you must present to ensure clarity.
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