Student Learning Service

Improving Your Writing

get Adobe reader 8

Improving Your Writing

Academic writing is one of the cornerstones of university study. In all disciplines, students (and their teachers) need writing to express their ideas clearly.  In the words of George Orwell: ‘Good prose is like a windowpane.’1 At the Student Learning Service we think this is a useful metaphor: you want your reader to ‘look through’ the writing to the ideas behind. If things like paragraph structure, verb tenses, or spelling and punctuation are not as they should be, your reader may well be distracted or even confused by these surface problems – just as when we look out a mud-splattered windowpane, we have difficulty appreciating the view beyond. When the window is clean, we are unaware of the windowpane and notice only what we see through it.

It is rather easier to learn to clean a window, however, than it is to master academic writing.  However, we have created this guide as a help to you. We understand that few students today are trained in formal English grammar (unless they have learned English as a second language). Our writing guide takes you through various aspects of academic writing without assuming that you know grammatical terms. You can choose which areas of writing you want to review, and you can test your understanding of them. (Just click on the sidebar to go to one of the sections of the writing guide.)

We wish you happy writing!

1. George Orwell, ‘Why I Write,’ in Peter Davidson, ed., The Complete Works of George Orwell, vol. 18 (London: Secker & Warburg), p. 320.