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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

In your written work, you must use words which are correct and which are appropriate for academic work. This is very important if your work is to be understandable and if you are to avoid offending your readers (e.g. tutors).

The Starter Level for Use of Words covers these basic aspects and it also encourages good practice, such as using a computer spellchecker and a dictionary..

You need to use dictionaries to use words well. It is worth buying a good one. The Learning Centre has many types of dictionaries, including ones for specific subjects - and there are on-line ones. See References and Resources in the Main Menu for suggestions.

The Development Level helps you use words in the more precise and sophisticated way needed in writing at university. In your academic writing you need to express complex ideas.

  • To do this your words needs to mean exactly what you intend.
  • You also need to be aware of the different impressions different words create.
  • Assessment criteria often refer to work being 'concise'.

How you use words will influence greatly both how understandable your work is, and its style and the impression it creates. It will therefore affect your grades.

Beware. If you word process work, make sure you look at the item Warning about spellcheckers in the Starter Level topic menu.


'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).

What does this topic cover?

This topic considers how you should use words to ensure your work is clearly understood and that it is appropriate for academic work.

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.

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