10 academic essay writing rules

If you are unhappy with the grades you get on your essay and research paper assignments, it may be that you are accidentally violating some of the unstated ‘rules’ of proper essay writing. There are many stylistic and structural expectations that professors and instructors bring to the table when they are evaluating papers, and a savvy student is aware of these expectations and meets them. Here are ten such ‘rules’ for writing well in an academic setting.

  1. Use Active Voice
  2. Use a variety of verbs and make the subject of your sentence the agent of the action. This is far more interesting to readers.

  3. Proofread (Aloud)
  4. Before you turn in a paper, read the work aloud. This will help you identify errors that you might otherwise miss.

  5. Organize Well
  6. Use headers and a proper header hierarchy to organize your paper, and provide the reader with a rough working outline of your piece.

  7. Do Not Complicate Your Language
  8. Many students are tempted to use complex language and long sentences to impress their professors. Instead, make your writing clear and simple.

  9. Do Not Use Long Words When Short Words Will Do
  10. Do not try to impress your reader by throwing out difficult SAT or GRE vocabulary words. When a simple word can be used, favor it instead of a long, obscure word.

  11. Keep Sections Short
  12. Do not ramble in your paper. Divide your statements and ideas into small subsections and label them with headers.

  13. Follow Formatting Guidelines
  14. Check your syllabus or writing assignment for a list of the instructor’s expectations. Set proper margins, spacing, and page numbers as you are instructed.

  15. Stay On Topic
  16. Do not deviate from the prompt or selected topic. If you feel the urge to meander, you may need to conduct more research or change your topic to include the subjects you wish to discuss.

  17. Be Academically Rigorous
  18. Do not make factual or rhetorical claims that are not supported by evidence. Treat your essay as a professional challenge, and represent yourself and your ideas as well as possible. Conduct extra research and provide more citations than the minimum specified by your instructor.

  19. Be Open Minded
  20. Do not be rigid in your hypothesis or rhetorical position. Instead, approach your topic with a spirit of humility. Utilize critical thinking and be willing to support whichever position is the most logical. Do not allow your prior experiences or prejudices to taint the quality of your work. Be an academic professional through and through.

Posted by November 22nd, 2016