3 Academic Writing Tips

In academic writing or business writing, people sometimes feel the need to write complicated sentences with the most formal words they can think of. (This isn’t just non-native English speakers either!) These tangled, overly-complex sentences can be confusing for your reader, and can have the opposite effect you want.

Here are a few tips for when you’re writing essays or research papers in school, or when communicating for business:

1. Simplify!

It’s fine to start with basic [subject]+[verb]+[object] sentences for your first draft.

You can add transitions and maybe even swap out overused or less effective words for better ones in a later draft.

Clear and simple sentences are easier for your readers to understand, and that’s our goal with all writing, whether it’s academic writing, business writing, or even informal writing on social media or through email.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

2. Don’t forget the reader

Speaking of your readers…don’t forget about them!

Imagine a real, actual human that you know reading your words.

Maybe it’s your best friend, a parent or sibling, or a fellow classmate, or your instructor – but it’s important to write with someone in mind, regardless of whether or not that person will actually read your writing.

Writing with a real person in mind can improve your writing’s flow, tone, voice, and clarity.

3. Just ask

Are you writing for a class and you aren’t sure if it’s ok to use “I” in your paper?
Still unclear if your conclusion is “up to snuff” (translation: good enough)?
Confused about citations?

Ask.

Trust me: Teachers love it when students ask questions. It shows you’re engaged and that you want to do well! Plus, there’s a big chance someone else has that question, too, so you’ll be helping out your classmates.


Get more academic writing help in my online course, “University Companion.”

Click here for more information and access the first unit for free!

Updated: 5 Tips to Improve Your Writing in English

In an effort to update previous posts, here’s a refresh of one of my favorite posts about writing.

Writing can be difficult, whether you are writing in your native language or a second (or third! or fourth!) language. And writing for school, college / university, or business can really make the pressure soar.

But practice makes perfect! Regardless of the situation – writing casual emails or messages to friends, communicating for business, or completing a school assignment – there are simple ways to help you improve your writing.

The methods below are geared toward English language learners, but they apply to anyone wanting to write better in any language.

Improve Your Academic English Writing
Improve Your Academic English Writing

1. Read in English

That’s right: Reading in English will help your writing in English! When written language is modeled for you, like it is in a book or article, it makes elements such as structure, grammar, and punctuation easier to “take in” or internalize. If you’re worried you won’t understand an entire novel or book in English, try starting with simpler books for younger readers and gradually reading more difficult texts.

2. Write every day

Set a writing goal for yourself that is challenging but attainable. Maybe that’s just five sentences, or maybe it’s five paragraphs, or even five pages (you can do it!) – but make sure it’s a goal that isn’t so difficult you’ll feel overwhelmed.

Not sure what to write about? Start with simple sentences explaining what you did during the day. If that’s too simple, write about your feelings or opinions about what you did. Need more challenge? Write about what you plan on doing tomorrow or next week, or want to do in 10 years. Or reflect on something you recently read or viewed, or some issue happening in the world.

3. Buy a special writing notebook

Keep your practice writing all in the same notebook, much like a journal or diary.

In addition to being a symbol of how important the writing is to you, as time progresses, it’ll be a great way to see your improvement!

4. Rewrite your past writing

Rewriting your past writing is a great way to not only correct your grammar or punctuation mistakes, but also a great way to expand your vocabulary by looking for synonyms for the words you originally used.

Try a strategy such as focusing on finding synonyms for nouns one week, verbs the next, adjectives and adverbs after that, and so on.

5. Buddy up

Find a friend (online or offline) that you can occasionally trade writing with. Maybe it’s someone in your class, or a work colleague you can practice with by exchanging emails, or an online acquaintance who can give you feedback. A second pair of eyes on your writing can help you see errors that you missed!


Get more writing instruction with the “University Companion” course

My full-length online writing course helps you understand how to craft academic English essays for college and university classes and is especially for non-native English speakers.

There are 10 multimedia modules, and best of all, you get the entire course to keep forever for just one payment – and there is an option to get personalized feedback on your writing from Teacher Amanda!

Unit 1 of the course is free! Learn more and purchase the course here.

Beginner English: Hello & Goodbye

There are many ways to say “hello” and “goodbye” in English, especially in informal conversation. Try out these phrases next time you’re practicing!

GREETINGS

Hello / Hi / Hey

These are the most basic greetings. “Hey” is more informal. You might  hear the word “there” after any of these words: Hello there. Hi there. Hey there. 

How’s it going?  / How are you? / How are things?

People often greet others with these types of questions. It’s fine to respond “Good” or “I’m fine” or “Not bad.” For the most part, these questions are simply greetings; don’t go into detail about your day or give a lengthy explanation unless the person asks you.

What’s up?

This just means “What is happening with you / in your life?” Like the questions above, the questioner isn’t really looking for a lengthy explanation. It’s fine to respond with something like “Not much” or “Nothing new.”

 

GOODBYES

Goodbye / Bye / Bye Bye / See you [later / soon].

The goodbyes are pretty simple and self-explanatory. “See you” (or “see you later” or “see you soon”) often ends up sounding like “ya” as in, “see ya.” You can also add polite phrases like “take care” or “good to see you” afterward as well.

 


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Vocabulary: Weddings!

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a lesson in a while. I’ve been busy with in-person English students…and beginning to plan my wedding! It isn’t until October, but it takes so much planning. It’s inspired me to post some wedding vocabulary for you!

Note: Below, I’ll use terms like “bride” and “groom” to refer to the woman and man (respectively) who are getting married, but of course, not all wedding couples are made up of a bride and groom.

 

reception (n.)

A (wedding) reception is a party held after a wedding ceremony for the friends and family of the bride and groom. Typically, a reception has food, drinks, and entertainment, and it is where the bride and groom have their first dance together as a married couple, and cut and serve their wedding cake.

Example: You’re invited to our reception! It will be after the ceremony and we’ll have a band.

 

wedding party (n.)

Sometimes this phrase is confused for the reception. But the “wedding party” is actually a group of people who stand up with the bride and groom at the wedding ceremony. It fluctuates from couple to couple — some couples just have two people in their wedding party (one person for the bride and one person for the groom), while others have five or six or more for both the bride and groom.

Example: I was in the wedding party for both of my sisters when they got married.

 

best man / maid of honor (n.)

The best man and the maid of honor are both members of the wedding party. The best man stands next to the groom at the ceremony and may be a family member or close friend. The maid of honor (or “matron of honor” if she is married) stands next to the bride at the ceremony. Both the best man and maid of honor symbolize support for the new couple, and can also help to organize events leading up to the wedding (like a wedding shower or bachelor / bachelorette parties).

Example: I was maid of honor for my best friend when she got married last year. I also planned her wedding shower.

 

fiancé / fiancée (n.)

That’s right, English doesn’t have its own words for two people who are engaged to be married to each other. Instead, English uses the French words “fiancé” for a man and “fiancée” for a woman who are going to marry each other.

Example: My fiancé is from Brazil. (This means: My husband-to-be is from Brazil.)

 

wedding shower (n.)

Like other events with “shower” in the name – like a baby shower – a wedding shower is about celebration of something that is coming. Family and friends unite to celebrate a couple before they are married. This can be a dinner or small party where people play games related to the couple or other celebratory activities. Not everyone has a wedding shower, and sometimes instead, the bride and groom have separate pre-wedding parties, like a bachelorette / bachelor party.

Example: We are having a wedding shower at my mom’s house one month before the wedding. It will be informal and we’ll have some refreshments.

 

to get / be engaged (ph. v.)

This is when one of the people in the couple proposes marriage to the other person. When talking about the proposal, you use “to get engaged”, and when talking about your state of being engaged, use “to be engaged.”

Example:
(to get engaged) We got engaged on the beach! He proposed in the sand.
(to be engaged) We are engaged now! It has been almost 6 months.

 

honeymoon (n.)

This is the vacation that a married couple takes after their wedding ceremony and reception. Sometimes this is directly after the wedding, and sometimes it is later. Typically, a honeymoon is a romantic destination.

Example: We are going to Hawaii for a week for our honeymoon! I can’t wait!

What about you? What are some other wedding-related words or phrases? What are some common wedding traditions in your culture?


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7 ways to improve your TOEFL score

Taking any test can be a nerve-wracking experience, but taking a test in a language other than your native one can cause you great anxiety – especially tests like the TOEFL or IELTS, which have a lot riding on them (meaning that many important things depend on succeeding with these tests).

Here are a few tips to help you with the TOEFL exam, as well as other important tests like it. A text version is below the video.

1. Find every opportunity to expand your English knowledge

Ok, this one is a “no-brainer” (meaning that it’s very obvious), but how to go about it might not be.

Part of your studying should be doing things like studying the actual test itself and learning good test-taking techniques.

But another part of your studying should be finding ways to use and explore English as much as you can. For example:

  • Take any class conducted in or about English, even if it’s not specifically directed to TOEFL,because:
    • Conversation or presentation classes will help you with the speaking portion of the test.
    • Grammar classes will help you improve your speaking and writing sections.
    • Academic skills classes will help you with test-taking skills, and tips about reading and writing.
  • Read English language books or magazines to expand your vocabulary.
  • Join online or in-person conversation partner programs to practice speaking English.

2. Learn as much as you can about the test in general

The TOEFL is administered by ETS, the Educational Testing Service, and they update the TOEFL Information Bulletin with the latest information. Find it at www.ets.org/toefl.

3. Familiarize yourself with the test format and directions

Take practice tests so that you understand the design and style of the test, and are familiar with the directions as well as the time constraints. In addition, you’ll need to type your essays, so practice typing on a keyboard with an English layout if you aren’t already. You’ll record your speaking section on a microphone, so even practicing that will help you come test day.

4. Study efficiently

Of course you need to make time to study for the test. Studying consistently is more effective than “cramming” several hours into one day a week.

In addition, the 30-5-5 technique is great for studying:

  • 30 minutes of studying
  • 5-minute break
  • 5 minutes of reviewing what you studied in the first 30 minutes

5. Prepare your body and mind carefully in the days leading up to the test

This one might be obvious, too, but if you exhaust yourself studying, you won’t be in the best condition to take the test.

Be sure you are getting enough sleep, and try to reduce your stress as much as possible in the weeks before the test.

The night before the test, don’t plan any activities, and make sure you have all of your required documents ready.

On the day of the test, wear comfortable clothing, make sure you eat something healthy and nourishing before the test, and make sure you arrive at the testing location with plenty of time.

6. Use test time wisely

Don’t get stuck on any one item in the reading and listening sections. Since they are multiple choice, marking any answer works in your favor when you aren’t sure, rather than leaving it blank. Rather than making a random guess for difficult items, see if you can narrow down your choices. Guessing with one-in-two or one-in-three odds are much better than with one-in-four odds.

7. Combat test anxiety

You’re bound to be nervous during a test of this nature, but know that a little nervousness can make you more focused. However, if anxiety overcomes you, take a few seconds to take a couple of deep breaths and focus on your senses (what can you see, or hear right now?). This will help bring you into the moment and away from worrying about the outcome of the test.

 

These tips were inspired by “The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test” by Bruce Rogers, which is a fantastic resource for prospective TOEFL takers.


Would you like to study for the TOEFL exam with me? I use the book referenced in the link above and provide one-to-one or one-to-small group via online meetings. Email me at amanda@teacheramanda.com for more information.


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