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!

Choosing the best verb tense

Verbs provide important information to the reader. Deciding on the correct tense can be confusing when writing about research but it’s important to use verbs consistently and correctly to create a logical, coherent flow in your writing. In academic writing there’s no single rule to follow regarding verb tense but there are some basic guidelines to help check your writing for consistency.

Start with the following verb tenses to report information in your writing.

For more tips on grammar and writing style visit the APA Style Blog. If you want to learn more about grammar check out our other posts.

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 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.

    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