Conventions in Academic Writing

There are many Conventions in Academic Writing that writers should follow to avoid confusing their readers. These include using formal language, maintaining a logical and coherent structure, and incorporating citations when appropriate. In this blog post, we will explore the academic writing conventions so that you can stay on your toes no matter what type of paper you are writing or reading!

What Are Academic Writing Conventions?

When you write a paper for a class or other similar assignments, you must follow some conventions. These conventions help readers understand your work more easily and confidence to trust what you are telling them. To put it simply, these writing standards exist to make people feel safe in their reading choices. Think about the health care field: It is overly regulated because certain things must be done in very specific ways and with extreme accuracy for safety reasons; so too should academic writing be handled!

The basic idea is that if you follow certain conventions when presenting information to readers (thereby following accepted guidelines), everything will go smoothly, and everyone will be happy (you, the professor, and your readers).

Conventions in Academic Writing

Conventions in Academic Writing

What is the importance of Academic Writing Conventions?

One thing that crosses my mind when I think of the word “convention” is the idea of a “treaty.”

When you look up the definition of convention, this agreement or treaty-like idea comes into play. To follow conventions in academic writing, you must be able to trust your readers. If these rules are broken and if no one follows them—then there will certainly be chaos! Even more than just keeping your readers happy, following conventions ensures that your ideas come across correctly. What do I mean?

Following appropriate conventions helps you make sure that nothing gets misinterpreted. Since we know that different disciplines have different standards for what they consider acceptable research techniques (which could mean simply taking different approaches to the use of statistics), it is smart to have your writing follow a certain set of guidelines to avoid confusion.

How Do I Know Which Conventions to Follow?

There are many different disciplines out there, and as such, you should make sure that whichever style manual you choose has the most appropriate rules for your discipline. That way, everyone knows what to expect and can be happy knowing that reading is correct. This responsibility often lies on your professor’s shoulders—they will let students know exactly which style manual you should be using for class assignments. Don’t forget: Sometimes, even if a book offers suggestions or “options” (which usually means varying from the original) for certain entries in their manuals, they will still be very clear about the most important and how it should be used. You’ll want to see which book they recommend for your class, too!

Conventions in Academic Writing

The core areas of writing conventions are:


Spelling conventions in academic writing are generally the same as they are in everyday life. Most people know how to spell common words and names, but some spelling rules may not be self-explanatory. Hopefully, your readers will have a dictionary on hand to look up any words they cannot understand.

Conventions of capitalization:

For most styles, titles such as President and Dr., abbreviations (like, etc.), and general nouns (think pronouns) start with lowercase unless accompanying a proper name. This is related to spelling conventions because it is important to recognize them before you write anything! However, common acronyms like NASA should always begin with uppercase letters.

Academic vocabulary:

It’s important to know which words are considered more complex and formal and then use them in the right places. It is also helpful to understand what words fall into this category and still make sense to your reader.


Academic writing should follow the guidelines for standard written English, including all of its punctuation rules. Most research style manuals specify when to use periods (or commas), semicolons, colons, dashes, and other punctuation marks.

Conventions of citing sources:

In academic writing, we need to show our readers that we did not invent everything ourselves! This way, we avoid plagiarism and cite properly with our sources visible on the page or in a bibliography. The general citation rule looks like this: some style options allow you to place in-text citations as footnotes. However, this can be distracting, especially if your work has a lot of information to include.

Grammar conventions:

Academic grammar is somewhat different from colloquial English. Some readers will find discrepancies, which can be distracting! That is why it’s important to follow the right set of rules when you’re writing—this ensures that your sentences are clear and easy to understand for all types of readers.


This set of rules encompasses spelling conventions and punctuation. As mentioned above, these should be easy for most students to understand because they follow common sense—know which words are spelled differently than they sound and how to use punctuation properly.


A lot of acronyms exist in today’s world. It’s good practice always to define an acronym near the first time you use it, then consistently after that.


Pay attention to the rules for numbers when writing (for example, decimal points versus commas). It is also helpful to use a program like Microsoft Word’s AutoCorrect or similar technology that can automatically change spelling errors—but do not allow this feature to change proper names, such as the name of your university! Also, note how numbers show up in different usage contexts. If you’re writing an essay about population growth worldwide, you want your figures (the numbers) to be somewhat precise so that readers can easily understand what they mean. However, if you’re writing a thesis on topographical characteristics, there may be no need to have 100% accuracy. This is where context and intent matter, so be sure to pay attention to these elements when you’re writing!

Conventions in Academic Writing

Conventions in Academic Writing

Benefits of Observing Academic Writing Conventions

Clarity in your work:

Your work will be easier to read if you follow the conventions of academic writing. Whether it’s your teacher or a journal editor, it is essential that your paper can be read easily and absorb information effectively!

Saves you time:

By following these rules, you already know how to structure your thesis and write more clearly. This means less time worrying about those parts and more time on tasks like gathering information or pulling together an argument in support of your thesis.

High scores:

Academic writing relies heavily on conventions, especially in the humanities. These are what will make your work stand out and get you better grades!

What Can You Do to Become More Skillful with Academic Conventions?


Take a look at academic textbooks and articles that academics use; if you’re studying literature, pick up a classic literary text. It may be hard to read at first—but don’t worry about understanding every word or sentence. Instead, try to focus on understanding where these texts are taking an argument.

Re-read your work:

If you have already written something, read it over again very carefully, looking for anything that stands out as incorrect or questionable. Then ask yourself questions like “How else I could have phrased this?” or “What could confuse my reader if I leave this the way it is?”

Ask someone else to read your work over:

Another great tool that students can use is simply finding a classmate, professor, or other experts in a particular field and asking them to read over your paper. They may be able to offer some valuable advice on how you can make your paper even better! Be sure to provide samples of all types of writing (including your first draft) so that they can see what kinds of conventions you need help with most.