There is more to writing in English in America than perfect grammar and sentence structure. As in any culture, Americans have distinct thought processes, values and ways of communicating. The more you know about what is valued in academic writing the better equipped you will be to write in this particular genre.
Academic Writing Customs
- Intent -- Every piece of writing should have a purpose. This sense of purpose is expressed in your thesis statement. One way to write a good thesis statement is to pretend that you can use only one sentence to tell readers about your topic. Therefore, you need to make sure that your sentence expresses the most important thing about your topic. Remember that this one statement is so important because the reader decides to continue reading because of it.
- Belief -- Establishing a basis for belief is the job of universities and students alike. You want those who read what you write to deem that what you say is true.
- Persuasion -- In order for your audience to believe you, you must convince them. You persuade or convince your audience that what you have to say is true by providing logical argument and details.
- Evidence -- Details must be present in any essay. You might use observation, experimentation, statistics, interviews, or personal experience as evidence.
- Documentation -- Documentation of the ideas of others is absolutely essential in America. Any idea that comes from any place other than your own brain must be documented. Reliance upon credible sources is an important element of academic writing.
- Subjectivity/Objectivity -- Your opinions and reasoning are subjective. In all disciplines, well-formed opinions and judgment are necessary to effective writing. However, the academic community (of which you are now a part) is also supposed to be objective, arriving at conclusions through a scientific examination of facts. This means that in the search for truth, the writer must try to be impartial, unbiased. In other words, in academic writing, Americans prize the withholding of opinion until "truthful" facts are established.
- Relativity -- We must always realize that whatever conclusions we come to, there are other equally valid conclusions: there is more than one possible explanation or interpretation. Americans expect that you will show that you recognize this by using phrases like, "In my opinion" or "In all probability". Very, very few things, if any, can be "proven."
- Balance -- Balance needs to be maintained in writing. Give fair (honest, unemotional, accurate) treatment even to positions with which you disagree. Americans "like a fair fight"-but are inclined to dismiss even a valid point when only one side of the argument is given.