How to write academic articles: keep it short

When writing a short academic article, your word count can work against you. Stating elaborate facts in as few words as possible is a skill that’s not easily learnt but can be developed with much practice. Once you put your mind in ‘short sentence mode’, you’ll find it quite easy to do this on a continual basis. Here are some tips on how:

  1. Don't use metadiscourse
  2. The last sentence of this article’s introduction is a form of metadiscourse; an unnecessary component to your article if you’re trying to keep it short. Avoid starting your sentence with, ‘Now if we look at the evidence, we’ll see that...’ Rather just state: ‘The evidence shows that...’

  3. Take out any adverbs
  4. Be very thorough in diligently removing any adverbs by carefully identifying them and simply deleting them from the text. The sentence you just read contains three unnecessary adverbs. Can you spot them?

  5. Use words that can replace sentences
  6. ‘Due to the fact that’ or ‘In the event of’ are both phrases that can be changed to ‘Because’ or ‘If’. Don’t go crazy with long-winded phrases when one word will suffice. It’s just such a waste.

  7. Don’t say the same thing twice
  8. Repetition should be avoided like the plague. Don’t say the same thing more than once, it’s just redundant. Repeating yourself is unnecessary. Can you see by reading this paragraph how annoying it is when someone says the same thing over and over again but in a different way?

  9. Merge two sentences to form one
  10. The comma can be a helpful tool in merging two short sentences to form one sentence. This often presents you with the opportunity to drop a few words in the process.

  11. Engage in multiple editing sessions
  12. You’ll be surprised how much you can cut away every time you go back to re-edit your paper. Go back three or four times and resolve to mercilessly remove any words that can be done away with.

  13. Examples of shortening your subheadings:
  14. Now just for fun, look at the subheadings of this article and see how easily they could have been shortened:

    • Avoid metadiscourse
    • Remove adverbs
    • Use sentence-replacing words
    • Avoid repetition
    • Combine sentences
    • Edit repeatedly
    • For example

If you can stick to your word count while still retaining as much information as possible, your essay will score much higher marks. Get the picture?