Your Daily Conciseness #10

Not concise:

The admissions committee will read many personal statements, and they want to gain the information in as efficient a manner as possible.

Concise:

The admissions committee will read many personal statements, and they want to gain the information as efficiently as possible.

Comment:

You don’t need to write “as efficient a manner,” because we know that “efficient” is a “manner” or “style.” This is like saying “She is trustworthy in character.” Instead, you can write “She is trustworthy,” because readers know that is a comment on her character.

Your Daily Conciseness #7

Not concise:

I think the risks of hydraulic fracturing clearly outweigh the benefits.

Concise:

The risks of hydraulic fracturing clearly outweigh the benefits.

Comment:

You almost never need to write “I think” or “I believe” in an academic paper. Readers will assume you think or believe something if you’ve taken the time and energy to write it in your paper.

Notice also that the concise sentence above feels bolder and more convincing. Writing students often use phrases like “I think” because they’re trying to point out that they know they could be wrong. In life in general it’s admirable to remember that you could be wrong about something, but your writing should be as clear and convincing as possible. State your idea boldly and confidently. If there are factors that could make your assertion incorrect, then clearly state what they are and how likely they are to influence your claim.

Your Daily Conciseness #6

Not concise:

Nowadays, the price of oil is higher than it has ever been before.

Concise:

The price of oil is higher than it has ever been.

Comment:

You don’t need to say “nowadays” or “currently” in situations like this. If you simply state your idea without a time mentioned, readers will assume you mean the present. If you meant twenty years ago, then you would say so. You can also leave out the “before” at the end, because it has no effect on the meaning.

You could make the sentence even shorter, as in: “The price of oil is higher than ever.” But I like this sentence less. It sounds slightly informal to me. Writing concisely means eliminating unnecessary words, but that doesn’t mean making every sentence as short as possible. You also have to consider other values, like the tone of the writing.

Your Daily Conciseness #5

Not concise:

Professor Li does research on productivity in the workplace.

Concise:

Professor Li researches workplace productivity.

Comment:

It’s not bad writing to occasionally use something like “does research on” instead of the more concise “researches,” but the latter is better for regular use. I wouldn’t write “does research on,” however, but rather the more elegant “conducts research on.”

Your Daily Conciseness #4

Not concise:

She demonstrated a great deal of empathy for others.

Concise:

She demonstrated remarkable empathy.

Comment:

There’s no need to say “empathy for others,” because empathy is always for others.

And the meaning of the four words “a great deal of” can easily be captured by one strong and specific word like “remarkable.”

Your Daily Conciseness #3

Not concise:

Hundreds of different people attended the conference.

Concise:

Hundreds of people attended the conference.

Comment:

You don’t need to say “hundreds of different people,” because all people are different. If hundreds of the same person attended the conference, it would be scary, to say the least.

Creating an Engaging Tone for Your Academic Writing

The “tone” of a piece of writing can be described as how readers perceive the personality of the writer.

Whenever we read something, we form impressions about the writer. It’s almost like they are speaking to us, like we can hear them in our minds. And the voice we hear reveals a distinct personality.

Some academic writing is overly serious and unnecessarily complex. Reading it feels like attending a dry lecture by a professor who at best fails to connect with the audience and at worst talks down to the audience, as if the crowd is intellectually inferior.

On the other hand, you want to avoid producing academic writing that is too informal in tone. Academic readers expect you to show that you take your ideas seriously and are working hard to express them as clearly and professionally as possible.

The best tone for academic writing makes readers feel as though they are having a conversation with a highly intelligent person who is deeply knowledgeable about his or her topic and who understands that others may not know as much as they do.

Your writing should be only as complex as it needs to be to express the ideas. You should use a strong and specific vocabulary but avoid words that only a few people understand. And make sure to explain any specialist terms (jargon) or lesser-known references or concepts so all adult readers can follow your argument.

Your goal is not to impress readers with fancy and complex language and style, but rather to dazzle them with how clearly and elegantly you express your complex ideas.

The tone I try to achieve in my writing is warm, patient and conversational, serious but not too serious. I want my readers to perceive me as an intelligent person who loves sharing ideas with them. I want to sound confident and convincing, but also like I would listen to someone who disagreed with me.

Setting the right tone takes practice, but once you make it one of your academic writing goals, you can start working toward expressing yourself in a way that creates the best impression in readers’ minds.