When writing a paper, you need to present your arguments in a clear and simple way and sound smart as a writer. Achieving the proper tone for your writing style is an important component of writing, and yet many students struggle with balancing that.
Students usually misunderstand the style and tone that should be used when writing essays. As a result, paper’s tone becomes either too academic or too informal. A voice that is too formal lowers readability, whereas a voice that is too informal lowers credibility. So, how should you go about finding the right style and tone for your academic paper?
Here are a few tips that will help you develop your writing tone and maintain a good academic voice in your writing.
1. What is the purpose of an essay?
Often students fail to understand the most important aspect of essay writing: presenting an argument in paper’s tone. Your essay should focus on presenting well-thought-out arguments to answer a question, and to convince the reader that your point of view is valid and reasonable.
You will notice that your writing looks better if you try to make an argument and then present facts to back it up, rather than trying to appear as intelligent as you can without any facts. The ideal approach is usually to set a clear tone.
2. Do not make your writing sound too formal.
While this tip may seem illogical, students frequently mix formal with academic. You do not have to make your school essays sound like a Ph.D. candidate wrote them. The formality of essay writing is one of its most obvious distinguishing features.
On the other hand, a formal tone does not imply the use of sophisticated language. On the contrary, while formality is crucial for academic writing, the credibility of information is what drives the tone’s formality.
When you write essay in a highly formal tone, you almost always come across as having no idea what you are writing about. Avoid using terms you do not understand and too many complex sentences.
In an essay on artificial intelligence, for example, an overly formal sentence might read:
“The exceptional device uses the differential collection of information it obtains as input to execute any procedure. On the other hand, a formal tone does not imply the use of sophisticated language.”
You do not want to come across like this; the readability of this sentence is close to zero. Instead, the following sentence conveys the same information in a simple and clear tone while making it more readable.
“The variable set of data that the computer receives as input helps complete any operation. To put it another way, artificial intelligence is the development of a data set or methods by computers that are pre-programmed with human intelligence.”
As you can see, the second version is put in simple language and has a lot more scholarly tone than the previous one.
3. Avoid using slang.
The tone of your essay should be a perfect balance of formal and informal. Colloquialisms belong to the informal vocabulary that is commonly used in spoken English. Slang words are easy to avoid, but students usually fail to omit less noticeable colloquialisms in their papers.
The absence of colloquial vocabulary is a distinctive aspect of formal writing. When writing an essay, terms like ‘junk, thing, and crazy’ are avoided because they are colloquial. This also means that slang and nonspecific abbreviations should not be used in formal writing. For example, during an informal conversation, we could say:
“She pissed off the audience with her attitude.”
However, in essay, we could never use that sentence. It would be better to write:
“That person angered the audience with her attitude.”
To avoid slang words, you should probably forget about daily explicitness and directness.
4. Avoid using hyperbolic or exaggerated language.
Students can use exaggeration or hyperbole to attempt to persuade the reader to believe them when they want to emphasize the relevance of a point in an argument. Try to avoid doing that.
Hyperbolic sentences tend to make your writing appear silly, and you should expect that your reader will take what you say literally and want evidence of every argument you make. You might write in your essay on air pollution:
“Air pollution is the most horrific problem of all times all over the world, especially in the biggest cities, because of the tremendous level of industrialization.”
This term is exaggerated and does not refer to any evidence to back up the statement. A more appropriate sentence would be:
“Experts from Environment America and U.S. PIRG claim that because of the high level of industrialization, air pollution is a major problem all over the world, particularly in large cities.”
As you can see, rather than exaggeration, the mentioned facts are used to underline the ideas in this text.
5. Avoid using generalizations.
Using broad generalizations in essays is another poor habit that students struggle to break. Broad generalizations are frequently used to present new material or to provoke an emotional response from the audience.
Avoid making generalizations in your writings since, like exaggerated terms, they seem silly, are difficult to prove, and generally have nothing to do with your thesis. An example of generalization you should avoid in an essay would be:
‘Encountering Jane Austen’s well-sculpted prose, a reader feels that her work shows…’
This seems inappropriate as an alternate for “I feel…” It implies that all people who read it will have the same reaction and that there is just one possible reaction to the topic at hand.
When a specific example is treated as if it were a universal fact, this is another type of generalization. It is easy to claim “that her work shows…” This, however, implies that you have studied everything Austen has ever written, which is unlikely. Try to be as direct as possible in your writing to stop using broad generalizations.
6. Avoid using personal pronouns and addressing the reader.
Maintaining an appropriate distance from your work is essential in research papers. Personal pronouns should be avoided since they make your tone appear too intimate and less scientific. You should also stop using terms that will trigger a response from the reader because you never know who your reader is.
Often students struggle with finding the correct writing tone in their essays. However, that is not a justification to avoid working on your essays! As you can see from these tips, breaking negative habits and writing in a scholarly tone is not that hard.