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Tips for Writing in North American Colleges: Directness

Summary:

This handout is an introduction to the basics of academic writing conventions for students who are new to American colleges and universities.

Contributors:Michael Maune, Hwanhee Park, Ghada M. Gherwash, Joshua M. Paiz, Tony Cimasko
Last Edited: 2013-06-24 11:45:23

Strategies for Directness

Academic writing in North America has often been described as “direct.” This can mean two things: 1) dealing immediately with the topic at hand without extra information; 2) using clear and precise language to describe even the most uncomfortable and taboo subjects. Direct writing will be seen by professors and other readers as lean and efficient. Follow these strategies to make your writing more direct:

  • Create an outline of your text before writing, and compare your early drafts with the outline. If a word or a sentence does not contribute to any of the points in your outline, remove it.
  • If you are not used to writing an outline before you start writing, use reverse outlining. There is where you write an outline for your paper after you have already written a draft. Reverse outlining will help you stay focused on your topic.
  • When you review your early drafts, look for ways to make your sentences shorter, but without removing any important meanings from them. If you can do this, then make them shorter.
  • Look for euphemisms (mild or vague expressions for something that is uncomfortable to talk about). If you find any euphemisms, change them to clearer language.

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