Subject / Verb Agreement for ESL Writers

Subject/verb agreement in English language writing obviously means that the subject actually does what the sentence states. For example: A car’s engine runs when it’s turned on, but a car does not run down the street. It goes down the street. I write my name, but I don’t write a pencil. I write my name with a […]

Commas and the ESL Writer

Commas are the bane of many writers. Native speakers often trip over this punctuation mark, and ESL students struggle with it even more. So in this post, I will try to reduce this enigma to its essential parts. NOTE: This post is strictly for writing in American Standard English. The Queen’s English sometimes differs. The rule many […]

Teaching Writing Skills the Right Way

I teach government biologists how to write more clearly. And for the past six months, I’ve been knee-deep in curriculum design. So I thought now would be a good time to share some wisdom from the trenches, the lessons I continue to learn about how to teach writing in ways that are efficient, effective, and engaging. While these […]

How to Write Concisely in English

As a writer and editor, I have noticed that native English speakers often use extra words when writing. This is ineffective. My advice: be concise. First, let’s discuss passive voice. Passive voice turns the direct object into the subject so that something or someone else can act on it. For example, The report was submitted […]

Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing – Today!

One reason government biologists struggle to write is because they’re faced with large writing projects that seem impossible to wrap their minds around. And because the project as a whole is just too big, too scary, too overwhelming, the tendency is to put it out of one’s mind completely. It’s akin to a fight or […]

How English Thinks

Please join me in welcoming Liam Hickey to Keys to Easy Writing as a contributor to our ESL Corner. Liam is an ESL Teacher with Corporate English currently living in the Guadalajara area of Mexico. Via Willpower Careers, Liam also works as a career coach, writing résumés as well as doing some technical writing and […]

Simplify Your Verbs

A good copyeditor is always on the lookout for language that is imprecise. But what exactly is imprecise language, and how can subject matter experts or technical writers learn to find it on their own? More importantly, once it’s found, how do you replace it without using jargon or $5 words? Well here’s one place […]

Writing to Teach

The following summarizes and extends our bi-weekly Tweet Chat #WrMatters from Thursday, August 9th. I’d love to hear your feedback, since this is an idea I’m still developing. And big thanks to Shakirah Dawud and Michelle Walkden for their contributions! Writers are lifelong learners. And not just in the ever-changing realm of style guides. Because […]

Gaining Greater Focus

As you’ve probably noticed from my sporadic blog posts, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. When I’m teaching, I’m teaching. My focus is on the writer in front of me and whatever tools that person needs to become the best writer he can possibly be. When I’m developing curriculum, my only […]

Shall We Use Will?

The difference between will and shall is the stuff of editorial legend – part nuance, part fading mood, and part shibboleth. 1) Nuance. Like may and can, shall and will convey subtly different messages that the average writer will leave to the pundit to debate. But those whose writing contains legal or regulatory implications should pay […]