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What qualities do you want to convey in presenting yourself as an academic author?

Many of the conventions of academic writing concern the text's function as a persuasive argument and the creation of an appropriate and credible authorial persona. Thinking about how you want to present yourself to your reader will help you to achieve a suitable academic style.

When you are reading academic material for essays and other assignments, remember to pay attention to the way that the books and articles are written, as well as the information and arguments they contain. The style that is traditionally used in students' essays is based on that used by academics in their publications. The work of professional academic writers (perhaps your supervisor) can serve as a good model for your own writing.

Analyse the following text. What impression does the writer create of themselves as an academic author? Identify the qualities conveyed and the techniques used to create these qualities.

Shakespeare's sonnets demonstrate that he exploited the potential of literary forms as a means of argument. Argument is not a purely cognitive activity in which one's case is always made cogently and explicitly; both in life and literature it is reliant upon suggestion and an appeal to the emotions, as is evident in Sonnet 42. On a superficial level, the argument appears to be that of the poet within himself; he seems to have successfully convinced himself through witty conceit that his ‘grief' is in fact a ‘joy'. However, the true argument is directed at the reader; Shakespeare suggests that the offered consolation is entirely insubstantial. The apparent retreat to internality (‘thee' becomes ‘my friend' in the thirteenth line, indicating that the poem is no longer addressed to the friend) suggests a lack of confidence which prevents the poet from making public the conceit-based argument, while the flat contradiction of the preceding lines in ‘she loves but me alone' means that this effect does not rely on any exophoric reference on the reader's part; the inconsistency is a fundamental aspect of the poem's design. Although the sonnet is an entirely different medium from the play, this poem demonstrates two aspects of Shakespearian argument which, it will here be contended, are evident in the problem plays: firstly, that Shakespeare's argumentative method is to appeal to the emotions rather than to reason, and secondly that he argues through negation (as, for example, he negates the abandoned lover's consolation in Sonnet 42). The term ‘problem plays' will here be taken as referring to The Merchant of Venice, All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. Although other plays, notably Troilus and Cressida, have also been placed in this category by critics, they have much less in common with these three than they do with each other.


The main qualities conveyed by this academic authorial persona are:

  • Aware of their reader
  • Aware of their own position on the issue
  • Objective and rational
  • Formal and professional
  • Well-informed and knowledgeable
  • Precise in meaning
  • Concise and to the point
  • Clear and coherent
  • Grammatically correct

The ways in which these qualities can be constructed in your own authorial persona will be explored in detail in the following sections of this resource.