There is no “I” in academic writing

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Writing |

The obligation to write in the correct style does not only apply to examinations.  The author of this article is struggling with the rigid constraints of academic style.  I am having the same struggle as I complete my master’s degree.  It’s very strange having to write about what I think without being allowed to use the word “I”! But unfortunately, this is just the way things are.  This is the style and fighting against it will only get me a bad mark.  There are a number of complex social reasons behind the different styles we write in, and part of successful writing is knowing how to manipulate styles effectively.  When you’re preparing for your exam, make sure you are familiar with the type of styles that will appear on the test!  Check my writing tips for the CAE and the IELTS to be sure you are...

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Basic writing tips

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Grammar, Writing |

English Grammar Online 4U is an excellent writing resource that provides a lot of very useful tips without getting too complicated.  Their General Information on Writing English Texts is a very good place to start improving your writing.

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Practicing phrasal verbs

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Grammar, Vocabulary |

It may not always be necessary to use phrasal verbs, but they are a big part of using English naturally and fluently.  So how do you practice them?  First we need to figure out what exactly is difficult to remember about them and then find a way to isolate that and drill it in a way that we can remember.  Read my blog post about remembering phrasal verbs if you haven’t already.  Once you have examples that you want to practice, Anki is the perfect tool for the job. Anki flashcards Anki is a free, open-source software project which is designed for repetitive practice.  Remember when you were first learning the language and you made vocabulary flashcards where one side said “green” and the other said “vert/grün/verde”?  Anki is a program which will let you make these cards on your computer and practice them on your smartphone (the Android version is free but unfortunately the iPhone version is not–you will need a data connection to practice on your iPhone for free).  The software comes in many languages and has excellent online help if you have trouble.  But what should we put on these flashcards? In my previous post, we used the example of “put up with.”  Take your personalised example and put the version without the particles on the front of the card: I can’t put _____ _____ my neighbour’s noise any longer; it’s driving me mad.  On the back of the card, put the complete sentence.  I can’t put up with my neighbour’s noise any longer; it’s driving me mad. Make examples for all of the phrasal verbs you want to learn and keep the flash cards on your phone.  You’ll be able to easily practice any time you have 5-10 spare...

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Remembering phrasal verbs

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Grammar, Vocabulary |

Once you have looked up the meaning of a phrasal verb, you will usually remember it when you see it again.  For example, to put up with something means to tolerate it.  You might read this and look it up in the dictionary and the next time you see it, you’ll remember what it means from the context.  But the difficult part is remembering all of the parts when you want to use it. The best thing to do is to take an example sentence from Using English or a dictionary and write it in your notebook with the particles removed (put the particles on a separate page or somewhere you can hide them).  Here is the example sentence from Using English: I can’t put _____ _____ my neighbour’s noise any longer; it’s driving me mad.  The context is clear from the sentence so after practicing a few times the meaning will be clear.  Now, here comes the important part. Make it personal! Don’t just use the example sentence as it is–change it so that it is personally relevant to you.  What does your neighbour do that you can’t put up with?  Play loud music?  Have a dog that barks all the time?  Park their car in your place?  Cook smelly food?  Make a mess in your building?  Put that in the sentence.  Or make it about your roommate or a family member. When you make your examples personal, you give your brain something to connect this word to, rather than trying to search through hundreds of combinations of prepositions.  Our brains have an incredible ability to make these connections.  Do you ever smell certain foods that trigger memories?  Or the smell of the ocean or fresh grass in the summer?  You want to create a connection for your vocabulary too so instead of thinking “put… up for? away with? in to? out of?  on to?”  you can think of your neighbour, their barking dog, and say “I can’t put up with my neighbour’s barking dog any longer!  It’s driving me mad!” Where to start Take the phrasal verbs you find as you read, or in lists from your textbook and add them to your Anki deck as you find new ones (read my next post about Anki and practising phrasal verbs).  Remember to put them in context, make them personal and practice, practice,...

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