10 Typical Mistakes in Academic Writing: English Hidden Reefs

meg herculesThere is no doubts that academic writing (English academic language) differs from day-to-day writing. Students must adhere to a certain formal style, use special lexicon, and include citations in their papers. The three main characteristics of a proper academic piece are as follows: formal, objective, and referenced. Below are the top ten mistakes students make in academic papers and the tips on how to avoid them.

1. Use of the Simple Language

There is a difference between the way we talk in our everyday life and the way we communicate academically. For example, in academic writing, there is no place for contractions (such as “don’t” or “they’ll”). You need to use full sentences and make sure they are clear and logic.

2. Pronouns

Students often tend to use pronouns while explaining some idea or giving examples. However, you should avoid all the “I”, “you”, or “they”. Your paper is formal and evidence-based.

3. Phrasal Verbs

Using phrasal verbs is also not recommended in academic writing. Instead, you need to use specific verbs and terms, for example, “increase” instead of “go up” and many more of this sort.

4. Slang and Colloquialisms

It might seem obvious, but many students still use some slang words and colloquialisms in their papers. While such words and phrases can be a significant part of one’s research, you should understand when they are necessary or not. If you are studying slang, then slang words should be included in parentheses.

5. Idioms and Cliches

Clichés are always considered as poor choice in your academic writing. Idioms, like clichés, are often irrelevant and, therefore, can be entirely omitted or replaced with direct phrases.

6. Negatives

Many students overuse negatives in sentences. It is, however, not recommended. Use less of those or abstain from them entirely. Replace them with positive words that have a negative meaning. For example, instead of “not relevant”, it’s better to use “irrelevant”.

7. Vagueness

There is no place for vagueness and uncertainties in academic English. Thus, you should be clear and precise. Provide accurate words or phrases instead. If you are not sure what the difference between “affect” and “effect” is, then consult a dictionary or see some examples.

A recent study done on a large amount of psychology research showed that pleonasms and oxymoron are quite common among the scholars. The first refers to using excessive, unnecessary words in terms (such as “mental telepathy”), and the second refers to combination of contradictory words (such as “original copies”).

8. Personal Information

Any anecdotal or background information, as well as your subjective opinion should be avoided in most types of academic papers. There are several reasons why you shouldn’t do this. The first one is that your academic paper has to be concise and stick to the topic. Overflooding it with any additional information won’t serve this purpose. The second reason is that your goal is to be as objective as possible. This doesn’t go along with subjectiveness at all.

Of course, when you are writing a personal essay, your own point of view is welcome, as well as real stories from your life. But that’s rather an exception. In any case, consulting your professor won’t hurt, especially when you are not sure.

9. Improper Punctuation

Often, students take it all wrong about punctuation. However, this issue is too general to include it here. What specifically concerns academic writing mistakes is the use of exclamation marks. Students should remember that those might be included only in case of direct quotes. So, don’t use exclamation marks, learn how to handle semicolons, and consult the academic style guides when you are not sure.

10. Making Strong Claims

Results of a research or an experiment do not always have to be significant. When they are not, avoid the word “significant”. Besides, there is a distinction between “statistical significance” and “practical significance”. Also, be careful with such words as “correlation”, “influence”, and others. Avoid exaggerations and emotionally charged words.

When it comes to academic writing, students tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Apart from clichés and slang phrases, contractions, and improper punctuation, other minor (or major) imperfections might stand in the way of your good grade. In order to avoid them, please consult the style guides. But most and foremost, remember about the 3 main characteristics of an academic paper: objectiveness, presence of references, and formal approach.

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