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EP 19: How To Improve Your Academic Writing and Avoid 5 Common Mistakes

Welcome to Episode 19 of the Homework Help Show! Are you looking to improve your academic writing? Look no further! On this episode, our Host and Top Writer Cath Anne provides you some tips on how to enhance your academic writing, by discussing 5 common mistakes and how not to make them.

Looking for study tips, help with essay writing, or advice on how to be a better student? Welcome to The Homework Help Show, a weekly show where we teach, assist, and offer valuable insights for student life. From study hacks to writing tips, discussions about student mental health to step-by-step guides on academic writing and how to write a resume, we’ve got you covered. Want your questions answered? Write them below or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to The Homework Help Show. As usual my name is Cath Anne. Today we are going to be providing you with some really great academic content to enhance your student life.

Cath Anne: [00:00:20] Today I really wanted to get into some specifics about academic writing and how you can work to improve your academic writing. More specifically I’m just going to bring up what we will discuss today. It is actually a really interesting topic.

Cath Anne: [00:00:41] We’re going to be discussing how to modify your academic writing and I’m going to identify find common mistakes made by students when they’re writing an academic paper. We will also talk about how you can identify them and address them.

Cath Anne: [00:00:59] So, this doesn’t have to do with creative writing or writing a letter to your friend. It is strictly academic writing or formal business writing. These tips can apply to that as well.

Cath Anne: [00:01:14] So, maybe you have commonly made some mistakes in your papers and you’re looking to get better grades on them. Don’t worry, I’m here to help and provide you with a few tips that hopefully will enhance your academic writing. We’re going to get into some real specifics around this, so I’m really excited share with you.

Cath Anne: [00:01:36] Tip number 1: don’t use contractions. Now, what are contractions? Again, this is for academic writing. Contractions are words like don’t, can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, isn’t, haven’t and hasn’t.

Cath Anne: [00:01:55] These are the shorter forms of words like do not, cannot, could not, would not, should not, is not, have not, and has not.

Cath Anne: [00:02:07] It is better to write out the word in full within your academic paper or in your business writing because it just looks more professional. Notice how for example with cannot. It is one word is can it condensed into ‘cannot’. Whereas, if you write do not it still remains as two separate words. So that’s important to know when you are expanding contractions. This is a really important one because it’s something that can slip your mind when you’re writing an actual paper. It’s important to be attentive to using contractions through your paper. Always make sure that you go over your paper before you hand it in and make sure that you are not using contractions. It makes your writing seem a little bit too colloquial. Expand those words and sound more professional.

Cath Anne: [00:03:23] Tip number two is to avoid: ‘there are’ or ‘there is’. This might seem like a strange one but let me explain. Why do we avoid there are or there is when we write? We don’t want our sentences to be too wordy or convoluted. We want our sentences to be concise and to the point. So, we use ‘there are’ it adds extra words that don’t need to be there. They’re redundant. So, let me give you a couple of examples of this. “There are many issues that politicians face daily.” So, that’s adding a time and more words to your point. You don’t need there are at the beginning of this sentence. Instead you could just write, “Politicians face many issues on a daily basis.” This sentence is much simpler and to the point.

Cath Anne: [00:04:30] Let’s do another example, “There are many developments that the U.N. supports.” So, again we have ‘there are’ at the beginning of the sentence. We don’t need that kind of clutter in the sentence. We would much rather say, “The U.N. supports many developments.” So, as you can see, shortening those sentences and making them much more concise is better. That is going to get you more points in your essay.

Cath Anne: [00:05:06] Number three is: avoid words like ‘really’, ‘very’, ‘a lot’, and ‘so’. The reason for this is that it weakens your writing when you’re using these words. You do not need to use these words It makes it come across as a little bit more immature. They don’t add anything to your writing. So, let’s look at an example, “Many people think cooking is very hard.”

Cath Anne: [00:06:07] Instead of using the words very hard you can change it to something else. Maybe the word difficult. So, let’s say, “Many people think cooking is difficult.” It strengthens the sentence. A second example, “Trump’s presidency is really controversial.” If you want this sentence to be a bit stronger take the word ‘really’ out because the word controversial stands alone. It is a strong word in and of itself. So, to strengthen that sentence you will go on to say, “Trump’s presidency is controversial.” Let’s do another example, “A lot of the boys like to play soccer.”

Cath Anne: [00:07:03] The word ‘a lot’ weakens the sentence. Instead of ‘a lot’ we can use ‘many’. “Many of the boys like to play soccer.”

Cath Anne: [00:07:15] We can use many because the boys is countable or plural.

Cath Anne: [00:07:52] Tip number four: passive voice versus active voice. Admittedly, this is probably one of my weakest points that I experienced when I was in undergrad. I always wrote in the passive voice. I found it really hard to write in the active voice. Sometimes it’s something that I continue to have to work on.

Cath Anne: [00:08:21] I wanted to make mention first that if you are studying sciences or you’re in the science disciplines you can use the passive voice. There are reports that are written in the passive voice so it’s okay to use a passive voice on occasion.

Cath Anne: [00:08:43] If you’re studying the humanities, sociology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, or any of those subjects you must use the active voice. That is an essential in academic writing in the humanities. Let’s talk about the differences between passive voice and active voice. We will use an example to do this. For example, “Immigration reforms were implemented by Trudeau.” That sentence is written in the passive voice. Here we have the past tense of the verb ‘to be’. So, we have ‘were’ and we also have the past participle of the verb to implement so, ‘implemented’. Then we also have the word ‘by’ which is usually something that indicates that we are speaking in the passive voice. As you can see it’s just not a very strong sentence. It takes away from what Trudeau has done; it doesn’t put him up front and center within the sentence.

Cath Anne: [00:09:57] We want the sentence to be a lot stronger and straight forward. The sentence would be much stronger if it was written as, “Trudeau implemented immigration reforms.” This strengthens the message of the sentence. As opposed to, “Immigration reforms were implemented by Trudeau.” We now hear a much stronger message which is, “Trudeau implemented immigration reform.”

Cath Anne: [00:10:37] We are finally at our last tip. Tip number five. It goes along with the rest of the tips which is: use strong verbs. There is a difference between strong verbs and weak verbs. Let’s do another example. A weak verb is, “He gave assistance to my friend.” So, here we’re using the word ‘gave’ with the noun assistance. As you can see, the word assistance can be actually used as a verb. So a stronger way to say this would be, “He assisted my friend.” It’s much more direct. The difference between these two sentences is that the word assistance in the first sentence is a noun.

Cath Anne: [00:12:00] That is it for this week. I hope that this session was of benefit. I really enjoyed preparing it for you and I hope this helps your academic writing in the future. If you’re interested in connecting with us here at Homework Help Global, please visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus.

[00:12:23] This video will be on YouTube. We also write blogs on Medium on student lifestyle and other academic tips. We will be streaming this on SoundCloud, Anchor, iTunes Apple Podcast and Google Play Music. If you didn’t have a chance to catch us on Instagram live or you’re not into YouTube. Please check us out on those other channels. All you have to do is search Homework Help Global and you will be able to find us. This was The Homework Help Show. Thank you so much for joining me and have a great week.