Catch Your Reader's Ear: Simple Scholarly Voice Fixes -->

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Catch Your Reader's Ear: Simple Scholarly Voice Fixes

Note: This post has been updated per APA 7.

Scholarly voice is an important component of APA Style which involves being clear, precise, and formal in tone. If you’re worried your voice may not be scholarly or want to do some quick checks through your work, here are some fast tips and fixes.

Simple Scholarly Voice Fixes

If you feel lost regarding what scholarly voice looks or sounds like, re-read your course materials! Reading peer-reviewed journal articles can help you hear and see what scholarly tone looks like in your particular discipline. Look back over your course readings to get a feel for that tone. You might find it helpful to read aloud and/or circle/highlight areas which seem scholarly to you as you read. 

Once you feel you understand how scholarly tone may sound in your discipline, read your draft aloud. Listen to how your work sounds. Do you stumble over a complex sentence or lose your train of thought? Do you find yourself saying something a little differently than you wrote it? These can be good indicators of clunky work. Additionally, do you hear your work sounding informal or casual? Do you hear shifts in tone or voice—whether this is the types of words you’re using or sentence structure? These are great ways to find places to revise for clear, direct writing that works towards scholarly voice.

As you read aloud, keep your eyes open for some of these patterns that make your writing sound less than scholarly. Once you get the hang of it, these patterns are easy to spot and easy to fix. It just takes some practice! 

Adverbs (like "interestingly," "clearly," "ideally") are unnecessary qualifiers you’re placing in your work and don’t enhance meaning but instead highlight how you’d like the reader to feel. By revising to remove these adverbs, you streamline your work and create an objective scholarly tone.

Casual Language
Some common casual language might be phrasing like “a lot,” “sort of,” “very,” “really,” “just like” or other qualifiers (see again suggestion 1).

Lack of Specificity
As a writer in the social sciences, being precise and specific is important so your reader knows exactly what you’re writing about. Instead of writing “you” or “they,” for example, replace those terms with the specific population you mean. Replace “it” and “things” whenever possible with the more specific term.

APA states to be as literal as possible and avoid expressive language. Some expressions might be “shines a light on”, “on the other hand”, “in the light of day”. All of these are perfectly fine expressions in conversation, but they aren’t compliant with scholarly tone because there aren’t literal lights, changes in the time of day, or two hands. Ask yourself if you’re being literal in your descriptions and explanations, and revise if not.

With these quick revision strategies, you can work towards revising for and achieving scholarly voice in your writing! For more on scholarly voice, review our scholarly voice webpages, our Use of First Person and Avoiding Bias webinar, and our APA Style modules.

Claire Helakoski author photo

Claire Helakoski is a Writing Instructor  at the Walden Writing Center and hosts the Writing Center's podcast, WriteCast. Claire holds an MFA in Creative Writing. She has taught writing and Composition as well as acted as a writer and editor in a variety of mediums. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and enjoys reading, writing creatively, and board games of all kinds.

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