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Indefinite articles and abbreviations

Understanding the correct usage of indefinite articles and abbreviations can be a challenge for both native and non-native English speakers. Should it be a MRI scan or an MRI scan; a UNESCO heritage site or an UNESCO heritage site? This post first describes the difference between acronyms and initialisms, before explaining the reason why we use an MRI scan, for example, despite the abbreviation beginning with a consonant.

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More conditional forms

Having explored the function of previous post, here we consider more conditional forms that do not necessarily follow the conditional clause + dependent clause structure, but do still express hypothetical meaning.

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More Latin abbreviations

By engaging with the literature either in published books, journal articles or other academic material, you will undoubtedly encounter common Latin abbreviations (cf., et al., etc.). Then, in the case of the academic writing of assignments, dissertations and theses, there will be opportunities to use these abbreviations to guide your readers.

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The conditionals: first, second and third

Conditionals are structures used in English grammar to describe events or states that may happen/be true in the present and future, or that might have happened/been true in the past. In this post the first, second and third conditionals are presented.

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Order of adjectives

When more than one adjective is used to modify a noun, or when nouns are used to modify another noun, the order of adjectives needs to follow a particular sequence. For example, we could say a delicious mature blue cheese but not a blue delicious mature cheese. This post defines the positions for different groups of adjectives with examples given.

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Writing an abstract

Academic, scientific or medical papers all make use of an abstract to summarise the work. This allows an interested reader to get a feel for the paper, and perhaps holds the key to whether the work meets their interest or purpose. So, despite being the smallest section of a dissertation, thesis or journal article, writing an abstract is a vital stage that should serve to draw the reader in.

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Prefixes and suffixes

The use of prefixes and suffixes in written and spoken English, known as affixation, allows us to extend our vocabulary range by modifying the beginning (prefix) or ending (suffix) of root words in order to alter their meaning. This post offers examples of affixation to guide writers towards broadening their linguistic range.

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Latin abbreviations: e.g. and i.e.

The two Latin abbreviations of e.g. and i.e. are commonly used in academic texts, so it is essential to understand what they mean and how they function in English usage. This post defines and describes how to use these two abbreviations, with practical examples provided.

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Homonyms

This post explores the nature of homonyms as a word class. A definition and examples are given before moving on to consider polysemy, homographs and homophones, which are all part of the same word class family.

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The future tense

There are a number of ways to present the future tense in English, each with their own function and form. This post will present the different approaches and for every form, the function and practical examples will be given to help improve and consolidate the learner’s understanding of the future tense and its use.

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How to use adverbs correctly

When writing or speaking English, either in formal or informal settings, we need to use adverbs correctly to add colour and depth to our language use. This post explores the function of adverbs, where they can be placed in our sentences and the types of adverbs that feature in the English language. Examples are given as a guide to ensure correct and effective usage.

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The passive tense

When writing academically or professionally, the passive tense (or passive voice) is often used to place emphasis on the thing rather than the person who did the thing. This allows us to avoid repetition, to express importance, or helps us when the person who did the action is not known.

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Using hyphens effectively

When writing academically or professionally, we may encounter challenges when using hyphens (-), such as how we should use them and when we should use them. This post presents some easy to follow rules to ensure that your writing is not affected by ineffective or inappropriate hyphenation.

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The present simple tense in all its glory

Ever wanted to know the full range of situations when the use of the present simple tense is appropriate? Read on …. This blog presents eight occasions where the present simple tense is required, so that we can do justice to this undervalued but essential tense.

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Using the apostrophe

When using the apostrophe, many non-native and native speakers have difficulty in achieving its accurate and appropriate placement, as the apostrophe has a range of functions in the English language. Some uses like contractions (I can’t help / I’ll help) are straightforward, while others such as possession (The teacher’s meeting vs the teachers’ meeting) are more challenging. This post will help identify the range of circumstances where using the apostrophe is appropriate, and where so, how this can be achieved.

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Antonyms

Antonyms are pairs or groups of words that are notionally opposite in meaning, such as night/day, boy/girl, long/short, hot/cold, etc. This post describes the four categories of antonyms that feature in the use of English, explains the characteristics of each and offers a number of examples of each type.

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Colons and semi-colons

Punctuation is a challenging aspect of English writing, and many writers encounter problems using colons and semi-colons. However, there are a number of definite rules that can be followed to help ensure their correct usage in academic and formal writing.

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Using synonyms effectively

When engaged with your academic writing, your first objective is to get those ideas down on paper. This is the creative phase where your main focus is on producing content that satisfies the objectives of your assignment brief or research proposal. Whether the content needs to shine at this point depends on the author. Some believe that content should be polished as you go, but most authors prefer to get the ideas down on paper first, and then later focus on enhancing the content to make it more scholarly and engaging.

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Using abbreviations

Non-native academic writers at all levels, from undergraduates to researchers, often find the manner of placing and presenting in-text abbreviations of regularly used terms such as European Union (EU), radio frequency Identification (RFID), printed circuit board (PCB), etc., somewhat challenging. Consequently, several questions arise:

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Citing authors

When citing authors in academic papers in-text citations vary, with some systems employing numbering while others state the authors’ names and dates of publication. For those employing the Harvard Referencing System the reader is able to view the names of some or all of the cited authors’ names, and the date of the publication, without needing to refer directly to the referencing section of the document. One problem which can occur in this case is the over-insertion of the same authors and dates in concurrent streams of text, particularly when no other publications have been mentioned to cloud the reader’s understanding of whose ideas or assertions are being presented.

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Using Linking Structures

When proofreading scientific articles, the readability of some content is let down by the use of short informative sentences that have not been linked or connected to those that follow. This type of writing style, while perfectly functional in presenting data and information, is less engaging for the reader as continuity is interrupted by the repeated imposition of the new sentence structures. This obstruction to the text’s flow can be simply overcome by utilising common linking structures to enhance the connection of some adjoining sections.

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Proofreading strategies

Once your written document has been completed, the final task that remains is to use your proofreading strategies to check the text for errors, inconsistencies and style. This process is crucial to ensure that your text engages the reader and captures their attention, because if proofreading strategies are overlooked or dismissed then you run the risk of the reader rejecting your article, assignment or dissertation due to inaccuracies or poor presentation.

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British vs American suffixes

>British and American English are very similar in most respects. However, there are some small but important differences in the way that some vocabulary groups are formed. In this article we will explore the role of suffixes. For example, whereas in British English you write centre, litre and theatre; in American English you would need to change the -re suffixes to -er. For example, center, liter and theater.

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Shuffle the pack

While proofreading an academic assignment this morning, I found the phrase a lot of used repeatedly in the discussion. Of course, when writing a discussion or essay about a challenging new theme, the last thing on any writer’s mind will be creating colourful synonyms for their favourite words or expressions.

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Heading for university study

Studying English is a challenging task, especially if your aim is to progress into university study. Developing your writing style and improving your reading capabilities are fundamental to ensuring that your time in university is successful and rewarding. Therefore, preparation is key!

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