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Unit 4: Improving readability

The purpose of academic writing should be to communicate clearly and accurately. However, as a result of restricting itself to passive, roundabout, impersonal constructions, academic writing may stretch the readers’ patience and decoding skills, and clarity may not be achieved.

"Writing that makes excessive demands on the reader is not effective writing"

(Turk and Kirkham (Effective Writing, 1989, Chapter 7))

This unit continues the work on academic style started in Unit 3. In particular, it considers factors that influence readability.

First ask yourself, are you writing to impress or to communicate? Your aim should be to transfer your ideas and information to other people. If they cannot understand your writing easily, then you are failing in your task. 

"Have something to say and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style."

(Matthew Arnold, quoted in Russell, G.W.E., Collections and Recollections, London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1898, Chapter 13)

Efficient writing makes reading as easy as possible. This unit looks at several factors which increase the readability of a text, and which you should be aware of. However, you should also be aware of the stylistic conventions of your department/subject area, and of any journals in which you intend to publish your work.

This unit is divided into the following sections:

This unit is also available in printable format. To access please select one of the links below.