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I used to have the misconception that in academic writing, only punctuation marks are used to place emphasis on a particular idea or word in a sentence. Prior to reading the Adding Emphasis section of The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) online resource, I have no idea that there are many other ways, besides placing certain punctuation marks like the exclamation mark after a sentence that I want the readers to take special note of, of adding emphasis into my academic writing. After reading through The Purdue OWL, I found out that there are three other ways of adding emphasis, besides punctuation marks that I can use in my academic writing. They are the use of visual-textual devices, the choice and arrangement of words in a sentence, and the arrangement of sentences within a paragraph.
In today's world where computers are easily accessible, visual-textual devices take the form of a wide range of choice of font and textual effects to express emphasis. Even though the use of flashy font and textual effects is able to successfully capture the attention of the readers, it does not mean that the readers will be impressed. In order for me, as a writer, to effectively impress upon my readers the importance of a certain word or part of a sentence in my academic writing, I should use italics or even underlining to show the emphasis. Only one method of adding emphasis should be chosen and then used consistently throughout the whole individual academic discourse.
Another way of adding emphasis would be to using suitable words or phrases, or arranging the words in different part of the sentence. I learnt that repetition of key words or key phrases in a series can also emphasize an idea. I noticed that in a series, the sentence is broken into three parts with the repetitive key word or phrase being used in each part of the sentence. Moreover, if the pattern of repetition is broken, the varied part of the series will be emphasized. I also learnt that people tends to focus more on the initial and terminal position of a sentence and the main clause of a complex sentence and hence, I should always structure my sentences in such a way that the most important idea will be placed in the initial or terminal position, or as the main clause of the sentence.
The above paragraph discuss about making changes within the sentence to add emphasis but I also found out that positioning of sentences and varying the type of sentences within a paragraph also allow the writer to achieve the effect of emphasis. In order to emphasize a certain idea in a paragraph, I can put the idea as an independent clause and put it at the end of the paragraph or also as a short sentence after a series of long sentences. A short sentence or an independent clause would leave a more lasting impact on the readers. By varying the type of sentences, for example using a question after a series of sentence, the idea discussed in the series of sentence before the question will be emphasized.
Using the Online Resource in my Academic Work
For my Physics Laboratory I AAP104 course, I have to write a report after each physics experiment. The reports usually consist of the following sections: objectives of the experiment, theory or hypothesis, procedures, findings, conclusion and precautions.
After going through the Active and Passive Voice section, I learnt that when writing a scientific report for my AAP104 physics course, it is best to use passive voice instead of active voice. From the sub-section Choosing Passive Voice, it states that by using passive voice when writing scientific report, it allows me to omit any mentioning of the person doing the experiment as the purpose of a scientific report is to report on the results of the experiment, and analyze and discuss the implications of the results.
I should make use of passive voice in the Procedures section of a scientific report on a Mechanics experiment in which the student is supposed to record the time it takes from a hollow cylinder to roll down an incline using a motion sensor and data logger. This is because by using passive voice to write out the instructions for this procedure will allow me to place emphasis on the actions that the student is supposed to do and what is being acted upon by the student. In this case, there is no need for me to mention the person that will be doing the actions in my report. An example of using active voice to write out this procedure would be as follow.
"Students should start recording before they release the cylinder and stop recording before the cylinder reaches the end of the incline."
When written in passive voice, the procedure would be as follow.
"Start recording before releasing the cylinder and stop recording before the cylinder reaches the end of the incline."
Comparing the two sentences, it can clearly be seen that in using passive voice, there is no need to mention the person that is supposed to doing the action of recording the time and releasing the cylinder. A benefit of using passive voice in this case would be that readers of my report would not be distracted by any unnecessary information - the mentioning of the person doing the experiment.
Another benefit of using passive voice when writing a scientific report would be that it can help me to create the appearance of presenting certain information on the experiment in an unbiased, objective and fact-based manner. By using the same Mechanics experiment mentioned above, this benefit can be demonstrated. In the Precautions section, an example of active voice would be as follow.
"Students should make sure that the cylinder does not hit or touches the sides of the incline when it is rolling down by releasing the cylinder from the centre of the width of the incline. By doing so, student can reduce energy loss due to friction between the cylinder and the sides of the incline."
When the sentence is written in passive voice, it would be as follow.
"Ensure that the cylinder does not hit or touches the sides of the incline when it is rolling down by releasing it from the centre of the width of the incline. This is to reduce energy loss due to friction between the cylinder and the sides of the incline."
The second sentence where passive voice is used gives the impression that I am presenting the information from an objective standpoint that is not limited or veiled by my biased or personal perspective.