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Academic Writing Vs. Creative Writing: Understanding The Differences

Published by at September 11th, 2023 , Revised On January 30, 2024

Writing is a vast and varied field, with numerous genres and sub-genres, each demanding a unique approach and mindset. Among the multitude of writing types, academic and creative writing stand out as polar opposites. These two forms of writing serve distinct purposes and possess characteristic styles and tones. This blog will discuss the differences between academic and creative writing. 

What is Academic Writing

Academic writing is a formal style of writing. It is commonly used in universities and scholarly publications. Its characters mainly include evidence-based arguments, logical reasoning, and conciseness.

While some might see it as stuffy or rigid, it is crucial in academia for maintaining clarity and credibility. Let’s break down the features and purposes of academic writing:

Features of Academic Writing

The features of good academic writing include:


Academic writing relies on evidence, such as data, facts, logical reasoning, and expert testimonies. Unsupported claims are not acceptable.

Formal Tone

Casual or colloquial language is avoided. Instead, a serious and respectful tone is maintained.

Clear and Precise 

It prioritises clarity and avoids ambiguity. Words and phrases are used in their exact meaning.


There is a clear organisation to the content, whether it is the standard introduction, body, and conclusion of an essay or the abstract, introduction, or other parts of a research paper.

Impersonal Tone

Personal beliefs, feelings, or opinions are typically kept out unless they are relevant to the discussion.


Any information, ideas, or data not original to the author must be cited. This gives credit to original authors and provides a trail for readers to verify information.

Purpose of Academic Writing

Academic writing mainly serves the following purposes. 


Much of academic writing aims to inform the reader about a specific topic. This could be a review of existing literature, explaining a concept, or presenting new research findings.


In some cases, academic writing persuades the reader of a certain viewpoint. This is seen in argumentative essays and papers where the author presents and supports a thesis statement with evidence.


Academic writing can serve as a record of research findings, observations, or experiments. This is crucial for future researchers who might build upon that work.


Reflective essays or reports allow the writer to discuss their experiences, learning, or observations in a structured way.

Audience of Academic Writing

The primary audience of academic writing is the scholarly community, including professors, students, researchers, and experts in the field. 

However, given the increasing accessibility of academic works, the public, policymakers, and other professionals are also counted in the category. 

Types of Academic Writing

Here are the main types of academic writing. 


Essays are short pieces of academic writing that convey the author’s perspective on a particular topic. The different types of essays include argumentative, descriptive, expository, and narrative.

Essays are meant to concisely explore and communicate ideas, arguments, or information. They often require critical thinking, analysis, and the ability to present a coherent argument.

Research Papers

Research papers are in-depth documents that present original research findings on a specific topic. They are often more extensive than essays and follow a structured format.

These papers also contribute new knowledge to a particular field, which helps demonstrate the author’s ability to conduct research, analyse data, and draw meaningful conclusions.

Theses and Dissertations

Theses and dissertations are comprehensive research projects. They are generally required to get a master’s or doctoral degree. They represent the completion of a student’s academic work.

Additionally, theses and dissertations involve in-depth research, critical analysis, and the presentation of original contributions to a specific academic discipline.


Reports are documents commonly used in scientific and technical fields to convey information about experiments, investigations, or research studies. They have a structured format, including methods, results, and conclusions.

Moreover, reports aim to provide detailed and objective information about experiments, allowing others to replicate the study or understand the findings accurately.


Reviews critically assess other works, such as books, articles, or literature. They summarise the main points of the work and provide an evaluation based on specific criteria.

Reviews help readers understand the content and quality of the work being reviewed. They assist in decision-making processes and contribute to scholarly discourse.

Case Studies

Case studies involve detailed analyses of specific cases, events, or situations. They often include real-life examples and explore the factors contributing to a particular outcome.

Furthermore, case studies are used to gain insights into complex phenomena, investigate cause-and-effect relationships, and provide context-rich information for research or educational purposes.


Abstracts are concise summaries of larger academic papers, typically appearing at the beginning of the document. They briefly overview the paper’s main objectives, methods, findings, and conclusions.

Abstracts serve as a quick reference for readers, allowing them to determine whether the full paper is relevant to their interests. They provide a snapshot of the paper’s content without requiring the reader to review it.


What is Creative Writing

Creative writing is an art form that allows for self-expression and imagination. It breaks away from the more strict constraints of other forms of writing. It encompasses various written works and genres, each characterised by imaginative narratives, characters, and poetic use of language. 

Conclusively, creative writing seeks to tell a story, evoke emotions, or paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

Features of Creative Writing

An impeccable piece of creative writing has the following features. 

Imaginative and Original

Central to creative writing is the use of imagination. It allows writers to invent characters, worlds, scenarios, and more.


It is a means of expressing personal feelings, emotions, and ideas.

Character Development

Characters in creative writing often undergo growth or transformation, revealing depths of human nature.

Poetic Use of Language

Words are chosen for their literal meaning, sound, rhythm, and emotional resonance.

Narrative Structure

Even though creative writing doesn’t always follow a strict structure, many pieces have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Evokes Emotion

One of its goals is to make readers feel something—whether it is joy, sorrow, excitement, or fear.

Purpose of Creative Writing

Creative writing is usually done for


Many creative works aim to entertain, taking readers on journeys to far-off places or introducing them to intriguing characters.


Writers often use creative writing as a platform to express personal feelings, beliefs, or experiences.


It can be a medium to reflect on societal issues, human behaviour, or the world at large.


Some creative works, like allegories or satires, can be persuasive, conveying opinions on political or societal issues.

Audience of Creative Writing

While some creative works might target a specific audience, many are meant for anyone who appreciates storytelling, language artistry, or poetic expressions. From children to adults, the audience for creative writing is diverse.

Types of Creative Writing

The types of creative writing include


Fiction is fabricated and based on the author’s imagination. It is not factual, but it may be based on true events or situations.

  • Novels: Extended works of fiction that can range from about 50,000 words to several hundred thousand words.
  • Short Stories: Brief works of fiction, typically between 1,000 and 20,000 words.
  • Novellas: Longer than short stories but shorter than novels, often between 20,000 and 50,000 words.

“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville (Novel), “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (Short Story), and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell (Novella).


Poetry uses meter, rhyme, and metaphor to express feelings, ideas, or tell stories. Its form and structure can vary widely.


“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.


Drama involves writing that is intended to be performed by actors on a stage, in a film, or on television.


“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare (Play), “A Street Car Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (Play).

Creative Non-Fiction

This genre uses narrative techniques commonly found in fiction to relay true, factual events or experiences.

  • Memoirs: A personal account of someone’s life or experiences.
  • Biographies: A detailed account of someone else’s life.
  • Personal Essays: Short, introspective pieces that reflect on life experiences.

“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls (Memoir), “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson (Biography).

Flash Fiction

These are very short stories, often characterised by brevity and succinctness. They still have a full narrative but in a much condensed form.


“The Baby” by Simon Rich, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” (attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but its origin is debated).


This involves writing scripts specifically for visual mediums, like movies or TV shows. The script will often include scene directions, character actions, and dialogue.


“The Shawshank Redemption” screenplay by Frank Darabont, “Breaking Bad” TV series scripts.


The art of writing lyrics for music often encompasses a range of emotions, themes, and narratives.


“Imagine” by John Lennon, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele and Paul Epworth.

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The Difference Between Academic Writing and Creative Writing

Academic writing and creative writing are two very different types of writing that serve distinct purposes and adopt unique characteristics. Let’s look at the primary differences between them:


Academic Writing: The primary purpose is to inform, explain, argue, or analyse. It is mainly used to present research findings, argues a point, or elaborate on a theory or idea. Examples include essays, research papers, and journals.

Creative Writing: The primary purpose is to entertain, evoke emotions, and express the author’s imaginative ideas. It may also inform or persuade, but stylistically and narratively. Examples include poetry, fiction (novels, short stories), plays, and scripts.

Style and Tone

Academic Writing: Typically adopts a formal tone and uses precise, unambiguous language. Jargon or technical terms relevant to the field may be used.

Creative Writing: Can vary in tone, from casual and conversational to highly formal. Figurative language, rhetorical devices, and a focus on narrative or poetic techniques often mark it.


Academic Writing: Follows a structured format that depends on the type of academic work. For instance, research papers might follow the IMRaD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion).

Creative Writing: More flexible in structure. While there might be conventional structures for certain genres (like the three-act structure in plays), creative writing often allows for more deviation and experimentation.

Evidence and Research

Academic Writing: Relies heavily on evidence, citations, and references. Proper sourcing and avoiding plagiarism are crucial.

Creative Writing: While it may be based on research (e.g., historical fiction), it does not always require citations or references, and it often relies on the author’s imagination.

Point of View

Academic Writing: Typically uses a third-person perspective, and first-person might be avoided depending on the discipline or assignment.

Creative Writing: Can employ first, second, or third-person perspectives. The choice depends on the nature of the story and the writer’s intention.

Objective vs. Subjective

Academic Writing: Strives for objectivity. Even when presenting an argument, the emphasis is on presenting evidence and logical reasoning.

Creative Writing: It is often more subjective, focusing on emotional truths, individual perspectives, and personal experiences.


Academic Writing: Generally needs to adhere to specific guidelines formatting rules, and be clear and concise.

Creative Writing: Offers more freedom, allowing writers to play with language, structure, and content.


Academic Writing: Typically written for scholars, researchers, students, or professionals in the field.

Creative Writing: Aimed at a general audience, although some works might cater to niche readerships.

Frequently Asked Questions

Creative writing and academic writing serve different purposes. While academic writing prioritises evidence-based arguments, clarity, and objectivity, creative writing emphasises storytelling, character, and emotion. However, you can use elements of creative writing to enhance academic pieces and make them more engaging.

Academic writing presents researched information and is mostly clear, properly structured, and objective. Creative writing emphasises storytelling, imagination, and emotional resonance. While academic writing seeks to inform or argue based on evidence, creative writing aims to entertain, provoke thought, or express personal insights. Both have unique styles, purposes, and conventions.

Creative writing emphasises imagination, originality, and expression. It prioritises storytelling, character development, emotional resonance, and vivid imagery. Unlike formal styles, creative writing allows for flexibility in structure and language, encouraging the exploration of diverse narratives and voices.

“Recent research on climate change highlights its adverse effects on global sea levels. Using satellite data from 1990-2020, Smith et al. (2022) found a 3.2mm annual rise in sea levels. This upward trend, linked to melting polar ice caps, underscores the urgent need for sustainable environmental policies worldwide.”

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