Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 2: Meeting Your Readers' Expectations -->

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Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 2: Meeting Your Readers' Expectations

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This month: Approaching Writing From Different Languages and Traditions | Walden University Writing Center Blog

This month on the podcast and blog, we're featuring topics related to approaching writing from different languages and traditions. While anyone can enjoy these topics, we hope they'll be of particular interest to international students and students who speak multiple languages. Need to catch up on what you missed? Check out our latest WriteCast episode: Writing Expectations at U.S. Colleges and Universities and Amy's post Learning the Rules of the Game, Part I: English Academic Writing.

In the Writing Center, we talk a lot about following an academic rhetorical style; we typically call it scholarly writing or academic writing. Basically, scholarly writing includes a number of norms and guidelines, some of which are often not explained as requirements in assignment prompts. In an academic setting, readers expect that the writing will follow the rules of scholarly writing. The reader may be confused or have a hard time reading and understanding a written work if it does not follow what is typical and expected for the genre. Following these rules means you will be more successful at effective communication in an English academic environment. It might also help your grade. Nice perk, right?

Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 2: Meeting Your Readers' Expectations via the Walden University Writing Center Blog

So, if you’re wondering where to start, let me give you a few of the norms and guidelines.  You can find a lot more about how to effectively follow the rules of academic writing in English in our website section on scholarly writing.

Norms and guidelines of scholarly writing

1. Organization

In English academic writing, readers expect to see an introductory paragraph or section in which the writer discusses the main idea of the paper and includes a thesis statement that is concise, specific, and arguable. Academic writing in English is very straightforward. In the introduction, the writer should tell the reader about the main idea of the paper and what she or he is going to discuss in the paper.

Each body paragraph within the paper should have one clear focus that relates back to the purpose of the paper, as stated in the thesis statement. Within each paragraph, there should not be any extra information that does not relate to the purpose/focus of the paragraph.

Finally, it is common to include a conclusion paragraph or section that sums up the ideas from the paper and also may relate the information in the paper to a larger purpose, such as the current research in a field or possible future implications.

2. Tone

Use clear language that will easily be understood by the reader. Using casual wording and contractions may make your draft sound informal. Also, avoid metaphors because they may not be universally understood. 

3. Audience

When writing in an English academic context, as a general rule, do not assume that the reader has the same background knowledge as you do. It is the writer’s role to fully explain ideas so that the reader, who may have little contextual or background information about the topic, can understand the ideas in the paper. Including an introduction that addresses the overall topic of the paper is one important step in providing some background information for the reader. Also, as you mention ideas, theories, or terminology for the first time in a draft, explain what they are or what they mean to the reader. For more discussion about how and why to consider your audience when you write, check out Hillary's blog post

4. Giving credit (aka citing sources)

In English academic writing, readers will expect that you will often use evidence and ideas from other writers, researchers, and organizations to support your arguments. When doing so, you need to always explain where you read about or found the information. Citing sources is a way to acknowledge the hard work of the people who researched a topic before you. Also, it builds your credibility as an author and researcher if you can show that there is evidence to support your arguments. If writers do not accurately cite sources, they commit plagiarism, which can have harsh consequences. You can learn more about effectively citing sources by viewing our archived webinar Using and Crediting Sources in APA.

By making sure that you have clear organization, a scholarly tone, an idea of the audience for your draft, and citations for your sources, you will be on the right track to ensure that you meet the expectations of your readers, effectively communicate your ideas, and be successful throughout your academic career. 
We're always looking for ways to improve our resources. If you're a current international and/or multilingual Walden student, please take our brief survey to help us improve our services for you. The survey link will remain posted here as long as the survey is active. Thank you!


Amy Lindquist
is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She enjoys working with students from around the world on academic writing and the English Language. She's a bit of a grammar nerd. When not working, she spends time practicing yoga, sewing, and playing with her new puppy, Bauer. 

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