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10 tips for engaging your audience in academic writing

This article was written by Eliza McKowan, who works as Academic Editor at AJE.

Academic writing is essential to the educational and professional landscape. It is a form of communication used to convey complex ideas and arguments in a clear, concise, and organized way. 

However, academic writing can often be a dry and tedious task for both the writer and the reader. Academic writing can also be challenging, especially for new academics or for those who don’t have a lot of writing experience. But with the right techniques, practice and guidance, anyone can become proficient and effective in academic writing. It is possible to engage readers and make your writing more interesting and accessible. 

In this article, we explore the nature of academic writing and provide suggestions on how to successfully engage your audience.

The nature of academic writing

Academic writing is a specific type of writing used in academia and educational and professional settings. It is characterized by a formal tone, technical language, and a focus on evidence-based arguments. Academic writing is used to present new ideas, theories, and research findings, as well as to persuade readers on a particular perspective or argument.

Academic writing is also very structured. Papers are broken into sections including:

  • Introduction
  • Background or literature review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Each section serves a particular purpose. It is essential to understand the function of each section to write an effective academic paper. For more specifics on the differences between academic and nonacademic writing, check out this post.

10 ways to engage your audience in academic writing

To grab (and keep!) the interest of readers in academic writing, engaging your audience is crucial. You want your readers to be interested in what you have to say and they should be willing (if not excited) to continue reading.

Here are some suggestions on how to engage your audience in academic writing:

  1. Start with a strong thesis statement: Your thesis statement should clearly and concisely state the main argument or point of your paper. This will give your readers a clear idea of what to expect and keep them engaged throughout the paper.
  1. Use examples and evidence to support your argument: This helps to make your writing more persuasive and gives your readers a better understanding of your main point.
  1. Engage readers with rhetorical questions: Rhetorical questions can be used to provoke thought and encourage your readers to consider your argument more deeply.
  1. Don’t be too formal: While academic writing should be formal, it should also be accessible. Avoid using overly formal language or complex sentence structures that will make your writing difficult to follow. 
  1. Be funny: Humor can be a great way to engage readers and make your writing more enjoyable to read.
  1. Use simple, clear and concise language: The language you use in your academic writing should be clear, concise, and free of jargon. Jargon can make your writing difficult to understand and can turn off readers who are not familiar with the field. Avoid using overly complex sentence structures or technical terms that your readers may not be familiar with. 
  1. Tell a story: Everyone loves a good story, even in academic writing. You can use storytelling techniques, or a narrative format, to make your writing more engaging and to help your readers connect with your ideas. You can use anecdotes, examples, or case studies to illustrate your points and make your writing more relatable.
  1. Use an active voice: Using an active voice in your writing can make it more engaging and can help to keep your readers interested. Active voice makes your writing more direct and creates a sense of urgency. Passive voice can make your writing feel dull and lifeless, so it is best to avoid it whenever possible.
  1. Break up long sections of text: Long blocks of text can be intimidating for readers and makes your writing feel tedious. To keep your readers engaged, break up your text into smaller sections. Use headings and subheadings to guide your readers through your paper. You can also use bullet points or numbered lists to highlight key points. My graduate advisor once told me to emulate Ernest Hemmingway in my academic writing. He used short sentences to get the point across concisely.
  1. Employ visual aids: Visual aids, such as graphs, charts, and images to illustrate your points makes your writing more engaging. Visual aids can help break up your text and make your writing more visually appealing. Use appropriate visual aids relevant to your topic to support your arguments.

With these techniques, you can engage your readers and make your academic writing more interesting and accessible. Remember – a well-written and engaging academic paper will not only be more enjoyable to read, but it will also be more likely to be read, understood and remembered by your audience.

Final thoughts

Academic writing is an essential part of the educational and professional landscape. It is a specific form of writing that requires clear and concise language, a formal tone, and a focus on evidence-based arguments. Engaging your audience in academic writing is critical, and you can do so by using clear and concise language, telling a story, employing active voice, breaking up your text, and using visual aids. By following these suggestions, you can write more effective academic papers that will keep your readers engaged and interested in your ideas. For assistance with your academic writing, AJE offers English editing services to help make your language publication-ready.

About the author: Eliza McKowan is an Academic Editor II at AJE. She graduated from the University of Maine with a BS in Human Services and an MS in Earth and Climate Sciences. Eliza taught high school and undergraduate students and worked as a field geologist before joining AJE as an Academic Editor in 2017.

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