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How to make academic writing more readable with layout

Summary

Most writing classes implicitly teach that text is a only and always a long list of lengthy paragraphs. Real writing isn’t. Here are 3 layout techniques to make writing more readable: subheadings, short paragraphs, and lists.

1. Use Subheadings

Subtiltling sections of writing is very common in academic publications. It helps both the writer and the reader better understand how various paragraphs fit together, and for long essays, it’s almost a necessity. Furthermore, it just makes the writing look more professional.

You make the call A college student’s draft, without subheadings vs. A college student’s draft with subheadings

How do I write a good subheading?

2. Make shorter paragraphs

In school, we get into the habit of writing long paragraphs. However, bigger doesn’t equal better. Breaking paragraphs into shorter chunks helps the reader see the writer’s thought process as more discrete steps. And it looks more welcoming

You make the call A college student’s draft, with long paragraphs vs. A college student’s draft with short paragraphs

Guidelines for Paragraph length

3. Use numbered/bulleted lists

Putting one item of a list on a line is obviously easier to read than if all the items are jammed together in a sentence. However, unless someone tells us we can do it in essays, we somehow forget common sense. Lists are not only completely acceptable in academic writing, they’re commonplace

You make the call A college student’s draft, without lists vs. A college student’s draft with lists