Need help with your writing?

The Only Academic Book You’ll Ever Need: 600 sentence templates + 80 grammar and vocabulary tips, for both native and non-native speakers. Available on Amazon and Smashwords. Readable on your Kindle, tablet, phone or computer.


Academic language


About The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Need:

I first felt the need for a book like this back in 1998, when I started my MA at Lancaster University. I already spoke good English and had been in ELT for nearly a decade, but I still felt I lacked a wider repertoire of sentences like “A cursory glance at… reveals that…” or “… is beyond the scope of this paper.” Without that kind of language, I feared I would never truly belong to that kind of discourse community.

So, here’s what I did: At the end of each and every academic article or book I read, I made a list of useful phrases and sentence stems I could use in my own writing. This turned out to be a good move. When I wrote my dissertation, I was able to use at least 25-30% of the hundreds of sentences I’d compiled.

When I came back to Brazil, I forgot about this list for at least a decade, but fortunately I never deleted it. Cut to 2013. One day, I accidentally stumbled upon the original word document and wondered if perhaps anyone else might find my list useful. So I handpicked 70 sentences and turned them into a blog post, which, at the time, I quickly dismissed as “just a novelty no one will pay attention to.”

To my surprise, the post went viral and went on to become my most popular post to date, with an average of 300 daily visits three years after it was published. So, I was clearly on to something. One day, a crazy idea popped into my head:

What if that blog post became an e-book?

So, in January 2015, I started compiling a brand new list, which forced me to read hundreds of academic papers, beyond the field of Applied Linguistics. I read lab reports, medical experiments, doctoral theses on urban planning, literature reviews on quantum physics, you name it. By December 2015, I had amassed nearly a thousand sentence frames. But the book was still far from finished, of course.

The next step was to organize those sentences logically, check them for naturalness / frequency against corpus data, trim the list down to 500/600 items and write language tips that both native and non-native speakers might find useful. And that was the part that nearly drove me insane. I lost count of the number of times I considered scrapping the whole project, but a little voice inside my head urged me to keep going.

I don’t know what the future has in store for this book, but if it can help, say, at least 1,000 people the way my list helped me back in the 90s, it will have been worth it.

12 songs to practice the pronunciation of -ED endings

As you know, the “-ed” endings of regular past tense verbs can be pronounced in three different ways: /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/, which is the one most students tend to overuse. Click here for an overview of the rules.

Over the years, I have found that /t/ and /d/ are easier to notice and to produce if the verb comes immediately before a word beginning with a vowel sound:

liked it – /laɪktɪt/
dreamed of – /driːmdəv/

To help students get their tongues around the two sounds, I usually ask them to move /t/ and /d/ to the front of the vowel sound. This makes it obvious that there’s no room for /ɪ/:

liked it – /laɪk tɪt/
dreamed of – /driːm dəv/

Out of all the ideas and techniques I’ve used in class, this has probably been the most effective.

So I decided to put together a 7-minute video containing 12 song excerpts you can use to help your students notice how /t/ and /d/ are linked to the vowel sounds that follow. There’s a good mix of recent and older songs, which should appeal to lots of different students.

The video is suitable for late A2, B1 and B2 students, who will have learned the basic -ED rules, but may still struggle to produce the sounds accurately. The on-screen activities are all self-explanatory.

You will notice that the activities do not test whether students can choose between /t/ and /d/. The difference is barely audible in fast connected speech, and it rarely causes misunderstandings. Also, since most students tend to overuse /ɪd/ and avoid /t/ or /d/, the song excerpts focus on the latter, rather than the former.

By the way, if the video is out of synch, go back to the beginning and / or refresh the page.

Thanks for reading – and watching.

Academic Language: 70 / 600 examples

Academic language poses a lot of challenges for both native and non-native speakers. Trust me, I’ve been there!

If you’re struggling to write your term papers, reports or dissertations because you think your writing style is too informal, you’re not alone. A lot of college students find it hard to express themselves using the right words and phrases, whether or not English is their first language. In other words, you probably know exactly what to say, but can’t figure out how.

I can help you use academic language more effectively in two different ways:

a. Click here for a post containing 70 examples of academic language organized by key word.

b. If you feel you need something more comprehensive, you might want to check out my new e-book. It’s called The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Needand it contains 600 (!) sentence frames organized around 8 thematic areas such as “establishing a research territory”, “stating the aim of your paper” and “data analysis.” At the end of each chapter, you’ll also find lots of useful grammar and vocabulary tips as well as a short quiz to help you keep track of your progress.

Academic language

Thanks for reading and good luck with your academic writing!