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Topic Information

Why this topic is important

Where do I start?

Do I need Starter or Development Level?
- Starter Level Skill Check
- Development Level Skill Check

- Starter Level Advice
- Starter Level Practice
- Starter Level Checklist

- Development Level Advice
- Development Level Practice
- Development Level Checklist

Why this topic is important

Why are the rules of written English so important?

To write well you must use the rules of written language correctly.

If you don't follow the rules, your reader may not understand you. If your writing is assessed this will affect your marks and grades.

This topic helps you to follow those rules.

If you word-process your work, beware of using a 'Grammar Checker' on your computer to check your use of rules. What is 'correct' depends on what you want to say. Grammar Checkers sometimes give strange suggestions. Use them to alert you to a possible problem, rather than to always do as they suggest.

What does this topic cover?

English grammar is simpler than that of many other languages. This topic covers the few rules you need in writing for your course.

The Starter Level covers basic rules which are crucial if you are to be understood. The Development Level helps you to use longer, more complex sentences and therefore to use more rules of written English.You need to be able to use long sentences because:

  • you need to express complex ideas - it is unlikely that you will be able to do so using only short sentences
  • the 'style' of your writing needs to be appropriate for academic work (using only short sentences may make your work look simple!). Style is affected by the way your sentences are put together.
You need to also look at the Development Level for Punctuation, which is closely linked to the rules covered in this section.

'Style' is hard to describe. A person's 'style' is made up of the way they talk, how they move, their clothes and hair, and their attitudes (e.g. laid back, energetic). Everybody has a personal style. Any written work also has a style, which makes an impression on the reader.

There is no one 'right' style. There is a good style for a particular piece of work, for its topic, purpose, type of work and reader. Self Test 1, Different Writing Styles in What is Good Written English at University? helps you to think about style (see the Main Menu).

Video clips - lecturer's comments

Lecturer Name: Jeanette Baker
Lecturer Description: Teaches Marketing in the Faculty of Organisation and Management

Audio only
Text transcript

Lecturer Name: Chris Hopkins
Lecturer Description: Teaches English in the Faculty of Society and Development

Audio only
Text transcript

Using this topic

We try to avoid using grammatical terms, but there may be no other way to describe something. If you come across such a term, go to Definitions at the top of the page to see what it means.

This topic deals only with areas where students often need help, not with the whole of English grammar. For books on grammar see References and Resources in the Main Menu.

If you have difficulty with the Practice exercises and with the ideas in Advice in Writing for University Courses, it may be worth contacting Student Services. They can conduct a screening for dyslexia and suggest ways you can get support to improve your skills. See References and Resources in the Main Menu for where to find Student Services.

Note. Throughout Writing for University Courses any examples which are incorrect have an asterisk (*) before them.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004