Students must become comfortable with writing, but they shouldn't become so comfortable that they forget they are writing in an academic arena. Most instructors expect a level of formality in their students' essays, so it benefits a student to break poor writing habits.
While there are many areas for improvement in academic writing. Being an essay writer, I single out three habits that are relatively easy to watch for and correct.
First Habit to Break: Using Colloquialisms in Academic Writing
A colloquialism is a word or phrase usually used in conversation. Colloquialisms are a part of talking, and there is nothing inherently wrong with using them. However, when it comes to academic writing, most of the time, colloquialisms are out of place and even awkward in an essay. For example, these sentences would be out of place in an academic essay:
- Parents should treat their kids with respect.
- We know for sure that Galileo was correct.
- I was happy when I got the math problem.
These phrases are colloquial because they are common in spoken English (and they're not necessarily incorrect); however, they have no place in formal academic writing. These phrases should be rewritten this way:
- Parents should treat their children with respect.
- We know for certain that Galileo was correct.
- I was happy when I understood the math problem.
Removing colloquial phrases from essays takes away the conversational tone, which instantly makes the essay seem more formal and academic.
Second Habit to Break: Using Interjections Inappropriately
Using interjections is similar to using colloquialisms: very often, they have no place in academic writing. Again, using an interjection in an essay makes the writing seem informal and the student might not be taken as seriously. For example, these injections have no place in an academic paper:
- Well, I learned my lesson.
- Yeah, I thought so.
- Wow! I actually enjoyed this Shakespeare poem.
These interjections are perfectly acceptable in informal writing and conversation but should not be in an essay. However, some interjections are acceptable in formal writing:
- In fact, his writings are not religious at all.
- Yes, a distinction is necessary.
Interjections, by and large, are usually not necessary in academic writing. Even acceptable interjections can usually be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence, so students shouldn't have any problems removing them and still having a good essay.
Third Habit to Break: Using an Intimate Tone
Remember, academic essays are typically required to be formal; they are not meant to sound like a letter to a friend or a diary entry. One of the things professors expect is a formal distance from the writer. One of the easiest ways to accomplish distance is with the point of view. Writing in the first or second person creates an intimacy that is best to be avoided while writing in the third person usually maintains a distance. For example, here are sentences in the first and second person that should be rewritten:
- I will be focusing on Victorian authors in this essay.
- We could make the argument that this story is propaganda.
- You will understand that these points are legitimate.
Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with these sentences, but they create an intimacy that is oftentimes considered improper in academic writing. Again, these issues are easy to correct by simply changing from a first- or second-person point of view to the third person:
- The focus of this essay will be on Victorian authors.
- It can be argued that this story is propaganda.
- Readers will understand that these points are legitimate.
If students can train themselves to write in the third person when composing essays, they'll notice a difference.
What is First-Person Point-of-View?
The first-person point-of-view is best remembered as coming from the first person anyone is closest to himself. When writing from the first-person perspective, the writer will most often use the pronouns "I," "we," "me," and "us." He is writing from within himself, from the perspective of his own eyes and his own experience.
First-person writing tends to usually be more personal. It is usually frowned upon for academic writing because it doesn't always allow the writer to be objective. However, there are limited occasions when first-person writing is okay for academic papers, but that is not the norm.
Most often, the first person is employed in creative writing. Poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction are sometimes written in the first person, giving the reader a feeling of being in the writer's head. This perspective frequently allows readers to "relate" more personally to the narrator or speaker.
Here are some examples are written in the first person:
- I drove to the store. We drove to the store.
- I really liked that movie. We all had such a good time. It was good for me to get out.
- I think that book should have been revised one more time. I couldn't understand it. In fact, there were several of us who struggled through the last five chapters.
What is Second-Person Point-of-View?
The Second-person point-of-view is rarely used in writing. It's not used in academic writing because it lacks a professional tone, but it's also difficult to write in the second person creatively. When a person writes from the second-person perspective, she will mostly use the pronoun "you." The second person is often used for "how-to" articles and books. These examples are written in the second person:
- You drove to the store. All of you drove to the store.
- You walk through the door. You see three large paintings hanging from the walls, so you step forward to examine them more closely.
- You decided to skip the dance. "It stinks anyway," you thought.
- Before using, turn the coffee maker on by depressing the black button. Rinse the carafe.
The first-person perspective can sometimes be misidentified as the second person if the writer is "speaking to" the reader. These examples are actually the first person but addressed to someone else, making them seem like the second person:
- You drove to the store and saw the lipstick I told you about. Now you know why I like it.
- You know what I mean!
- You would love that class. It was fun and challenging, and that's what I enjoyed. Well, that and all the cool people.
One or two sentences taken out of context can make it confusing to identify the perspective, but readers should look for the dominating point-of-view to make the determination.
What is Third-Person Point-of-View?
Third-person point-of-view is the preferred choice not only for academic writing but also for some other forms of non-fiction, such as newspaper, magazine, and journal writing. Why is the third person the perspective of choice? Because it allows for some distance between the writer and his words; his writing appears more authoritative and less subjective.
Pronouns used for the third person are varied; "they," "them," "it," "he," and "she" are common pronouns used in this type of writing. The third person is employed in both academic and creative writing. Here are some examples of both:
- He drove to the store. They drove to the store.
- It's a matter of what one holds dear.
- Specifically, he looks at the advent of Christianity.
- Most people would understand what the author means when she describes the scene.
- She took a deep breath.
Breaking Bad Habits Leads to Writing Better Essays
There is nothing wrong with colloquialisms, interjections, and writing in the first and second person. However, these are areas that can make academic essays seem less formal and less serious. It means the difference between an A and a B, students will likely want to focus on breaking these bad habits.
About the author: Diane H. Wong is a business coach. Besides, she is a research paper writer DoMyWriting so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.