What is it?

An ability to write clearly is essential if you are to achieve success on your programme of study. The majority of the assessments you will undertake require the completion of a piece of written work; the marks you receive for these pieces of work will reflect, in part, your ability to convey your ideas clearly and persuasively.

Writing to a high standard is a difficult skill for many people to develop. In the first place, it requires conscious effort; for example, if you know that you have difficulties in using the apostrophe properly, consider each instance of its use when you come across it in a book or a journal article and try to understand why it has been employed in that way. Developing this ability will take time; it is not easily corrected by reading a textbook or a study guide. However, with effort and application, your writing ability will be enhanced.

Developing your writing skills will not only enhance the quality of your work; it will also provide you with highly effective written communication skills, which are particularly sought after by employers.

Academic Writing

Academic writing refers to the ability to write for an academic audience. It is somewhat different from writing a blog entry, for example, or a piece of reflection. Academic writing is more formal in tone and requires an authoritative and confident style. This is achieved by using the third person, for example (‘it is argued that’), rather than the first (‘I think that’), adding references, and confidently using technical vocabulary.

English language

Gaining a sound understanding of English language and the principles of grammar is not an easy process, but it is possible to improve the quality of your writing by developing an awareness of the most common mistakes.


Academic writing

Assessing your writing for academic style

A simple tool to help you evaluate whether your writing is adhering to the conventions of academic style. It could also be very effectively used for peer assessment.

Academic writing: purpose, structure and clarity

Do you know what lecturers are looking for when assessing your work? This checklist is designed to make key marking criteria explicit. It provides a set of questions you can use to focus your work, ensure your work is written in an academic style, enable you to aim for the highest marks or assess the writing of your peers.

English language

Sentence construction

This e-lesson provides clear and helpful guidance on how to construct clear and effective sentences.

Parts of speech

This worksheet introduces you to the different elements or parts of speech which make up a simple sentence e.g. noun, verb, adjective. If you know little or nothing about English grammar, start with this worksheet. You'll need to understand parts of speech to do the more advanced worksheets on sentence structure and grammar.


A worksheet that will help you to iron out those apostrophe mistakes in your work. It includes plenty of exercises to help you get it right.

Twelve common grammatical errors in writing

This set of guidelines, written by Peter Chapman, provides a really useful overview of proofreading and the mistakes to look out for in your own work.


Academic Writing

For an overview of the principal characteristics of academic writing, have a look at our guide:

Guide to Academic Writing

There are more guides available on aspects of the writing process, which may be found here.

There are a number of other useful resources available, including:

Gillet, A. (2014) Using English for Academic Purposes. Andy Gillet Consulting Ltd

A very useful website setting out the fundamentals of good academic writing.

Palmer, R. (2002) Write in style. London: Routledge

This book tackles key aspects of writing contributing to good style, such as accuracy, concision and good continuity. It shows how to structure a good paragraph, how to hold the reader's interest, and how to match an appropriate style to an audience.

Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook. 4th edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Chapter 12 (Chapter 9 in previous editions) starts with a guide to the ‘stylistic conventions of academic writing’, and continues to take you through topics such as the difference between subjectivity and objectivity, and the four main writing styles used in Higher Education: descriptive, argumentative, evaluative and personal.

University of Manchester - Academic Phrasebank

A very useful resource that will familiarise you with the language and phrases of academic writing.

Additional titles:

Bailey, S. (2018) Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students. 5th edn. Abingdon: Routledge

Clark, S. and Pointon, G. (2016) The Routledge Student Guide to English Usage. Abingdon: Routledge

Galvan, J. and Galvan, M. (2017) Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Abingdon: Routledge

Harris, R. A. (2017) Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Abingdon: Routledge

Harris, R. A. (2017) Writing with Clarity and Style: A Guide to Rhetorical Devices for Contemporary Writers. Abingdon: Routledge

Jakeman, V., Harrison, M. and Paterson, K. (2022) Improve your grammar: the essential guide to accurate writing. London: Bloomsbury

Jegede, F., Hargreaves, C. et al. (2020) Writing Successful Undergraduate Dissertations in Social Sciences. Abingdon: Routledge

Kornuta, H. and Germaine, R. (2019) A Concise Guide to Writing a Thesis or Dissertation. 2nd edn. Abingdon: Routledge

Wentzel, A. (2018) A Guide to Argumentative Research Writing and Thinking: Overcoming challenges. Abingdon: Routledge

English language

For an overview of common writing errors, have a look at our factsheet.

There are lots of websites dealing with English grammar and language use. Two wesbites, in particular, are very useful:

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

This site is clearly split into three categories of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Each section takes you progressively through its topic — these range from commonly misspelled words to more advanced grammar concepts — finishing with one or two easy-to-complete online exercises, with feedback. Please note, the spelling sections reflect American English.

British Council - English Grammar

This site provides an overview of key elements of English grammar with accompanying exercises for you to complete.

Woods, G. (2001) English Grammar Workbook for Dummies. New York: Hungry Minds

An accessible overview of the fundamentals of English grammar; a great place to start on the journey towards improving your writing skills.

You might also find the following items useful:

Lewis, M. and Hayo, R. (2003) Study Skills for Speakers of English as a Second Language. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Rose, J. (2007) The Mature Student's Guide to Writing. 2nd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave

Swan, M. (2005) Practical English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.