Tips on Writing

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I believe the writing correction or WRITE section of The Linguist is very very important. This is where you have the chance to use the words and phrases you have learned. You are under much less pressure than when you speak. You can take a little more time to try to express yourself accurately in English.

Your writing submission is a sample of your language. It is an indication of how you are doing. It is very valuable, both to you and to your tutor. So just write and submit. You should not review your writing too much before submitting it. Your writing sample need not be perfect. It should just be an indication of how you are using English. Just write down your thoughts and submit your writing. The chances are that the errors identified are also occurring in your spoken English.

When you get back your corrected writing, please treat it as a valuable piece of information. Read the corrected text out loud at least five times. Review the errors and recommended new phrases. Try to see the pattern of your mistakes. Look for phrases in your new reading and listening that can help you improve in your areas of weakness.

If you are a Basic member you can write 300 words a month. If you are a Premium member you can write 1000 words a month. This is not a lot. Our Linguist correctors try to correct every mistake. We want the corrected version to be the same as native speaker English. We want you to spend a lot of time studying the corrected text so that you can learn and improve.

From now on our correctors will not normally correct spelling mistakes. You should use the spellchecker to make sure that your spelling is correct. We will no longer treat contractions as a mistake. Although contractions are not usually acceptable in formal writing, they are common in normal communication and correspondence. Similarly, even though it is considered good practice not to use numerals for numbers up to and including ten, we will not treat it as a mistake if you do.

You invest a lot of time in writing, and our corrector spends a lot of time correcting writing. Finding mistakes is a good thing. It tells you what to work on. It is like finding a new content item in our Library with new words to learn. Remember that in language learning the goal is not perfection, it is constant improvement.

Motivation and writing

Writing is a powerful way to improve language accuracy. Unlike when you speak, in writing you control the situation. You can take your time. You can experiment using new words and phrases that you have learned. At The Linguist we encourage learners to take the following approach to their writing.

Write easily. Do not try to compose complicated prose. Use your new phrases. We will correct every error we find. We may miss a few mistakes. We may also over-correct in some cases. There is always room for different interpretations of what is correct usage.

The important thing is for you the learner to focus on what we call CLEAN English. Clear, Logical, Effective, Accurate and Natural English. When you finish writing, before submitting the text, check your prose against the CLEAN criteria.

Is it clear? Are the sentences short and to the point? Are there run on sentences separated by commas? Have you used pronouns like “it” or “which” in such a way that it is not clear what the reference is?

Is it logical? Do your verbs agree with their subjects? Have you got the verb tenses right? Have you left steps out in your arguments? Are you comparing like to like? If you use words like “however’ or “therefore” are they used correctly?

Is it effective? Have you used too many words? Can you eliminate some? Do you have a lot of meaningless words like “by the way” or “frankly speaking”? Have you made dramatic statements that you have not proven or substantiated?

Is it accurate? Have you used the noun form instead of the adjective form or vice versa? Are you sure the words you have used really mean what you think they do? Which words are you unsure of ?

Is it natural? Which prepositions are you unsure of? Are there constructions that you have tried but which you doubt really work in English? Are there translations from your own language?

Go through and check you writing. Note the things that you are unsure of. Now send it in and see what The Linguist corrector does. When you get it back look at your original and the corrected version again. Note the full list of correct phrases provided by The Linguist. Check out what category of mistakes was most common. Now read the corrected version out loud five times.

This process is much more severe than what we do in our conversations. In conversations we just let the learners speak and make only a few comments on phrases or pronunciation. In correcting writing we do not want to let too much go. This is the chance to work on accuracy and CLEAN English. The question is does this strict approach discourage or demotivate the learner??? That is what we will find out.

Any comments or opinions form learners or teachers out there?

Written and spoken contexts

In trying to copy from the Writing correction area of The Linguist web site I ran into problems with HTML text. The result looks a little messy. I am sorry. However, this text is interesting in that it deals with the issue of grammar based learning as opposed to context based learning.

Context based learning means reading and listening to interesting input and studying meaningful words and phrases, regularly writing and reviewing one’s writing, and speaking. This will lead to better results than studying grammar, defining parts of speech, trying to remember rules, deliberately preparing for standardized tests etc.??

Writing can be particularly useful since it forces the learner to think and to review what he or she has expressed in the new language. Until the learner is quite fluent, the written and spoken language should be as similar as possible. Only at a later stage should they diverge, with the written language becoming more sophisticated and the spoken language becoming more casual. That has been my experience.

By and from

Prepositions cause a lot of trouble for learners. Only a lot of exposure to prepositions in different situations will give learners the feel for which one to use. Sometimes different contexts give different answers. An example is the following question asked by Tamaki on The Linguist Forum.

Tamaki asked on Mar 3:

My question this time is the preposition which comes after “is given”.

I believe there is a slight difference between below two sentences.

a) I was given this book by my parents.
b) I was given this book from my parents.

I think (a) sentence sounds a bit more focused on WHO gave it to you, but I’m not so sure about this.
Is there any difference, or does either of them sound odd to you?


Posts: 6
From: Vancouver
Registered: Oct 19, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 4, 2005 12:06 AM

Thank you Steve!
I searched for the sentences including “given from” on Google and here are some examples I’ve got.
(Yes, the number of hit is quite small compared to the “given by” sentences.)
Could you please clarify the idea when to use “given from”?
(Some of the sentences might not have beem written by a native English speaker, though.)

– Once again the wood was given from government reources.
– A short report was given from the World Show Committee.
– The organ was given from memorial funds in memory of Peg Reid.
– The greatest gift I’ve ever known is the love that was given from one unknown.
– What is fundamental in all of this is the support Ben was given from his school.


Posts: 59
Registered: Sep 24, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 4, 2005 7:58 AM


I would recommend that you use “given by” in all situations.

“Given from” seems to be used when the giver is not what one might call an agent or a possible agent. From your examples

– Once again the wood was given from government resources

We would probably use “given by government” but “from government resources” because resources can not act, while government can. Someone else gave and took from the resources.

A short report was given from the World Show Committee.

This should by “given by” unless a report was given by someone who took the report from the Committee or representend them so that the Committee is not the agent,

– The organ was given from memorial funds in memory of Peg Reid.

Again the agent or giver was not the funds, someone gave and took from the funds.

– The greatest gift I’ve ever known is the love that was given from one unknown.

I think this should be “by”.

– What is fundamental in all of this is the support Ben
was given from his school.

I would have said “by” or “received from his school.”

I guess when the meaning places more emphasis on the one receiving rather the one acting, there might be a tendency to use “given from”. I would avoid it.


Posts: 59
Registered: Sep 24, 2004

Re: given -by- or -from-?
Posted: Mar 3, 2005 6:31 PM

Given by. I cannot think of a sentence with given from. You can try it on Google or in The Linguist. “I hear from my parents”, “I received from my parents”, “I was told by my parents”.