Writing Unlike An Academic

Writing Unlike An Academic

One of the things I consistently struggled with when I was doing postgraduate studies a few years ago was writing like an academic. I was constantly told I was writing too informally. I’ve had that feedback in other parts of my life too, from time to time. 


But here’s the thing I’ve learned about myself. While I can write like an academic, I don’t want to.


Writing Unlike An Academic


Writing Unlike An Academic


I like talking to people in …well… more human ways. I like conversational speaking and learning. My favourite lecturer when I did postgrad went off the best tangents in her classes – and they were the best because they made everything relateable, which was really important for a subject with a focus on understanding complex global theories in practical ways. 


Maybe that makes me “lesser” in some eyes. Maybe those eyes have an opinion I don’t need. Maybe all aspects and “levels” of writing have their place and we need to stop comparing. It has been a bit of a mental block for me in finishing Fuck Should, because my original plan was that I “had” to include summaries of a ton of academic information to make sure it was “worthy” of being published. Which is bizarre in itself, seeing as some academics look down on publishable works that get turned into “airport reading” books. 


Basically, I’ve learned something about myself, and that is good. But it also means unlearning a lot of inbuilt habits and thoughts that I don’t automatically question, which makes it a bit of a work in progress.


But who wants to be a finished person?


How do you feel about academic writing? Any tips for unlearning old habits?


14 Replies to “Writing Unlike An Academic”

  1. There are so many different styles that I say trust your own voice – that’s what people visit to read. I struggle when I have to do freelance jobs for mags & have to write in their voice – it really doesn’t feel right to me & I think sounds forced.

    1. Writing how someone else wants me to was one of the things that put me off of freelance jobs – for a while it felt like freelance writing was an avenue I “had” to pursue. But nope. I’m pretty happy writing here & however I want!

  2. I’ve never been able to write like an academic either. I have two degrees, but never once mastered the art of writing like an academic. No idea how I got through really. I often help my kids with their assignments and it comes back with “needs to be more academic”. What the?! Why? Why does it need to be more academic? Why can’t it just be good and clever and insightful and interesting and entertaining?

    1. I think that’s an answer that academia fears too much to answer – why can’t it be all those things too? Too many entrenched “shoulds”. I wrote about part of this in an essay at uni the other year – part of the reason quantitative is seen as better than qualitative is because academic journals don’t give the text space needed to present qualitative evidence.
      There’s not much rigour in academia behind “but WHY do we do it this way”.

  3. Writing as an academic is a real skills – one I don’t have either! I’d prefer to write as I speak too and will forever remain unfinished! #lifethisweek

    1. I think that’s what I need to embrace!

  4. I think you helped me figure out something for myself – I write academically because of uni and reports I have to write for work. I think because of that being ingrained, I’m struggling to write some nonfiction/wellbeing stuff I’ve been wanting to write! Thanks for that insight. Next step – how do we unlearn this?!

    1. It’s so hard to break a habit. I guess practice is all that can be done.

  5. I teach English to international students and sometimes have to teach academic English – I find it so cumbersome and unnatural. I guess it’s like as Jo says above, it’s all about finding your voice.

    1. Oh yes that would come up – I assume pre IELTS type English would have to be somewhat academic.

  6. I lurch between styles. I am technical / academic / scientific at work but blogging and social media are my outlets for writing in a more relaxed voice. Fortunate to have this flexibility in my writing life.

    SSG xxx

    1. Do you find you can keep them separate easily?

  7. I can write like an academic and when it was necessary I did.
    I also can write in school-speak too and in some cases that varies depending on the audience: teachers, parents, higher-uppers.
    I write blog-speak which is mostly like I speak and I write emails to friends and family like that.

    I am a fan of the writing fitting the purpose and it was actually when I did my Masters of Education back in the early 1990s that it helped me gain skills to use in submission writing and policy making too.
    Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek 2/51. Next week’s optional prompt is Best Gift Ever 21.1.19. Denyse

  8. Loathe academic writing. I do a lot of work with health professionals, trying to get them to write web content is like pulling teeth, I swear they have PTSD from their uni days. And when they do write, it’s stuffy academic nonsense. Yes academics look down on us plain speakers, but I’ve gotta be honest, I reckon they’re pretty hopeless writers and some I am amazed they even managed to graduate!!!!

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