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What characterises academic writing?
It is perhaps tempting to think that Academic Writing (AW) is guided by a fairly homogeneous set of rules and aspects. This is so, possibly because we frequently see books with titles such as Academic Writing and Writing Academic English, and we hear from fellow students, teachers, colleagues and friends about the need for skills within written academic English.
However, even if there arguably are core aspects and skills, it is important to acknowledge the fact that many differences exist when it comes to how certain disciplines grapple the challenges of writing academic discourse. The question, then, is whether we should rather talk about Academic Writings, to highlight this heterogeneity.
A General
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| | - Subjective and personal, e.g.
In my essay I will attempt to...
- Asking rhetorical questions, e.g.
How can this be so? |

On the whole, this means that academic writing is generally characterised by a high degree of formality. However, the characteristic of impersonal voice, for example, is not without contention. Even though tables of comparison like the one above can sometimes serve the purpose of highlighting differences between writing that is more academically oriented, and less formal writing, which is used in other domains, it can indeed be dangerous to paint such a polarised picture.
We need to remember, for example, that a more subjective and personal style does occur in some text types in some academic disciplines. Therefore, a table like the one presented above should be treated with caution and only be seen as a very coarse and simplified view of the characteristics of academic writing.
Another example of advice given to students on how to write academic English is taken from a textbook for graduate students written by Swales and Feak (1994). In the introductory chapter, the authors present six characteristic considerations of academic writing: audience, purpose, organisation, style, flow, and presentation. When discussing style, they give the following advice on how to maintain a formal academic writing style.
Swales & Feak (1994) on how to maintain a formal academic
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