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.
- Use Active Voice
- Proofread (Aloud)
- Organize Well
- Do Not Complicate Your Language
- Do Not Use Long Words When Short Words Will Do
- Keep Sections Short
- Follow Formatting Guidelines
- Stay On Topic
- Be Academically Rigorous
- Be Open Minded
Use a variety of verbs and make the subject of your sentence the agent of the action. This is far more interesting to readers.
Before you turn in a paper, read the work aloud. This will help you identify errors that you might otherwise miss.
Use headers and a proper header hierarchy to organize your paper, and provide the reader with a rough working outline of your piece.
Many students are tempted to use complex language and long sentences to impress their professors. Instead, make your writing clear and simple.
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.
Do not ramble in your paper. Divide your statements and ideas into small subsections and label them with headers.
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.
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.
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.
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.