Language development


Don’t let spelling bring you down

Like it or not, spelling actually matters! For some of us it doesn’t come easily but every written assessment you submit will be marked for English expression which includes grammar, spelling and puntuation. If you want to express yourself clearly and achieve the highest possible grades it’s important to take the time to proofread assignments for spelling errors.

A good starting point is to select English(Australia) in Word before you start working on your document and make sure you use Microsoft Editor. If you need help to set up editing for Microsoft Word have a look at this quick guide or check out the free training on LinkedIn Learning (requires QUT sign-in).

Another strategy to improve your writing is to learn more about it. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to writing and language use but Oxford English Dictionary has a great section on its site, Lexico, which contains lots of quick-reference spelling tips. For example, if you can’t remember whether the plural of tomato is spelled tomatoes or tomatos, then you can jump straight to plurals of nouns post to get some advice. There’s also a handy list of common misspellings, arranged in alphabetical order and a guide to the differences between British and American spelling.

No matter how you go about it the important thing to remember is that poor spelling leaves an impression so it’s worth taking the time to get it right!

Top 3 Write Up tips

Write Up is a wonderful support service for students and I feel so lucky to be one of the facilitators for the team.
We get students to work together, give feedback and provide support for understanding, responding and structuring assignment tasks, checking and integrating research, and help with language.
So far, we’ve had students from a wide array of faculties, and I thought I would share the most common issues that students have asked us for help with.

Here are my top three writing tips
    1. Before you even set pen to paper, get organised! Gather all your resources together from your tutes and lectures (especially your assignment task sheet with the criteria!). Now you’re all set to begin. Your task sheet is your treasure map. It is your guide to what you need to cover in your assignment.

    2. Keep your sentences short for clarity—if you see any sentences that are running over 3 or 4 lines, it’s time to break them up with full stops!

    3. Always be specific about the ‘subject’ of your sentence and who you are referring to. For example, if you are currently referring to your theorists as ‘they’, it’s time to use their name, or be more specific about their role. Make your writing as clear for the reader as you can. If you only use words like ‘they’ or ‘she/he’ the reader won’t know if you’re talking about the ‘nurses’ or the ‘patients’. Don’t make them guess!

We look forward to seeing you in one of our Write Up sessions.
They’re fun and helpful and we can’t wait to meet you all.

Write Up facilitator

Academic phrases for writing

Find writing a challenge? Can’t think of another way to express yourself?

The Academic Phrasebank is a fantastic resource if you want to improve your academic writing or need assistance writing up your research. The main menu is arranged according to the sections of a typical research paper but it also includes the following general communicative functions of academic writing:

  • Being Cautious
  • Being Critical
  • Classifying and Listing
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Defining Terms
  • Describing Trends
  • Describing Quantities
  • Explaining Causality
  • Giving Examples
  • Signalling Transition
  • Writing about the Past
  • The phrases can be used to assist you in thinking about the content and organisation of your written work, or you can incorporate them into your writing where appropriate. Just make sure you know what they mean!

    There is also a Kindle or PDF download version available.

    Academic Phrasebank website

    Using phrasal verbs

    A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb combined with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Sometimes the meaning is really obvious but more often than not the meaning cannot be guessed by looking at the individual words. For example, look up can mean ‘look in an upward direction’ whereas give up means to ‘stop trying to do something’.

    Check out English Grammar Online to learn about phrasal verbs containing up, on, turn, out, down, off, look, come, get and go. The site includes short quizzes to test understanding.

    Using news articles to improve reading

    University study requires a lot of reading and, like most things, good reading comes with practice. Improving comprehension skills involves reading a wide range of texts and news articles can be an excellence source of material.

    An excellent site for current news stories from Australia and around the world is the ABC. For students who use English as an Additional Language Breaking News English has a large range (and back catalogue) of news items with comprehension questions. Articles are available for differing levels of reading ability and there are many different activities provided. There are also lots of discussion and writing tasks to take the activities further.

    Using apostrophes

    Many students are unsure when to use an apostrophe which often leads to overuse or avoiding it completely.
    Basically, an apostrophe should be used to indicate the following:

  • Possession or ownership. For example – Peter’s car | my brother’s friend | in QUT’s best interest.
  • Leaving out letters or numbers. For example – I think she’s here | it started in July ’18 | they’re friends.
  • Have a look at this simple guide from Monash University which tells you everything you need to know about the correct use of apostrophes in just a few minutes.

    If you’d like to delve a little deeper check out this resource from which features all sorts of helpful rules, real-world examples, and quizzes.

    Making flashcards with Quizlet

    Making flashcards is a great way to learn new terms and definitions. In the past, this meant buying some pieces of card, writing a term on one side and a definition on the other. Quizlet brings this process online and allows you to take your cards anywhere on your device. An added bonus is that it also has a range of games and quizzes to test your knowledge. You do have to create an account but it’s free!

    Start making your Quizlet flashcards now or learn more about it in the following video.


    Using collocations

    Collocations are words that are often found together. When combined, these words have a specific meaning. Sometimes the meaning is clear but often collocations have a unique meaning that people naturally learn as they use a language. For example, run on is a collocation which means ‘to continue’.

    Visit Learning Collocations to learn more about which words go together. You can input a word and the site produces a list of English collocations. You can also specify the word form (noun, verb, adverb etc) and ask for a list of synonyms and antonyms.

    screen capture of the learning collocations website