Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問
The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: My friend read two of my papers and told me I wasn’t a confident writer. I asked her how she could tell, and she couldn’t say. But it is true: I am not overly confident. How can I seem to be confident until I actually gain confidence?

Without reading your papers, I can’t really tell you how your lack of confidence manifests itself in your writing. Yet it is true that writers of uncertain mastery always run the risk of showcasing their shaky command of the writing craft. Their shakiness ripples through a sentence. But supremely confident writers sometimes produce weak writing, too, victims of their hubris. Given the choice, I would rather be an under-confident writer and use it as a prod to improve. So don’t lose faith in yourself and in your ability.

Your objective—to fool a professor into thinking you are a confident academic author—is legitimate and worthwhile. Confident writing is a tool of persuasion. Even the appearance of confidence is more apt to persuade. So how can you do it? One way is to write emphatically. That is, use forceful, declarative words that unmistakably make a point. Stay away from diffident word choices. Avoid fuzzy words like “probably” and “things” and “kind of” and phrases like “stuff like that.” (I joke. You wouldn’t dare.)

Another way to show confidence is to have your sentences lead somewhere. If they wander to and fro, they suggest that you as a writer are lost. A sentence should declare itself, rather than hint and mince. Let a sentence introduce a thought to be embellished or completed by a following sentence. Such tight construction, rife with thoughtful word choices, leaves a reader so caught up in reading that questions of confidence never arise. It is simple: Research thoroughly; organize cleanly; write as if you believe it.

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