Academic writing


Students who intend to go to a British school or university often need a certain proficiency in written English. They will need it for essays, reports, notes, dissertations etc. Often students know they have difficulty writing effectively but struggle to know why.

You can help them by identifying their weak areas in an analytical way. The following is a list of criteria that you can usually apply to writing:

  • appropriate level for the reader e.g. (instruction manuals often get this wrong!)
  • appropriate vocabulary (fairly formal for an essay)
  • range of vocabulary and use of technical terms
  • correct grammar and structure
  • effective introduction, including signposting for the rest of the piece
  • effective use of paragraphs
  • accurate use of punctuation esp. full stops, commas and colons
  • readable sentences (not too short and not too long). I usually recommend keeping sentences below 25 words.
  • logical ordering and number of paragraphs
  • linking sentences
  • referencing and bibliography (when required)
  • and of course, answering the question!

Writing effectively is quite a complicated task as students need to master a number of skills and one that a large number of native writers don’t achieve. Work on the problem areas one at a time so your student gets a sense of progress.

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2 Responses to Academic writing


  1. Christine-O says:

    Thank you for this, Ian. I am teaching a student this week who is very committed and hardworking and wants to be able to write essays in English for her French exams. Would you give the same advice in this case?


  3. IanBarker says:

    Yes I would but only after checking with the student exactly what the exam requires.

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