Academic writing can be incredibly boring. There’s no question about that. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. There are lots of ways to make your writing more intriguing, not only for the reader but for yourself.
Here’s what Roald Dahl had to say about writing: “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.”
By keeping a few tips in mind, you can make your academic writing more entertaining and even score extra points with your teacher:
1. Enthrall them with your opening
Introductions can be the hardest part of the paper to write well. Instead of starting with a generalized statement (Since the dawn of time, man has felt the need to gather in groups for decision making), or with a boring summary (The events of WWII eventually led to the establishment of the United States as a new super-power), try a different technique. If you’re writing about war, get down in the mud. If you’re writing about democracy, write about the revolution that made it possible. An inspiring beginning that puts the reader in the thick of things will draw them in and make them want to read more.
2. Tell a story
Think of your essay as a story you’re telling instead of a cold analysis from a chapter in history. Get up close and personal with the people, places and events you describe as though they were characters and settings in a book. Imagine trying to tell the story of the French Revolution to a friend. How would you tell that story so that they were interested?
3. Learn from other writers
Just as novelists and poets use other writers as inspiration, you can do the same with your academic writing. Who writes well on academic subjects? What do you like about how they write? Analyze their style and use your favorite techniques in your own writing.
4. Pay attention to language
Creative writers pay very careful attention to language and so should you. Skip the academic jargon. If you find yourself using advanced vocabulary words or writing in passive voice, take a pause and then go back and write it again. This time, use action verbs and vibrant and descriptive adjectives.
5. Do in-depth research
The best academic writing is the kind that gives its readers interesting facts, not just a blow by blow of events and dates. Make the effort to learn more about the events you’re describing. This will involve digging deeper than usual, reading more sources. Take notes on things that strike you as particularly interesting or little known. Be careful, however, not to just throw in random facts in your paper. Include them when they’re relevant and when they help illustrate a point you’re trying to make.
6. Cut the cliches
Cliches are boring because they’re predictable. If you find yourself using cliches, strike them out and come up with a different way of describing the same concept. This forces you to use your creativity to come up with something new.
7. Engage your reader by asking rhetorical questions
A rhetorical question is one that the asker doesn’t expect an answer because either the answer is obvious or because they plan on answering it themselves. However, it’s still a question and psychologically, when a reader comes across a question, they tend to want to come up with an answer. You could ask, “Was the Civil War inevitable?” The reader will think of an answer, and you will provide yours. It simulates a silent dialogue between reader and writer. The reader will have formed an opinion when you posed a question. They will continue reading to see if they either agree or disagree with your position.
8. Avoid repetition
If you find yourself repeating certain words or phrases throughout your text, grab a thesaurus and write down the different ways you can describe the same thing.
9. Get someone’s opinion
Before handing in your paper, ask a friend or relative to read it. Find out their honest opinions- if it’s interesting or boring.
Editing is a crucial part of the writing process, not only for spotting spelling and grammatical errors but also to check for flow, flaws in logic and holes in your analysis. This time through, you’ll be paying special attention to language as well to make sure you’ve got your reader’s attention from start to finish.
Any academic paper can be brought to life by focusing on telling a story instead of writing a paper. Improving language by using active verbs, avoiding cliches and repetition also make your work more lively. And, of course, the more you research, the more you’ll be able to recount fascinating facts to your reader. Good luck!