1.22 American Writing Styles, Argument, and Structure

Your original language has its own structures, formats, and cultural assumptions that are likely natural to you but perhaps different from those of English. The following broad guidelines underlie basic academic writing.

  • Citing sources: In US academic situations, it is customary to cite sources of ideas and outside texts using a style of citation like MLA or APA (see the sections in the English 1110 and 1120 OER on MLA and APA for more details). Not citing using a specific academic style can be interpreted as plagiarism and can result in serious ramifications, including failing grades, damaged reputations, school expulsions, and job loss.
  • Introducing the topic early: Academic papers typically present the topic early in a paper.
  • Staying on topic: Although some languages view diversions from the topic as adding interest and depth, academic writing is often focused and on topic.
  • Writing concisely: Some genres of writing hold eloquent, flowing language in high esteem. Consequently, the style and diction in those genres may be long and elaborate. Academic writing, on the other hand, prefers concise, to-the-point wording.
  • Constructing arguments: US academic writing often involves argument building. To this end, writers use transitions to link ideas, evidence to support claims, and relatively formal writing to ensure clarity. 


Adapted from Appendix A, “Writing for Nonnative English Speakers” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0  used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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