Jul 022012

When International Students write Academic English, they generally write sentences that are too long [my record was a sentence by a Spanish girl that was 85 words long!]. Of course, this can confuse the reader [never a good idea !] and mean that your ideas are unclear.

Other students do the opposite, and write sentences that are too short; this has the effect of making your English [and your ideas] seem basic, and not well-developed.

The solution to these problems is comes in 3 steps:

1. Sentence length:
A good academic sentence will probably, but not always, be 15-30 words long, and it must be punctuated correctly. Try counting the number of words in your sentences in your own writing-are they generally within 15-30 words?

2. Punctuation marks:

The most useful punctuation mark in Academic writing is the comma. It tells the reader when to “breathe”, and makes the task of understanding much easier.

Common mistakes: using the comma at the end of a list before “and”
e.g. “He wrote an essay, a report, a dissertation, and a thesis.”

The red comma is not necessary.

Tip – if you are not very confident about where to put commas, try reading your work out aloud. Notice when you pause for breath; it is probably here that you need to put a comma.

For a long pause, use a semi-colon [;]

e.g. “Numerous authors have attempted to provide an explanation for the high incidence of asthma in these families; none have thus far succeeded. “

The semi-colon makes the reader pause for slightly longer than a comma, and has more of an impact.

3. Linking ideas

If you link your ideas together well, you demonstrate the connections between the sentences. See “Linking Ideas