When writing academic papers, many students follow one rule: the more complex, the better. However, this common mistake can cost a course grade. A primary feature of a successful academic paper is its readability in terms of text that is both easy and enjoyable to read. This guide will discuss a few general rules of readability as an introduction to effective writing. These guidelines have been developed on the basis of requirements adopted by the modern academic community.
How to Improve the Readability of a Text
- Use a balanced set of complex, compound, and simple sentences.
- Avoid tautology; it disrupts the flow of the paper and annoys the reader. Remember that vocabulary used for different types of papers may vary considerably.
- Use different signal words and phrases to start sentences. These signals will make your paper more coherent.
furthermore, in addition, nevertheless, similar to.
- Ask yourself whether the paper answers the questions set forth. It can be helpful to ask another to read it as the perspective of another person can be instrumental in identifying any major flaws in your writing.
- Make your arguments concise, and choose your words carefully.
Specific Aspects in Numbers
By paying attention to the following numbers, you can minimize potential problems with your academic papers.
- Each page should contain at least 2 paragraphs. A single lengthy paragraph can make readers start hating the paper and the writer, and more importantly, they may forget about the major point.
- Each paragraph should have no fewer than 3 sentences. Fragmented paragraphs containing 1 or 2 sentences can be compared to speaking in isolated words, which is strange, incomprehensible, and upsetting.
- Transitional words should be used sparingly (no more than 3 per paragraph). These linking tools serve as glue but can make your paper look like a swamp if they are employed over-abundantly.
- A sentence should include approximately 20–35 words. In this way, you will make sure that your reader can remember what the sentence is all about.
- Each paragraph should have between 70 and 190 words. Remember the caution about the pool of words and fragments of ideas.
You may find these guidelines too strict or even strange and counter-productive. You might exclaim that you will end up calculating word counts rather than generating brilliant ideas. However, while you may need to count words at first, you will soon develop a feel for the readability of your text. Of course, you do not need to keep all these numbers in your head when you start writing. You will be refining your work after all your marvelous and innovative ideas are already on paper. Style is what often leads instructors to deduct points, so do not offer this possibility to your professors. If you see that a sentence (or a paragraph) is too long, just divide it into two or more parts. Use synonyms to avoid tautology, and be creative when it comes to syntax. Do not forget to follow grammar rules and use common sense. This table may be helpful to keep in mind.
|Paragraphs per page||2|
|Sentences per paragraph||3|
|Transition words per paragraph||1–3|
|Words per sentence||20–35|
|Words per paragraph||70–170|
|Words per page||275|