Differences Between Academic & Personal Writing

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Personal writing can be a quick Twitter posting or an elegantly written book, but academic writing involves rules of language, composition and content unlike even the rules of writing professions such as journalism.

1 Format and Tone

Academic writing relies on a defined structure for formatting an essay, high school book report, college research paper or master’s thesis. The language is formal, unlike the more casual language of journalism that must be understood by a wider audience. Unless your report is about slang words, don’t use them in writing that will be read by college-educated instructors.

2 Content and Context

A well-formatted paper without scholarly content is not academic writing. Be original, but back it up. Support your ideas and insights with thorough research and analysis. Scholarly writing demands the use of credible and accurately cited research sources. If footnotes are required, use your school's recommended writing style guide to format each footnote.

3 A Common Mistake

Using excessive adjectives and complex sentences to impress the reader with what you think sounds like academic writing might end up just sounding awkward, confusing you and the reader. The great American writer Mark Twain’s advice was: “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

S.R. Haines is a veteran writer whose work has been published by newspapers, magazines, international news wire services and nonprofit publications on topics ranging from breaking news and politics to travel, parenting, education, business and technology. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.