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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 (e-book and paperback) and Smashwords (e-book).  Remember: E-books are 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 did my MA in Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University (UK).

Whenever I started a new assignment, I usually knew exactly what I wanted to say and had no trouble organizing my ideas. What I lacked was 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 used to do: After each and every scientific article I read, I made a list of useful phrases and sentence “templates” that I could include in my own writing. This turned out to be a wise move. When I eventually wrote my dissertation, I was able to use at least 25-30% of the hundreds of sentences I’d compiled.

Fortunately, I never deleted that list.

Back in 2013, as I was purging some old files, I stumbled upon the original Word document and wondered if other people might find my list useful. So I handpicked 70 sentences and turned them into a blog post, which, at the time, I hastily dismissed as a novelty no one would pay attention to. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

To my surprise, those 70 sentences went on to become my most popular post to date, with an average of 700 daily visits. It definitely looked as if I was on to something.

So, one day, I had a crazy idea: What if that blog post became a book?

So, in January 2015, I started compiling a brand new list, which forced me to read hundreds – and I mean literally hundreds- of academic papers beyond the field of Applied Linguistics (my area of expertise). I read lab reports, medical experiments, doctoral theses on urban planning, literature reviews on quantum physics, you name it. By December, 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 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. And I did.

I don’t know what the future has in store for The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Need, but if it can help at least 1,000 people the way my list helped me back in the 1990s, my sleepless nights will have been worth the effort.


22 subject/verb agreement songs

Before you scroll down for the two videos, here’s some food for thought.

Students of all ages and levels often get the third person S wrong, and it seems important to understand why this happens and think of how we can intervene. Here are a few issues to keep in mind:

Continue reading 22 subject/verb agreement songs

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.