Academic Writing

writing academics

Academic Writing vs. Online Content:  A Comparative Analysis

The term “academic writing” carries different connotations for different people. Many regard any formal writing style as academic. Professional or industry trade journals, court rulings, and instructional manuals are examples of the sources that typically feature such writing.

Throughout this Article, “academic writing” denotes written presentations prepared in scholastic contexts. Following are a few of the more common forms of academic writing:

  • Book reports
  • Conference papers
  • Dissertations
  • Essays
  • Research papers
  • Theses

Purpose and Scope

Academic writing serves very different purposes than that of other texts. First, academic writing assignments are completed per very specific instructions. Subject matter is limited to a narrow range of relevant principles and concepts.

Academic writing assignments are also designed to develop pupil competence or skill in a particular field of study. Finally, the inherent compulsory nature of such assignments often inhibits writer enthusiasm and creativity that would otherwise be present.

Audience and Intent

By contrast, online content is typically designed for marketing or very general information purposes. Thus, visual appearance matters much more. Headings, subheads, etc., are much more essential than in academic writing. Internet surfers typically take very cursory views of written website content.

In academic writing, the intended audience is a teacher or learned professor. This person makes a thorough critical view of written content that is designed to assess its relative quality. This assessment is reflected in the final grade given to the project.

Style Constraints

All good authors tailor overall writing style to specific situations. A letter addressed to the same recipient takes a totally different tenor depending upon context. Business letters, condolence letters, complaint letters, and social correspondence letters convey overall tones that vary widely. The write must determine whether his or her ultimate purpose is persuasion, entertainment, or informational.

Academic writing usually omits figurative terms and phraseology. It strongly prefers precise descriptions and definitions. By contrast, slang and colloquialisms are common in online blogs, forum postings, e-mails, and text messages.

Non-academic authors may adapt their writings to specific cultural or demographic audience characteristics. Their style may even employ several styles within the same writing. This deliberate effect is designed to maintain reader interest and avoid monotony. Academic authors generally have no such options.


The connotation of a word refers to the general imagery and implications it inspires outside its formal dictionary definition. For instance, “house” is a standard thesaurus synonym for “home.”  In a technical lexis sense, their meanings are interchangeable. The totality of the respective mental pictures and emotional responses invoked by the two terms are very different, however.

Academic writing affords fewer opportunities to vary connotation than online content. When connotation is employed in scholastic contexts, its main function is limiting – rather than expanding – the reader’s focus. Consider the following sentence, for example:

“When compared to Frederick the Great, Napoleon was a giant among men.”

If included in a history textbook, the sentence might shift the reader’s focus to the latter man’s physical stature rather than his relative historical significance. Academic writers must be careful to avoid using connotation to convey passion or bias.

Conversely, online content writers select word connotations for precisely opposite reasons. The specific purpose for which written content is intended dictates word connotation. Consider, for instance, the following sentences:

“The steel framing inside a Kitset house is 40 percent stronger than wood.”

“The steel frame used for building a Kitset home is much stronger and safer than wood frames.”

Both sentences convey the same basic concept. Their respective connotations are very different, however. The first sentence is appropriate for academic writing. An online content writer preparing an article for posting on a manufacturer’s website would employ the latter sentence.

Academic Writing In Summary

The above discussion highlights the major distinctions of academic writing. SEO keyword density is a major online writing distinction. Whether you need formalistic academic writing or the flexibility of online website articles, the Content Authority is your definitive source for high-quality textual presentations.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

Recent Posts