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English Detective #70 Academic Vocabulary for Writing 10-4-16
October 04, 2016

(Note: at the end of this newsletter there is information about the free webinar I’ve been promising-- to help you learn academic vocabulary. If you just want the link, it’s Free Webinar: The Best Ways to Study Vocabulary.

#70 Academic Vocabulary for Writing 10-4-16

Don’t ever feel you must use fancy or difficult vocabulary in academic writing. It is not necessary, or even good, to use the most uncommon vocabulary you know when writing in university or professional settings.

Common words work very well in academic writing as long as they express your ideas clearly. In fact, on exams testing your knowledge of English (the IELTS or TOEFL), you will LOSE points for misusing fancy academic vocabulary—so only use words you understand well.

The value of “academic” vocabulary is that it often is more precise (exact) than related common words. In addition, one academic word can sometimes express a thought that would otherwise require a whole phrase.

For example, “Scientists attribute global warming to an increase in greenhouse gasses.” Instead of using ‘attribute’ I could write “Scientists think that global warming is caused by an increase in greenhouse gasses.” It takes five words (think that, is caused by) to replace two (attribute... to).

Another two examples are from Proofreading Practice. “...he (Hitler) probably never imagined the far-reaching implications of that decision.” I could have written “he probably didn’t think much about the big effects of his choice that were not immediately obvious.”

The second sentence is not only longer and more awkward. It also loses the idea of imagination—being able to picture future results—and the connotations of ”implications.” (It is far more than just ‘effects that aren’t obvious right away.’)

The conclusion restates the opening thought: “No one could have predicted all the consequences that followed from Nazi hatred of the Jews...” I could have written “No one could have guessed in advance all the results of Nazi hatred...” That paraphrase does express the same idea, but I think it is less powerful.

I hope you can see that academic vocabulary can be useful—if you use it correctly. Many academic words are more specific than related general words. They can express your thought more precisely—IF you understand their exact meanings. The best way to learn them is, as always, to read a lot and notice how they are used when you see them.

One set of words is especially important in academic writing: Transition Words. Be sure you know how to use these, and the differences between them.

This online crossword reviews some very useful academic vocabulary—from Proofreading Practice and other pages on English Hints. See how much you recognize (and which of these words you can use.)

For more on writing, see ESL Writing Tips — which includes links to a useful (downloadable) Proofreading Checklist and to a page on Academic Writing (term papers, etc.)

A Free Webinar: Help with Academic Vocabulary

As I mentioned in the first Sept. newsletter, I’ve been working the past months preparing a free webinar (and an online course for those who want more step-by-step help and personal guidance) on Mastering English Test Vocabulary.

It’s finally ready! The webinar will be on Tuesday Oct. 11 (just a week from now, to give people time to sign up.)

It will be at 8:00 in the morning Pacific Daylight time—11 AM on the U.S. East coast, late afternoon Europe, 11 PM China and the Philippines (and way too late for Australia or New Zealand...) It’s a bit early for me, but seems best for people in different parts that have shown interest.

If you would like to attend but the time is terrible for you, please let me know by responding to this newsletter. (Hit ‘reply’ at the bottom, if your email is like mine.) There will be a recording, but I may try a second live webinar if many people need a different time.

Anyway, if you are interested, there’s more information and a registration form at the Free Webinar page.

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