5 Tips To Improve Your Academic Writing + [Infographic]

Wanting to improve your academic writing should be a top priority for all starting scientists. Your science might be sound, but if you can’t write it clearly in a scientific paper, you won’t succeed in academia.

It’s not enough to be good, you have to show it to the world. A paper full of spelling mistakes is not conveying a positive image of you.

Most prolific writers seem to have a natural talent. The truth is that they are all born crappy writers. Only those that persevere will become proficient writers.

There is no work around, practice makes perfect. So you’d better get cracking from the beginning of your PhD.

Have you joined the Academic Writing Month?

Fortunately you are not alone in the quest to improve your academic writing. There are great blogs about academic writing offering live webinars to improve your academic writing, as well as professional editing services to help you polish that paper of yours.

Next Scientist wants also to help you with your writing, This is why we asked Evelyn Cowan from Enago, a leading company in English editing of scientific publications, to share some tips to improve your academic writing… enjoy!

Improve Your Academic Writing

Academic writing, in essence, is putting forth a scholar’s ideas and research to his/her academic peers. It is usually confined to the domain-specific academic crop of people, but may find a larger audience by the way of journals and pamphlets.

Academic writers need to adopt a strong academic rhetoric and observe a certain strict etiquettes for putting across their work efficiently. Treasuring the following precepts may come in handy:

Clear, Concise, and Well-constructed Language

Legibility takes precedence over everything else.

Text needs to be grammatically sound and appropriately framed in order to be surmised by the intended audience without an effort. The reader must not go through the hassles of deducing the content because it is not ably framed.

Typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors leave a bad taste. Meticulous proofreading of the paper and using word processing tools help highlight (red and green squiggly lines) the awkward text.

If you don’t feel confident enough to proofread your document, ask a colleague (preferably a English native speaker) or even hire a pay-for-service proof-reader to groom the document in order to meet publishable standards. And most importantly, check what they suggest to change and learn for the next time.

Practice economy in writing; avoid colloquial phrases, contractions, run-on sentences, and extreme verbosity in language. Further, try not to digress away from the topic.

Maintain a temperate and clinical tone. Any inclusion of amusing subtext will be frowned upon in academic circles.

Improve Your Academic Writing

Photo by fiddle oak

Construct A Veritable Content

Make sure that content is well-founded and in keeping with established facts.

Fortify your content with substantiated statements. For example, the statement, “Today’s children are not as healthy as those in the previous generation,” sounds very cursory without any citations. The same statement evidenced by the empirical research that went behind it and/or a mention of the correct statistical numbers contrasting two generations, would make it more clear and definitive. Further, it will help keeping the undesirable controversies at bay.

If you speak about topics you don’t know, you will waste your reputation and trust also for topics you are an expert.

Plagiarism: Stay Away From It

In academic writing, there are few intellectual offenses more impacting than passing off someone else’s content as your own.

It is okay to take a leaf from the previous authors’ researches and opinions, but do not merely rehash the content without giving a due regard for its origin.

Plagiarism is the greatest assault on a researcher’s credibility and may have costly consequences in his future course. It may amount to his expulsion from an institute and jeopardize his professional standing.

Academic writing stresses a lot of importance on documenting sources of words, images, and ideas. Make sure that the authors and contributors of the study are rightfully cited.

Avoid Over-quoting

Word for word quoting is legitimate in certain situations, but over-quoting makes the content seem borrowed. Insert direct quotations, only when you cannot possibly express the equivalent meaning in your own words.

For a major chunk of your document, however, paraphrasing is suggested. Paraphrasing simplifies a selection, but may not necessarily condense it. Further, ensure that the paraphrased content is attributed to its original source.


Confining your paper to an allocated number of words is one of the most daunting tasks if you want to improve your academic writing. Summarizing simply means doing away with all the extraneous content without sacrificing the kernel of the topic.

You can follow what is popularly known as Ockham’s razor. Applying this process ensures that your final product is terse and focused. This may entail mentioning just 8 case-studies instead of the 32. Or pruning the document to a third of its original size, but more important is that your manuscript meets academic tenets.

It’s time to stop procrastinating and start to work hard to improve your academic writing. The rewards will be all yours.

Infographic: Fix These 15 Grammar Spoofs And Improve Your Academic Writing

Improve Your Academic Writing Grammar Goofs

Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Now back to you

Do you have other good tips to improve academic writing?

What are the most common mistakes of non-native academic writers?

Please, leave us a message with your ideas.

About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on JulioPeironcely.com.


  1. Misplaced modifiers are among my pet “peeves” regarding common errors. You have one in #7 as:  “Myself is only proper in two ways” The word “only” actually is describing “two” so the sentence should be “Myself is proper in only two ways”. This is a very common error. I see it in adult books, in books that are written for children (what a great way to continue bad grammar!!), in the paper, and often often in spoken language.  Julio, you should know better. The “could of, would of” etc. one is all too common as well. If you added “could have, would have” as the correct way to write it, those who have problems with this one wouldn’t have to guess/surmise what you mean.

  2. zackboston says:

    Nice infographic and many of my youth would benefit from it.  Unfortunately, I can’t put it up because none of the characters in the illustrations looks like the youth in my STEM program.  My youth notice that.  And some of the examples ignore the reality of the youth’s lives — seem out of place in an urban setting.  It’s these omissions that are little microagressions, rendering urban youth invisible.  Just sayin’ that it’s important to think about ALL the youth and represent!

    • Doc12355 says:

      You used the word “youth” way to many times. You should have used some pronouns to make your post much less boring.

  3. Some refs:

    2004 Whitesides – Writing a Paper.
    2005 Ioannidis – Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.
    2007 Sand-Jensen – How to write consistently boring scientific literature.
    2009 Alon – How To Choose a Good Scientific Problem.


  4. Cheers!

  5. Great post! Love the infographic too – nice touch :)


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