English has too many grammar rules, every rule has multiple exceptions and you can say the same thing in many different ways. But we’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to our coaches regarding challenges with English. We’ve all received some training in ESL coaching, and we’re sensitive to the many needs of our students. Hopefully, these tips, tricks and resources will help you master the language and become a better writer.
Tips for Clarity
When English is not your native language, it can be hard to convey ideas effectively, create clear sentences, and use concise wording. Pay extra attention to these things, and ask your coach for help if you need it.
- Tightening wordiness: If you can say the same thing with less words, do it.
- Using active verbs/structures: Instead of writing “the report was published by the agency,” write “the agency published the report.” Emphasize the subject that is DOING the action.
- Using parallel structures: Instead of writing “The journalist was asked to write her story quickly, accurately and in an ethical way,” write “The journalist was asked to write her story quickly, accurately and ethically.”
- Maintaining a single POV: Keep your subject consistent. Don’t write “For our group project, you were graded on the clarity of your work.”
- Sentence variety: Vary the length and construction of your sentences. This creates a smoother reading experience and makes your work more engaging.
- Consistency: If you refer to something by a certain name, use that same name throughout your piece.
Academic writing in English follows a fairly straightforward pattern. Although style differs by major, our goal is to state our point and then provide evidence to support it. Creating an outline before you begin writing is the best way to organize your ideas and make your piece clear. Plus, it saves time. Even if it’s just a bullet-point list, always jot down a plan before you begin.
Click below to find outlines and templates in your discipline. Please note that style may vary from assignment to assignment. These templates are simply meant to guide your thinking when creating your best outline.
CMS/CLD—Academic Essay Outline
English writing has very strict rules for giving credit for information or ideas you got from someone else. According to Merriam-Webster (2019), plagiarism is the act of stealing words, ideas or visual aids from a source without providing credit. Sometimes, people accidentally plagiarize, so be very careful to use your own words when taking notes or summarizing.
Plagiarism includes the following:
- Using exact words from a source without quotation marks
- Using quotation marks but not providing the source
- Using ideas, visual materials or digital media from a source without crediting the author/s
- Citing a source incorrectly
- Copying someone else’s work and claiming it as your own
You do NOT need to cite the following:
- A personal story or anecdote
- Results from a study that you conducted
- Photographs that you took or graphs that you made
- Information that is universally known and/or generally agreed upon, such as basic definitions or descriptions, major historical events, etc. If you find the same piece of information uncited in at least five credible sources, you likely do not need to cite it.
In short, you should cite anything that is not common knowledge or from your own, lived experience. If you are unsure, cite it.
How to avoid plagiarism:
- Make sure all direct quotes are in quotation marks.
- As you’re writing notes, mark which ideas are from outside sources and which are your own.
- State the information in your own words. You might try reading the information you want to include, then paraphrasing the information verbally, as if you were explaining it to a friend. You can also write key words and phrases, then write the whole idea in your own words. Make sure you compare your paraphrased version with the original to check for accuracy and overlapping wording. Phrasing that mimics the original source should be quoted.
- Avoid cutting and pasting from sources.
- Include in-text citations and a reference list.
- Do your work independently.
Purdue Owl: Extensive guides and examples.
UT ESL Classes For exchange students studying abroad at UT.
Grammar Tips and Tricks: Common mistakes and how to avoid them.
UT International Office: Coaching, advising, social events and labs.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary: The best online source for words. (Also includes a thesaurus.)
Newsroom 101: Outstanding practice tool for journalists, but useful for everyone.