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Writing may be categorised as either academic or non-academic. Academic writing is generally used in items such as scholarly essays, business reports and textbooks. In contrast, non-academic writing is commonly employed in newspaper reports, Internet postings and novels. This analysis defines these categories and contrasts them in terms of readership, structure and style. Two extracts, each of which offers perspectives on privacy in the modern world, are utilised to illustrate these differences. The introduction from the book, The Privacy Advocates: Resisting the Spread of Surveillance by Colin J. Bennett is an academic source of writing. Siva Vaidhyanathan's online Guardian article, "Our Digitally Undying Memories" is an exemplar of a non-academic text.
Structural differences reinforce the inter-personal nature of non-academic writing. These can be observed at the sentence and paragraph level. Bennett's academic piece incorporates fully-developed and cohesive sentences that combine to create long and logically progressed paragraphs. These paragraphs are made up of a topic sentence, followed by elaboration and then a concluding sentence that links to the next paragraph. This can be seen when Bennett uses phrases such as, "surveillance is, therefore" and "thus to determine." The paragraphs themselves are equally ordered in a hierarchy and the title, "Introduction" is extremely functional. Finally Bennett uses at least eight sources in the extract and gives multiple references for examples; seven being the largest number appearing together. In Vaidhyanathan's writing, the non-academic style becomes highly apparent; the article is more like a conversation. The sentences are commonly fragmented with several alternate lengths. The shortest sentence at four words, "They don't choose us" is dwarfed by the longest sentence at forty-two words. This demonstrates the variety that non-academic writing entails. Topic and concluding sentences are rare and there is no real hierarchy or specific logical progression and, while Vaidhyanathan mentions a range of sources, he rarely refers to them directly to back up his ideas. Additionally the title of the piece could not be more different to Bennett's dry, "Introduction". "Our digitally undying memories" is a title that motivates a person to read on.
Stylistic contrasts are also apparent in the body of the texts. Bennett's writing maintains a formal tone and often uses technical language. This includes terms such as, "ubiquitous realities of contemporary surveillance", "journalistic parlance", and "culturally and historically contingent". The language is also generally theoretical and concise seen in the example: "Privacy advocates operate within a range of institutions." However in Vaidhyanathan's article, the general tone is conversational and unlike Bennett's there are attempts at humour throughout the piece. An example of this humour appears when he says, "[...] yep, I Googled it to find the date [...]." Also frequent in this extract are contractions such as "can't" and "don't" which reinforce the informality of the writing. Colloquialisms such as, "most of our stuff" are also apparent. The language employed by Vaidhyanathan emphasises casualness. He uses everyday terms that are modern and well known such as "Googled", "YouTube", and "How cool is that?" Finally, Vaidhyanathan is at times verbose. The information conveyed in the sentence, "Judge Sonia Sotomayor discovered the cost of warped perception fed by the permanent archive of trivia when her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was saddled by the exploitation of one small YouTube clip [...]", would have been presented much more concisely in an academic text.
Academic and non-academic writing each have their own specific readership, structure and style. The contrasts between the two are evident at the word, sentence and paragraph levels. Academic writing usually incorporates a more formal structure and style and is commonly directed toward a narrow and specific audience. Non-academic writing incorporates a simpler and conversational tone in both structure and style. And while academic readers may need some prior knowledge on the topic, the targeted readers of non-academic writing are a more general group with everyday knowledge.