Friday, 24 February 2017

Academic Writing

If you were an English teacher, how would you feel to see sentences like, “ I lop/luv you…Same 2 you…Thnx…Swt pic…U luk fav…Me wid de cat…lol…” on your student’s answer paper? I do not know about you, but I would certainly be displeased. All the time you teach your students English grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure and they come up with their own digital code language! What is the place of academic writing in students’ lives?
Whether you are a first grader or a Ph.D holder, your writing habits are, after all, habits. So it is good to be aware of the difference between academic and non-academic writing styles. As long as you are not assigned to follow a particular style such as American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago or Modern Language Association (MLA), there are some rules of thumb which are applicable to all students regardless of their academic level. If one is careful enough to maintain these rules, their write up will be read as ‘academic.’
First of all, you should not use the language that you use on Facebook, email or text messages on answer sheets at your school, college or university. Even though such language is new, it has not been accepted in the academic sector yet. Secondly, you have to be consistent in the use of vocabulary throughout your paper, i.e. you are not allowed to mix ‘British’ and ‘American’ spellings. So, first make sure whether you use ‘practice’ or ‘practise’ (as a verb), ‘color’ or ‘colour’, ‘realize’ or ‘realise’, and then be consistent in your decision.
Another simple thing to keep in mind is not to use contracted forms, for instance, do not write can’t, don’t, haven’t, e.g. to replace cannot, do not, have not and for example. This rule however excludes conversational writing. To write conversations, we write contracted forms. Similarly, a sentence should not be ended with ‘etc.’ For example, write “I love bright colours like red, pink and orange,” instead of “I love bright colours like red, pink, orange etc.” The use of the passive voice is encouraged in academic writing so that the action is highlighted, not the actor. For example, it is better to write “It is said that…” over “I say that…”
These are very simple things. If one pays a little bit of attention, they can follow them easily to improve their own academic writing. This will also minimise a teacher’s irritation massively while marking. At the same time, one should not think that these are the only rules. There are a number of other rules of academic writing related to structuring and referencing at advanced levels; these basic rules are a good starting point.
What is interesting is that students know such things, and yet they commit silly mistakes time and again by mixing up British and American spellings or using contracted forms here and there unconsciously. Therefore, they should be careful to avoid certain things mentioned above. This is a small thing to do, but it will have a marked effect on the quality of your academic writing.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, February 17, 2017) 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).