Recently, a student we were helping shared with us an essay she had written for a course in the School of Business at the University of Exxxxx. In the essay, she mentioned that she had used WeChat to communicate with respondents to a survey she had conducted. However, next to her first mention of WeChat, her lecturer had written, ‘What is this?’ Well, you might think that a business school lecturer would know all about WeChat! After all, it is China’s dominant social network and a roaring business success. He undoubtedly did know about WeChat, but he was pointing out a golden rule of academic essay writing: if a term is potentially unfamiliar to your audience, it is best practice to explain it. You could say, for example, ‘WeChat, the popular messaging application’. The same principle applies to other product names that you may be very familiar with but which might need some words of explanation. Staying with China, this might include, for example, Weibo (the popular Chinese microblogging application, similar to Twitter) or Huawei (the Chinese multinational information technology company); every country will have a product or service that is extremely well-known inside the country but may not always be outside. Make sure you follow the golden rule – explain any unfamiliar terms and make your assignment as accessible as possible to an intelligent audience.
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