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5 Ways Academic Writing Differs from Non-Academic Writing

Academic vs Non-Academic Writing

Academic vs Non-Academic Writing

  • Know Your Audience

  • Build Up Your Argument

  • Tone

  • Structure

  • The Format of the Paper

If you’ve done some writing in the past but now have to do some academic writing, you might be in for a surprise or two. In many ways, academic writing and non-academic writing are very similar.


Still, there are also some important differences that you need to know about to succeed with your projects. 


In this article, we’re going to go over five of the most common ways that academic writing differs from non-academic writing so that you can adjust to these changes and write persuasive papers that earn you good grades on any subject matter you want to cover!

Know Your Audience

Students often get discouraged because they’re having trouble understanding academic writing. Graduate students may also feel anxious about their writing. 


Sometimes, students focus too much on one aspect of their research, obscuring the big picture. However, once you become familiar with the demands of your institution’s academic writing style, develop on it. It will become easier to convey your ideas, while meeting all expectations and standards.


Build Up Your Argument

Graduate students should use effective academic writing styles like those of Julie Jinks In her piece for Writing Self-Efficacy.


Her work has impacted many in terms of taking this important step to create a better educational and professional experience. However, other traditional writing styles also apply in certain situations and will be beneficial to use appropriately when needed.


For example, persuasive essays often provide an argument with supporting evidence that leads readers to agree with the writer’s position on an issue.


Effective academic writers know how to organize their thoughts effectively and ensure all arguments within a paper have strong support.



There are many differences between academic writing and non-academic writing. One major difference is the tone and amount of information included in the write-up.


For an academic paper, you will usually be asked to examine specific aspects of the topic and create a solution or answer questions posed in the question.


In non-academic writing, you may give advice or simply share your opinions. 


Usually, there isn’t a need for heavy research into one topic because it’s assumed that you’re telling someone what they already know about something that isn’t going to change. 


A typical non-academic essay might be 800 words long, while an essay on an academic subject could range anywhere from 2000 to 6000 words. 



In a non-academic paper, the introduction (I) and conclusion (II) often come before and after the main body of writing. The introductions are generally short, and the conclusions are often written more speculatively or reflectively. 


In academia, introductions come before the body of writing, which makes it easier to build an argument and make logical connections between points. Conclusions typically cover how these findings fit into existing knowledge.


The Format of the Paper

Generally speaking, in a business or other non-academics writing situation, you will be given a prompt that dictates what you need to write about and how long it should be. 


This will also dictate the writing you will use (i.e. summary vs narrative). However, academic writing is often given general guidelines about what is to be discussed but not about the format in which the paper should take place. 


The specific style of formatting of the paper will depend on your professor’s preferences for this particular assignment and the discipline you are studying. 


Academic papers always require citations in footnotes and parenthetical references (sometimes endnotes are used). The requirements for citing sources vary depending on discipline and institution, so check with your professor beforehand if there are any certain expectations they may have.



Although academic writing is not as popular or well known as other forms of writing, it has some significant differences that can’t be overlooked. 


Most notably, the tone of academic writing is more formal and professional. It should be precise and descriptive with explicit examples. 


Academic essays are often exploratory, holistic or evaluative rather than narrative and conclusive and tend to focus on key ideas that inform the discourse, not just anecdotal descriptions.


Writers are encouraged to cite examples and support their assertions with evidence. The format for each paragraph should flow logically from one idea to the next, ending in a conclusion sentence that ties everything together and leaves readers satisfied.

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