Referencing for people who value simplicity, privacy, and speed.
Get Citationsy

Content Writing vs. Academic Writing: Key Differences

Centuries have come and gone, yet some things remain just the same – the writing medium is still a primary means of passing across messages and sharing important information. Only this time, we do a lot of it digitally in addition to writing by hand as well. Clearly writing is still a very important skill to have. Like most things in life, it comes in different flavors. Two of them, content writing and academic writing, seem to be the most common. 


Surprisingly, a lot of the time, people are not sure when they are using one form or the other. Yet, anyone who has ever graduated from school and made a post on their social media account has done both types of writing. Confused? Don’t worry. Sit back and relax as we unpack how you can tell the main differences between the two.

Definitions of Content and Academic Writing

On the surface, both academic writing and content writing are informative. They can leave you feeling like you have learned something new by the end of your reading. Still, they are not exactly cut out of the same cloth. The definition reflects this. 


Content writing is a type of writing that is emotive, expressive, and intentionally created to engage the reader and hopefully get them to sense certain feelings. 


Academic writing, on the other hand, is more formal and dry. The focus is on exploring educational topics in a factual way. Since it’s basically research writing, the writer has to follow specific rules so that their work meets the right standards. If you have ever written a report or turned in an essay as part of your course requirement, then you have done some academic writing.

Academic vs. Content Writing: 3 Major Differences

It’s easy to see why the lines can get blurred for some people making it hard to tell these writing styles apart. After all, they both have an introduction, body, and conclusion (like other types of writing do). So what’s the difference besides maybe the word count? Turns out there are quite a lot of aspects that make each of them unique:

#1 The Target Audience 

With academic writing, your audience is people in the academic world. You know, the teachers, professors, and other students. It often feels like academic writers just want to show off their knowledge, but that is not entirely true. This is a natural impression because you see a text loaded with hard-to-pronounce words and unknown concepts. But the idea of any academic writing isn’t to show off but to share valuable insights or findings about a topic with (at least) a somewhat knowledgeable audience. 


Of course, since your audience is also learned people, you have to present solid evidence from your research or experiments to back up any claims you make. At the very least, you need extensive citations from verifiable sources like other research papers, free scientific articles, and peer-reviewed journals.


With good old content writing, you are targeting everyone else (sort of). Some of them might be academics, but the majority are not. This will affect a lot of things like your writing style, structure, language, etc. (more on that later). You can explore a lot more topics and be as creative as you like while at it. Still, having a couple of stats to back up your opinions won’t hurt either if you want to convince your audience. 

#2 Language and Style

One of the biggest differences between academic content writing and your regular digital content writing is in the style. Sometimes, academic writing is a requirement for passing a course, qualifying for an educational program, or winning some special grant. Naturally, you have to follow a different style than you normally would if you were posting a pancake recipe on your food blog. You can’t use slang, unnecessary abbreviations or throw a joke and a gif just for the fun of it.


Likewise, anyone who has ever tried to publish ecommerce content (or any other type of content that implies selling) knows that style matters a lot. With most blog content, you want the readers to learn something cool but also buy whatever you’re offering. At the very least, you are hoping to convince them to sign up for something. 


When it comes to non-academic writing, you can write in your own voice, just as if you were talking to a friend. Want to quote a random obscure pop culture character? Add a funny meme? Sprinkle some irony on top? Go for it — just as long as it helps you connect with your target audience. 

#3 Structure

With your academic writing, your introduction could be a few paragraphs or an entire chapter. Your word count is usually longer, and your conclusion must tie everything neatly together. Of course, this can vary depending on whether you’re working on a thesis or an essay. 


In content writing, you have more flexibility in the structure. One to two introductory paragraphs are usually enough, the word count is also generally smaller, and the conclusion can be anything you want it to be – a call to action, a suggestion, etc. The same topic can even take on different forms depending on what you want to achieve. So, for example, you can write about a subject using a long-form article format. But you can also create snippets of the same post and put it up as a video on social media or even turn it into SM captions. 


Most people who use content writing create their copy using the structure they know is most likely to generate traffic. This is why relatability is such a big deal, especially with digital writing. But sometimes, just being funny and interesting isn’t enough. In fact, most writers need to rely heavily on SEO and maybe even buy backlinks to get the ability to rank in search results faster. At the end of the day, the number of valuable content pieces and your quality links will define how high you appear in SERPs and how much traffic you get. 

3 Tips on How to Switch Between the Writing Styles

Ever wondered how you can switch between the two writing styles? The transition is not always easy if you have been using one style for a pretty long time. Maybe you would like to switch to a different style midway through your writing – no judgment here, but not sure how that works. Anyway, here are a few basic tips to help you switch between the styles effortlessly:


  • Speak the language of your audience. If content writing is targeted towards a younger audience, it won’t do much good to sound like that one professor that’s always surrounded by philosophical books. You have to be relatable and fun instead. 
  • Focus. Changing your style can be a powerful way to grab your reader’s attention and pull them into a new POV or perspective. But be careful, a lot can go wrong too if you miss it. So always keep your end goal in mind so you don’t lose track and start rambling.
  • Don’t forget SEO. In this age of digital content, SEO can be the difference between whether your work gets the recognition it deserves or it becomes another lost treasure. Themexpert recommends using off-page SEO tools to make this task easier. Plus, using some optimization software can help even absolute beginners make faster progress and get their content pushed toward the right audience. 
  • Ask for feedback. You can tick all the boxes right (format, tone, style, and structure) and still find that something is missing. Always ask for honest feedback from someone who writes better than you and someone who fits your target audience profile (if possible). This will help you polish your writing skills and get better overall results.


Content writing and academic writing are worlds apart, and this, on its own, makes them unique in their own right. Both of them can be used to draw in your audience and pass across very important information. Still, even though the delivery style is very different between the two, as long as you understand your goals and focus on connecting with your readers, you will make a lasting impression on them. 

The citation generator used by 300.000+ people around the world
Referencing for people who value simplicity, privacy, and speed.