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Academic English Skills

  • Academic Writing
  • Academic Writing in Law
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english academic writing help

  • Grammarly Handbook Find the answers to all your writing conundrums in Grammarly's handy grammar guide.
  • Grammar Checker Grammarly makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free.
  • Plagiarism Checker & Proofreader Check your text now with this automated proofreader and plagiarism checker.
  • Grammarly Blog Read the Grammarly blog here.

Email Ettiquette

english academic writing help


  • Don't use an unprofessional email address
  • Start with a new e-mail
  • Include an appropriate subject heading
  • Write a salutation
  • Write well!  
  • Provide context and background information
  • Write a clear and concise message
  • Sign your name
  • Proofread the e-mail
  • Allow adequate time for a reply
  • Writing Professional Emails More detailed advice about how to write emails to academic staff

Paragraph Writing

What's important.

  • Developmental paragraphs relating to the information presented in the introduction (each paragraph contains only one main idea)
  • Paragraphs are arranged in logical progression
  • Evidence is presented and analysed
  • Reference is made to other sources
  • Includes examples, statistics, tables, charts, reference to cases/legislation (law), etc. to support your ideas
  • Paragraphs flow smoothly from one to the next
  • Academic Reading and Writing A self-testing and tutorial program looking at paragraph and text reconstruction, recognising the Structure of Academic Articles
  • Paragraphs: An Academic Writing Module Tutorial on the use and construction of paragraphs in Academic English.
  • Academic Paragraphs A very clear outline and example provided by Regent University Writing Center.

How to Proofread Draft Assignments

[ Open All | Close All ]

  • Have you clearly stated your position or argument (thesis statement)?
  • Does your introduction clearly outline what is to follow?
  •  Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?
  • Does your assignment progress in logical stages?
  • Do your paragraphs flow and are they well connected?
  • Do all the main points relate to the topic and contribute to answering the question?
  • Does each sentence flow on from the previous?
  • Have you used transition words to connect ideas and points?
  • Are your transitions varied, or have you used the similar types?
  • Have you supported facts and opinions with appropriate examples and evidence?
  • Are all examples and evidence presented relevant to the points you have made and the question you are answering?
  • Have you used appropriate terminology?
  • Have you checked your spelling?
  • Is your language clear and direct?
  • Have you explained key concepts?
  • Have you used appropriate punctuation?
  • Are your tenses correct?
  • Is there any unnecessary repetition?
  • Is there any unnecessary words or content?
  • Have you included in-text citations?
  • Is there a complete reference list at the end of the assignment?
  • Are your references in the reference list alphabetically ordered?
  • Are your references accurate (will the reader be able to find them)?
  • Is it clear what are your thoughts and what ideas come from credible sources?

Features of Academic Writing

The ability to express yourself clearly and accurately is important in academic writing.  Here you will find information to help you improve your academic writing and grammar.

Academic writing is:

english academic writing help

Academic writing does not:

english academic writing help

  • The Dos and Don'ts of Academic Writing A useful chart from Lund University providing further details relating to the Dos and Don'ts of writing academically.

The Academic Writing Process

english academic writing help

Before starting, it is important that you read the assignment question carefully and make sure you understand what you are being asked to do. If you are unsure, check with your lecturer or tutor.

Once you understand the question and what it is you are being asked to produce, generate your initial thoughts and ideas about the topic through brainstorming and writing them down, no matter how 'creative' or 'simple' they may be. Consider the following:

  • Do you have any initial responses to the question?
  • What could a possible answer (or answers) be?
  • Do you have a particular opinion about the topic?
  • What prior knowledge do you have about the topic?
  • What are the key concepts relating to the question?

Generating some ideas before you start your research will help you to focus your reading. Without a sense of direction, it is easy to get lost in the research process.

If you really do not know anything about the topic, start by skimming and browsing the required or recommended readings to identify a few ideas and key concepts.

At this stage, it is also important to check your course outline for assignment guidelines and be certain about the following:

  • What format your assignment should follow : An essay? A report? A critical review? etc.
  • What the expected length is : This will affect the amount of research required, how much depth you should go into and how many references are needed.

As you conduct your research, your understanding of the topic will develop and your initial ideas are likely to change. The research process is something that evolves over time as you gain a deeper understanding and further engage with the subject area. 

For academic research, you must use credible sources. These are sources that can be trusted. We trust that the author's ideas are his/her own and can be backed up with evidence, i.e. a source with a solid authority within its discipline.

  • Save interesting sources
  • Summarise the main points
  • Make a note of the reference

After you have generated some ideas and conducted some research, it is important to sketch out your assignment before you start to write. For your outline, use:

  • Short sentences to describe paragraphs
  • Bullet points to describe what each paragraph will cover

A draft is the preliminary and initial effort of your essay. It is going to be subject to revision, amendments, refining, etc. When writing your first draft:

  • Don't worry (yet) too much about your introduction
  • Pick the way that is most comfortable for you (location, laptop/desktop computer/free hand, etc.)
  • Start writing your first draft in plenty of time so you have time to revise it and make changes

Note:  Keep a copy! It is important to keep copies of any drafts you write. This will help you in case there is any dispute about your work in the future.

Remember to proofread your essay! This means examining your essay cautiously to spot and correct mistakes in grammar, style and spelling. 

The proofreading process:

  • Eliminate unnecessary words - write short, clear, concise, direct sentences
  • Look at comments on old assignments and set a list of mistakes to watch out for
  • Proofread using a hard copy of your assignment before going back to on-screen editing
  • Read your assignment out loud to spot run-on sentences and hear other problems you may not spot whilst reading silently
  • Use a spell checker
  • Once you have edited your mistakes, proofread again!
  • Essay Outline

Essay Structure

It is vital that all essays, whether for an assignment of in an exam, are structured clearly and logically for the reader.

All essays should include:

english academic writing help

Example Introduction

english academic writing help

  • Essay Outline Very useful and straightforward template for outlining an essay.
  • University of Adelaide: Essay Writing A fantastic guide from the University of Adelaide, including a video that likens essay writing to baking a cake.
  • UNSW: Writing your essay Very helpful resource from UNSW clearly outlining the structure of an academic essay and the main elements that should be included in each section.
  • University of Hull: Essay Writing Insights from the University of Hull about the basic essay structure.

Exercises to apply your knowledge and practice your skills

Exercise 1: The Introduction

Exercise 2: The Conclusion

Exercise 3: Voice

Exercise 4: Paraphrasing

Report Structure

Types of reports can vary greatly, depending on the aim of the report. There is, however a basic structure common to most reports:

  • Title of report
  • Assignment title
  • Your student number
  • Course code and title

Executive Summary

  • Briefly outline the report in full

Table of Contents (TOC)

  • A list of the major and minor sections of the report and their page numbers


  • Set the scene; give some background information about the topic
  • State the purpose/aim of the report
  • Outline the structure (what you will be discussing within the report)
  • Main body of the report where you present the arguments for your recommendations
  • Needs to be presented in a logical order using headings and sub-headings to clearly break up the discussion
  • Brief summary of your report & judgment


  • Explicitly state what your recommendations are following your conclusion

Reference List

  • A complete list of ALL sources used
  • Use HARVARD referencing style
  • Any reference given in the reference list MUST ALSO feature in-text (do not include any references that have not been included in-text)
  • List references alphabetically with clear spacing between each

Appendices (if applicable)

  • Any information used in your report but not included in the body
  • Business Report - Example Structure An example of how to properly structure a business report and organise the different sections.

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the  main idea  of an essay. It is often the point you want to argue or support in an essay. The thesis statement appears in the introductory paragraph of an essay and can be 1 or 2 sentences. A clear and well written thesis statement will help you to determine the direction and structure of your argument.

What is thesis statement?

Avoid the following:.

  • What's a thesis statement? A useful resource on what is a thesis statement by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Thesis Statement TOP's guide to writing a good thesis statement.

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarising

Quoting should be done sparingly - you must have a good reason to use a direct quotation! Direct quotes should support your own ideas, and not replace them. For example, make a point in your own words, then use a direct quote from a credible source as evidence to support what you have said. 

SHORT QUOTATIONS appear as a continuation within the main paragraph and often work well integrated into a sentence.

Social mechanisms are important in instances of scarcity as ‘[m]aking the best use of scarce resources will … involve forming agreements with others’ (Ricketts 2002, p. 4). 

LONGER QUOTATIONS  (more than 3 lines of text) should start on a new line and be indented.

Researchers have examined the role of social mechanisms in instances of scarcity:

As part of a community of individuals, however, individuals …usually find that their best strategy is not to cut themselves off from all communication with their fellows, but rather co-ordinate their activity with that of other people. Making the best use of scarce resources will therefore involve forming agreements with others, and economics then becomes the study of the social mechanisms which facilitate such agreements (Ricketts 2002, p. 4).

Paraphrasing involves saying the same thing as the original source, but in different words, using a different sentence structure.

  • Do not just replace words with synonyms
  • Do not simply reorder the sentences
  • Do not simply remove or add words or phrases
  • Do not use some new phrasing but keep much of the original phrasing
  • Do not forget to cite your source
  • Make sure you fully understand the information you would like to paraphrase
  • Break up and combine ideas
  • Expand on or shorten some ideas
  • Use common language (words that do not have a likely synonym and must be used to describe a topic)
  • Maintain the idea of the original passage as truly as possible

Original Text

In order to communicate effectively with other people, one must have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment. On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.

Nickerson, R. S. (1999) How we know-and sometimes misjudge-what others know: Imputing one's own knowledge to others.  Psychological Bulletin , 125 (6): p. 737.

To effectively communicate, it is necessary to have a reasonably accurate idea of what is known or not known that is relevant to the communication. Assuming people have knowledge that they do not have can cause miscommunication and sometimes embarrassment. However, an important rule of conversation is that people do not generally convey information that they assume of thers already have.

Nickerson (1999) suggests that effective communication depends on a generally accurate knowledge of what the audience knows. If a speaker assumes too much knowledge about the subject, the audience will either misunderstand or be confused; however, assuming too little knowledge among those in the audience may cause them to feel patronised.

The amount of detail included in a summary depends on the length of the original text and how much information you need/would like to provide. 

What to do:

  • Highlight the main points in the text
  • Make notes of the main points, omitting examples
  • Rewrite the main points in your own words

Attributing the work of authors using introductory phrases

Every time you use the ideas of another person, you much acknowledge the original source by referencing. There will also be times when you would like to name the author directly within the main text. To do this, you can use one of the following introductory phrases:

Academic Vocabulary

Academic writing uses more formal language, avoids slang, and colloquial words and expressions common in everyday speech and informal writing. Academic texts need to be clear and precise because their purpose is to inform readers. Therefore, it is important to choose the most relevant words to explain concepts and ideas. Formal and specialist terminology can help express meaning in a precise way and avoid misinterpretation.

  • Academic Word List The Academic Word List (AWL) is a list of high-frequency words that appear in academic texts.
  • Formal vs Informal Word List This list will help you recognise the formal and informal way of saying the same thing.

Common Academic English Errors

Additional Resource

Academic Integrity

Further Support

english academic writing help

Online Resources

  • UniLearning From the University of Woolongong
  • Write Site From the University of Sydney

Related Guides

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Online Graphic Dictionary

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Proofreading Tool

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Tips on writing academic English

When you’re writing an academic journal article, a dissertation, an essay or a report, it’s important to use a more formal writing style than what you’d use to write something like an email or a short story. this formal style is known as academic writing, and it’s important because it helps make your text clear, direct, and understandable. it also adds a layer of professionalism to your writing, which may encourage your audience to view your arguments more seriously. here are a few academic english writing tips focusing on grammar and style that will help make your academic writing shine., don’t use contractions, slang or jargon.

Although we normally use contractions and slang in our everyday conversations and we may use jargon when we talk to people with expertise in our fields, using them in academic English writing is frowned upon. Contractions and slang make your writing sound too informal, and jargon can be difficult for laypeople to make sense of. If you need to use a term that’s only used in your field, make sure you define it on first use so readers will know what it means.

Only capitalise proper nouns

Although it may be tempting to capitalise the name of a theory or other important terms in your paper, remember that only proper nouns (i.e. the names of people, specific places or things, such as the names of newspapers, schools, movies or companies) are capitalised when writing academic English. Common nouns, such as things that refer to a general thing, concept or idea, are not capitalised. Therefore, you wouldn’t capitalise ‘the theory of relativity’, ‘bachelor’s degree’ or ‘website’. Furthermore, when you use an abbreviation, such as ‘ADHD’, you should always provide the full term on the first use; however, just because you’re providing an abbreviation that uses capital letters, that doesn’t mean you need to capitalise the term. For this example, you’d write ‘attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)’ in your text. If you’re ever in doubt about whether a term should be capitalised, check a dictionary or your preferred style guide to determine the correct format.

Make your writing direct and precise

As you write, remember to eliminate unnecessary words and use clear, direct language. Although academic English writing should be formal, it does not have to be overly wordy or complex; writing that’s too complex will make it harder for your audience to determine your meaning, which then makes it harder for them to understand your arguments. Don’t go too far in the other direction, though, and make all your sentences short and too simple. Very short sentences can make your text sound choppy, which will distract your readers.

Avoid using generalisations, hyperbole or gendered language

In your text, remember that your aim is to objectively present the facts you have discovered in your research and make sound arguments based on those facts. Therefore, you should avoid using vast generalisations (e.g. ‘All people who experience this symptom have this disease’) or hyperbole (e.g. ‘This finding is the most important finding in the history of this field’). Since your work cannot have information from every researcher or every person affected by your topic, it is impossible to make such statements. Likewise, you should avoid using gendered language to make your work more accessible to readers. Instead of using the word ‘policeman’ or ‘businessmen’ or referring to all doctors as ‘he’, use ‘police officers’ and ‘business people’ and refer to doctors as ‘they’.

Use the correct verb tense

When you are describing work that you have already completed or that other researchers have conducted, use the past tense (e.g. ‘Smith and Jones found that…’). If you are describing work that you will conduct in the future, use the future tense (e.g. ‘In this study, our team will examine…’).

Determine whether you should use ‘I’ or ‘we’

Some instructors, reviewers and style guides prefer that authors avoid using ‘I’ and ‘we’ in academic English writing, although others do not have a restriction on such a format. Before you begin writing, check with your instructor, preferred journal, etc., to determine if they have specified whether it is ok to use such language.

Make sure you structure your sentences and paragraphs correctly

Every sentence you write must be a complete sentence with a subject and a predicate. The subject refers to what or whom the sentence is about, and the predicate describes what the subject is doing, having done to them, etc. Without both parts, a sentence is incomplete and your readers can’t determine your meaning. Likewise, avoid using run-on sentences with too many subjects and predicates since they are very hard for readers to decipher. If you’re having trouble figuring out whether your sentences are complete or if they’re too long, try reading them out loud as you would in a normal conversation. This can help you determine where breaks should be for long sentences and quickly recognise incomplete sentences.

Make sure each paragraph focuses on one main idea instead of multiple unconnected ideas. Presenting unconnected ideas in the same paragraph will confuse and distract your readers.

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Developing academic english, academic writing style, using language appropriate to both audience and task.

  • Is the sentence structure clear and concise?
  • Have you used the relevant vocabulary specific to your subject, with explanations where helpful?
  • Have you used a form of language that is appropriate for your audience?
  • Have you presented different perspectives where necessary?
  • Are linking words used to support the flow of ideas?

Introduction to academic writing

For an introduction to different writing styles for different subject areas and purposes, see Using an appropriate writing style .

Approaches to academic writing

Various subjects often want you to achieve an objectivity and formality in your writing. The following sets of activities from the University of Southampton explore ways to develop a more formal and objective writing style.

  • Activity: Introduction to abstract vocabulary
  • Activity: Stylistic effects of abstract vocabulary
  • Activity: Impersonal style and passive verb construction
  • Activity: Using noun phrases instead of clauses

Building your vocabulary

Activities from the University of Southampton on how to extend your vocabulary from single base words, including examples from a business context.

  • Activity: Building your vocabulary
  • Activity: Using online concordancers to improve your vocabulary

Expressing complex ideas

The following activities from the University of Southampton aim to help you get to grips with noun phrases (a useful way of expressing complex ideas).

  • Activity: Forming complex noun phrases
  • Activity: Changing emphasis in a sentence

Developing an argument

The following activities from the University of Southampton aim to help you express subtle differences in meanings and express arguments cautiously thus avoiding bold statements that cannot be supported.

  • Activity: The meanings of modal verbs
  • Activity: Hedging or using language cautiously

There is a clear explanation on the British Council 'Learn English' site of how Modal verbs express degrees of uncertainty.

You might also like to watch some of the events on The Student Hub Live that talk about developing a good academic argument.

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University Centre for Academic English

Academic Writing

Access a series of activities to help you develop your writing skills.

Below is a list of sub-topics of writing. Each sub-topic contains groups of tasks and there is also a short description of each task.

To use these activities, do the following:

  • Read the writing categories below.
  • Click the category you are interested in to find out more.
  • Read the information about the activities before selecting.
  • Definitions
  • Paragraph structure
  • Text organisation
  • Paraphrasing and summarising
  • Referring to other sources
  • Expressing cause and effect
  • Grammar in writing
  • Writing dissertations
  • Describing graphic data


Here you can find activities to practise your writing skills. You can improve your writing by understanding model texts and how they're structured.

The self-study lessons in this section are written and organised by English level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). There are different types of model texts, with writing tips and interactive exercises that practise the writing skills you need to do well in your studies, to get ahead at work and to communicate in English in your free time.

Take our free online English test to find out which level to choose. Select your level, from A1 English level (elementary) to C1 English level (advanced), and improve your writing skills at your own speed, whenever it's convenient for you.

Choose your level to practise your writing

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Academic English Writing: Tips, Important Features and When You Should Learn It

You’ll need to write in academic English in universities, scientific institutions and many other places that value higher learning and thinking.

Academic English may also be important for some companies and organizations you are thinking about working for.

Don’t worry! To be successful, all it takes is a slightly different approach and some practice.

Read on for seven tips about academic English writing. Plus, we’ll go over what you need to know before you start writing and special features of academic English writing you should be aware of.

7 Beginner Tips for Learning to Write in Academic English

1. take a course in it, 2. learn to write formally, 3. use the appropriate grammar style book, 4. learn by example, 5. use outlines and drafts, 6. form and support a strong thesis, 7. get feedback, before you learn academic english writing, features of academic english writing, and one more thing....

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

english academic writing help

Since university offers so many chances to write, you’re likely to learn academic writing by just attending an English-speaking university.

If you prefer to be more prepared before diving in, you can always take a preparatory (introductory) course . Taking a preparatory course will strengthen your English and writing skills, and it will teach you the fundamentals of academic writing through instruction and experience.

You can find local institutions offering courses on academic English writing (in fact, the college you plan on attending may have one), or you can do your studying from the comfort of your home.

There are several courses available to take online , in your own time and at your own pace:

  • Future Learn has courses on essay writing and research for writing, available for free.
  • Coursera has a series of courses available for a fee. Browse around and you’re sure to find the course that fits your availability and study style.

Forget everything you know about writing online. Writing for academic purposes means writing formally. What does that look like? Here are a few general rules to remember when writing formally:

  • Do not use contractions. As the previous sentence shows, instead of writing “don’t,” write “do not.”
  • Do not use slang or colloquialisms. Choose the most fitting words for your paper based on their dictionary definitions, not the way people use them in conversation. For instance, if you’re using the word “literally,” use it to mean “exactly, without exaggeration,” which is the original, correct meaning of the word.
  • Do not use the first-person point of view. This just means you shouldn’t use personal words like “I,” “me” or anything else from your perspective. Distance yourself from your writing, and let facts speak for you. Instead of saying “I think the experiment shows…” say “The results of the experiment imply…”
  • Remove feelings and stick to facts. Academic writing is all about the facts. Intense and emotional language is generally not used in an academic paper. Use words that don’t show your feelings about something. For instance, instead of saying something is “bad” or “terrible” you can say it’s “inadequate” or “poor.”

Formal writing is crucial to academic writing, as well as business writing, official letter writing and many other scenarios. It’s a great idea to learn it!

Until now, you may have been learning grammar from a classroom, a textbook or the Internet. Academic writing uses its own group of rules, which combine all the grammar rules you’ve learned and standardize them, which means that they make them exactly the same for anyone who’s using them.

To do that, academic writing requires the use of a grammar style book .

These grammar books cover everything from how to capitalize abbreviations to when to correctly use a comma. They’re also really useful for citing your work , which is listing any books, articles, papers or other material you used or referenced in your research. The most common style books used in formal writing are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) : This style is most commonly used in academic writing and journal articles. It’s also used in the business and social science field, which includes psychology, economics and other social writings.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) : This style is most commonly used in the liberal arts and humanities, meaning any writing that deals with literature and culture.
  • Chicago Manual : This style guide is one of the oldest and most complete guides out there. It’s not used as commonly, but it’s most often used in business, criminology, history and a few other areas.

Although APA is the most commonly used academic style, it’s not always the one used in schools. Different schools, departments and classes may have different requirements, so check in with your instructors about which style to use.

One of the best ways to learn academic writing, aside from practicing it, is by reading. Browse through a few academic papers and you’ll quickly understand how this writing differs from others.

Some examples of academic writing can be found online:

  • Monash University has sample essays with annotations for a variety of academic subjects.
  • JSTOR  is a huge database of academic journals on many topics. If you’re currently attending university, ask about it. Your college credentials may give you free access to the website’s library.
  • To browse through free journals, check out the Directory of Open Access Journals , where you can browse by subject for free articles.

Many of the examples you’ll find above are professional-level papers, so don’t be worried if you can’t understand them! College-level academic papers can be much simpler. The important part is to use the correct format and style.

Half the work in an academic paper goes into the preparation. Before you can write a paper, it’s a very good idea to plan it first. Many writers of all sorts use outlines . Even the article you’re reading right now started as an outline!

Writing an outline gives you a chance to plan what you’ll write, organize your thoughts and make sure everything fits together.

Think of writing like constructing a building. You wouldn’t want to start building until you have a plan. Otherwise your structure might not hold up well, and it might even fall down!

How your outline looks is up to you. As long as it helps you organize your paper and makes sense to you, it can even look like a tree if you want. It should be whatever works for you. For inspiration, check out TeacherVision’s sample outlines .

Another important part of writing, especially when writing a paper or report, is to write drafts . A draft is an unfinished version of a final paper. Some papers go through many drafts, as the writers see what works and what doesn’t, apply feedback, edit and revise the work.

Writing drafts can turn a good paper into an excellent paper. Just look at how different the first and fifth draft of this book excerpt are !

Nearly every type of academic writing has a thesis . Your thesis is the central idea of your writing.

The thesis is the statement or claim you make in your writing, which the rest of the paper will try to prove. Your thesis can be something as simple as “divorce has changed Western society,” or it can be something much more complex.

An essay isn’t the only type of writing that uses a thesis or central idea. It’s an important part of any kind of academic writing, like lab reports, scientific writing, book reports and many others. No matter what you’re writing, you need some main idea to hold the piece together.

A thesis statement needs to be specific and concise (short and to the point). Some good examples and tips for writing thesis statements can be found at Kibin and UNC .

How do you know what to edit when you’re writing your drafts? With the help of others, of course!

Many college English classes give students a chance to peer review each other’s work, which means reading other people’s writing and suggesting how it can be improved. Use the feedback from your classmates, professors or even friends to improve your writing.

If you can’t find anyone who will read all 94 of your first-year college pages, you can give yourself feedback . Use a peer feedback guide like this one or this one to find areas of your writing that can be improved.

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Academic English is used in any formal learning institution where writing plays an important role. Nearly all the writing you’ll do in a university will require academic English. Whether you’re writing an essay or a lab report, you’re using academic writing.

The skills you learn for college can help you in your career, as well. Reports for office jobs, essays for scientific journals and many other careers require you to know academic writing. Learning it early and getting lots of practice is a good way to get ahead in your career!

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Academic writing is one of the highest forms of English writing. Even though it’s fairly easy to learn when you already know your English, it can be a real challenge if you’re still struggling with grammar and vocabulary.

Don’t let any of this discourage you! Spend some time with this guide and you’ll come out better prepared to tackle academic writing , no matter what level of English you have.

english academic writing help

Even if you’re well-versed in English writing rules , you’ll find that academic English writing is different from other writing. It’s more structured and formal, following stricter guidelines and rules. Even the font and font size you use are important for academic English, so don’t even think about printing out that paper in Comic Sans font !

Academic writing usually has:

  • A clear introduction (beginning), body (middle) and conclusion (end).
  • A strong point for the reader to come away with.
  • Evidence to support the point being made.
  • Impersonal writing (that is, there’s no use of the words “I” or “me.”)
  • Double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font.

Knowing this information brings you a huge step closer towards mastering academic writing.

By learning about academic English writing, you’ll make things easier for yourself when the time comes to actually write.

Now get out there and start practicing!

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If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

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Academic writing

  • Thinking about grammar
  • Correct punctuation
  • Introduction

Write formally and with clarity

Write concisely and with precision, write for a purpose.

  • Descriptive, analytical and reflective writing
  • Effective proof reading

Useful links for academic writing

  • Study Advice Helping students to achieve study success with guides, video tutorials, seminars and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Improve your understanding of grammar and punctuation an excellent site with clear explanations and plenty of online exercises to test your understanding (University of Bristol).
  • Academic Phrasebank Use this site for examples of linking phrases and ways to refer to sources.
  • Learn English (British Council) High quality resources to help improve your English
  • English for Uni (University of Adelaide) Engaging learning resources which aim to make difficult grammar and academic writing concepts easier to understand
  • Grammar Resource Course on aspects of English grammar which are often a problem for students (University of Hull)
  • English for Academic Purposes: Grammar Detailed explanation of how English grammar works with lots of exercises to put your knowledge into practice.

english academic writing help

- formal, because informal writing is not always understood in the same way by every reader;

- structured, because complex ideas need to be controlled to produce an unambiguous statement;

- precise, so that none of its ideas can be challenged;

- appropriate, so that it communicates to its audience in the most effective way.

As different subject areas have their own conventions, do refer to programme handbooks for specialist guidance. You can also look at publications, such as research journals, in your area to see their writing style. If English is not your first language, or you would like to access more information and activities on academic writing, you can also get more advice from the links below. If you are a University of Reading student and English is not your first language, the Academic English Programme (AEP) provides training courses in academic writing skills, speaking skills, and pronunciation practice.

  • Academic English Programme (AEP) If you are studying in English as a second or additional language, the Academic English Programme offers courses, webinars and 1:1 consultations to help you improve your academic English while you study. The Academic English Programme (AEP) is free to all fee-paying international/EU students.

Writing should be formal, but it does not need to be pompous.To maintain formality, there are various colloquialisms and shortened forms to avoid:

Avoid shortened forms:

Shouldn't, it's for it is

Avoid popular phrases or cliches such as:

at the end of the day; in a nutshell; when it comes to the crunch

Replace with: finally, in summary, in a crisis

Avoid casual everyday words   such as :

really, okay, maybe.

Correct use of grammar and punctuation is important. They show that you care about your work and have adopted a disciplined attitude to writing academically. They also help to make sure your meaning is understood. The most common mistakes by inexperienced writers include:

  • incomplete sentences (missing a verb or needing information in the previous sentence to make sense;
  • the wrong use of semicolons and colons;
  • the wrong use of apostrophes (check whether the s is there to indicate possession or a plural);
  • nouns and verbs where singular /plural do not agree (try proof reading aloud to spot this);
  • and inconsistent use of tenses (always use the past tense when you are reporting on something that was done).

See the pages on Grammar and Punctuation in this guide for more on this.

Good writing makes a point clearly and may illustrate it to help the reader's understanding. To avoid rambling, plan the points that you wish to convey and the evidence that you will use to illustrate. Include only necessary detail.

When presenting a point of view, such as a line of argument for an essay, decide on the main points that you want to communicate. Plan one main point per paragraph. A paragraph can be planned (like a mini-essay) using the PEAL format:

P: Sentence introducing the point with any necessary detail.

E: Illustration of point using evidence : research example, case study, figures, etc.

A: Critical analysis of point

L: Concluding sentence summing up the point and linking to the question or your argument.

Where  abbreviations and acronyms  are required to avoid repetition, ensure that, on first mention, the unabbreviated term appears together with the abbreviation or acronym, for example:

First mention: "An article in the American Journal of Philology (AJPh) reported..."

Subsequent mention: "Writing in the AJPh, Brown concluded that..."

Do not be tempted to use complex language or expressions that are not your own, just to make your writing appear "academic". Use straightforward language. Your reader needs to understand the information or ideas that you are conveying.

Communicate succinctly without losing vital information or meaning. It is often easier to write fluently and then to edit out unnecessary words and phrases.

Some academic writing, such as scientific research methodology, needs to be especially precise. A reader may need to have all the information required to understand exact conditions of a scientific study and to replicate it. Using simple sentences can be helpful.

Avoid using non-quantifiable descriptions, such as:

The company's production rate was high <--replace with--> The company produced 16,00 units per week.

The wind was strong <--replace with--> The wind measured 6 on the Beaufort scale.

Structure is also important in academic writing - it helps to make your ideas clear, guides the reader's comprehension and can strengthen your arguments. Some academic writing, such as scientific reports, has a given structure. Just find out what is required under each heading and keep to it. Other writing (such as essays) requires the writer to select and organise the material they are writing and so develop a structure.

Usually in the introduction the writer sets out the structure so that the reader knows what to expect and the order in which it will be presented. The order in which information is presented should be logical so that the reader can follow the thinking, ideally with just one point or idea per paragraph. In addition the ideas should flow or be linked so that the reader is drawn through an explanation or argument, rather than stopping and starting at each new point.The conclusion to the piece should draw together all the points or ideas and come to a conclusion.

Academic writing has a purpose. It may provide background information, the results of other peoples' research, the critique of other peoples' research, your own research findings, your own ideas based on academic research conducted by others, etc. It may be a combination of a few of these.

  • Decide on your purpose and what you intend to convey. If there is a brief, follow it. If there is a given question, make sure that you answer what has been asked. Write down your main points.(Mind-mapping can help with this.)
  • Decide on the audience for whom you are writing. If you are writing a university assignment, pretend that you are writing for an intelligent colleague from a related academic field, rather than for your tutor who knows more about the topic.

For most subject areas the writing is expected to be objective. For this the first person (I, we, me, my) should be avoided.

So      I analysed the data     becomes    The data was analysed

However, writing passively isn't always suitable. For instance, if you are asked to write a reflective piece, you will need to refer to your own actions and experiences. The important thing is to consider the purpose of your writing - that will help you to decide how to write it.

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  • Writing Worksheets and Other Writing Resources

Nine Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing

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english academic writing help


Don't say:  "The stepmother's house was cleaned by Cinderella."  (Passive.)

Say instead:  "Cinderella cleaned the stepmother's house."  (Active voice.)

Passive voice construction ("was cleaned") is reserved for those occasions where the "do-er" of the action is unknown.

Example:  "Prince Charming saw the glass slipper that was left behind."

2. Mix it up in terms of PUNCTUATION

Here are a few commonly misused punctuation marks that a lot of people aren't sure about:

The  semi-colon (;)  separates two complete sentences that are complementary.

Example:  "She was always covered in cinders from cleaning the fireplace; they called her Cinderella."

The  colon (:)  is used...

a. preceding a list.

Example:  "Before her stepmother awoke, Cinderella had three chores to complete: feeding the chickens, cooking breakfast, and doing the wash." 

b. as a sort of "drum roll," preceding some big revelation.

Example:  "One thing fueled the wicked stepmother's hatred for Cinderella: jealousy."  

The  dash (--)  is made by typing two hyphens (-). No spaces go in between the dash and the text. It is used...

a. to bracket off some explanatory information.

Example:  "Even Cinderella's stepsisters-who were not nearly as lovely or virtuous as Cinderella--were allowed to go to the ball." 

b. in the "drum roll" sense of the colon.

Example:  "Prince Charming would find this mystery lady--even if he had to put the slipper on every other girl in the kingdom."  


Don't say:  "Cinderella saw her fairy godmother appear. She was dressed in blue. She held a wand. The wand had a star on it. She was covered in sparkles. Cinderella was amazed. She asked who the woman was. The woman said, 'I am your fairy godmother.' She said she would get Cinderella a dress and a coach. She said she would help Cinderella go to the ball."

Instead say: (there are multiple correct ways to rewrite this, but here's one)  "Amazed, Cinderella watched as her fairy godmother appeared. The woman dressed in blue was covered in sparkles and carried a star-shaped wand. Cinderella asked the woman who she was, to which the woman replied, 'I am your fairy godmother." The fairy godmother would get Cinderella a dress and a coach; she would help Cinderella get to the ball."

4. Closely related to this, avoid CHOPPINESS

Don't say:  "She scrubbed the floors. They were dirty. She used a mop. She sighed sadly. It was as if she were a servant ."

Instead say : (again, there are multiple ways to do this)  "She scrubbed the dirty floors using a mop, as if she were a servant. She sighed sadly."


Don't say:  "The stepsisters were jealous and envious ."

Instead say :  "The stepsisters were jealous ."  (...or envious. Pick one.)


Don't say:  "The mystery lady was one who every eligible man at the ball admired."

Instead say :  "Every eligible man at the ball admired the mystery lady."

7. Use the VOCABULARY that you know.

Don't always feel you have to use big words. It is always better to be clear and use simple language rather than showing off flashy words you aren't sure about and potentially misusing them. This is not to say, however, that you should settle for very weak vocabulary choices (like "bad" or "big" or "mad").

8. But also work on expanding your VOCABULARY.

When reading, look up words you don't know. See how they're used. Start a list. Incorporate them into your writing as you feel comfortable and as they are appropriate.

9. Keep language FORMAL and avoid language of everyday speech.

Don't say:  "Cinderella was mellow and good. She never let her stepmother get to her ."

Say instead:  "Cinderella was mild-mannered and kind. She never let her stepmother affect her high spirits ."

So, essentially, when it comes to working on style, there are three things to remember:

Empower yourself with knowledge..

Learn to punctuate correctly, enhance your vocabulary, etc. Give yourself all the tools there are so that you are free to...

...Mix it up!

Avoid repetition of words and sentence structure. Variance promotes good "flow" and is more interesting for your reader.

"Write to EXPRESS, not to IMPRESS."

Above all, write actively, clearly, and concisely.

Amber Carini

Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley

©2002 UC Regents

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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