Academic vs. Nonacademic Writing Styles

Academic and nonacademic writing are distinct styles with different characteristics and purposes. Academic writing is formal, evidence-based, and aimed at scholarly audiences, while nonacademic writing is informal, personal, and intended for a wider audience. Choosing the appropriate style depends on the target audience and the writer's specific purpose.

Updated on September 5, 2023

academic vs nonacademic writing

Academic and nonacademic writing are two different writing styles with distinct characteristics and purposes. Each style has its own conventions and best practices. Writers must understand and adhere to these conventions to best communicate with their intended audience.

The key factor to keep in mind here is your target audience.

Academic writing

The language used in academic writing is precise and often technical. It follows a standard structure, which typically includes introduction, background, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion sections. 

Academic writing generally includes a list of cited references and figures showing the data and data analyses performed over the course of research. A few examples of academic writing include journal articles, research papers, and theses/dissertations.

Characteristics of academic writing

The fundamental characteristics of academic writing are described as follows:

  1. Clear and concise: Academic writing is clear and concisely written. The use of jargon and excessive wordiness are not effective means of communicating through academic writing.
  2. Evidence-based content: Academic writing is based on evidence and research. Credible sources are used and they are cited appropriately.
  3. Formal tone: Academic writing uses a formal tone and avoids contractions, colloquial language, and informal expressions.
  4. Structured writing: Academic writing has a clear structure, such as introduction, methodology, and conclusion sections.
  5. A uniform citation style: Different fields have their own citation styles, and it is important to follow the specific citation style required by your institution or field.
  6. Proofread and edit: Always proofread and edit your work before submitting it for review. For assistance with this step, AJE can help with all of your proofreading, editing and translation needs. 
  7. Avoid plagiarism: Plagiarism can be avoided by properly citing sources, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

To communicate with a general audience, nonacademic writing styles are the best bet. In contrast to academic writing, nonacademic writing has an informal tone, a personal approach, and often uses emotions to convey the message. Nonacademic writing is aimed at a general audience and is used to entertain, inform, and persuade people. The language used in nonacademic writing is not usually technical and is considered to be accessible to a wider audience. Examples of nonacademic writing include newspaper articles, blog posts, and creative writing, such as fiction and poetry.

Characteristics of nonacademic writing

Nonacademic writing is not intended for an academic audience or purpose. Some of the characteristics of nonacademic writing are described as follows:

  1. Colloquial language: Nonacademic writing often uses colloquial language, slang, and contractions. This means the writing often comes across as more conversational. 
  2. Informal tone: Nonacademic writing typically has a more informal tone than academic writing.
  3. Personal opinions: A writer's personal opinions and feelings are often included in this style of writing.
  4. Less formal structure: There is usually no strict structure or format to nonacademic writing styles.
  5. Less emphasis on research: Writers often rely more on personal experience and anecdotes in this style of writing.
  6. Use of humor and figurative language: Humor and figurative language can make writing content more engaging.
  7. Less or no citation requirement: Nonacademic writing often doesn't require citations and references.
  8. Simplicity and brevity: Writing is often simple and brief, as it is designed to be easily understood by a wider, general audience.

Both styles of writing have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it is important for writers to understand and use the appropriate style for their specific purpose and audience. While academic writing is essential for scholarly research and analysis, nonacademic writing is essential for communicating information and ideas to a general audience.

Final thoughts

In summary, academic writing is formal, objective, and evidence-based, while nonacademic writing is informal, personal, and emotional. The purpose and audience for each style of writing are also different, with academic writing being written for scholarly audiences and nonacademic writing being written for wider audiences. The key element in choosing a writing style is the intended audience.

Academic writingacademic audience
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