Teaching formal writing

Oxford University Press

Solutions-Writing-Challenge-logo-WEBIn January we asked over 450 teachers from around the world to vote for the biggest writing challenge they face in their classroom. Since then we’ve dedicated a month to each of the top three voted for challenges with a series of webinars and blog posts from some of Oxford’s top teacher trainers. During our survey we also received some fantastic comments from teachers telling us about other writing challenges they’ve encountered. Join us as we take on 3 extra challenges raised by teachers like you. In this blog Olha Madylus addresses the first of these challenges:

‘My students find formal writing challenging and keep using informal vocabulary’.

Maybe this is something you have experienced? Teenage learners in particular can struggle with formal writing. They rarely use formal vocabulary even in their first language, and don’t see the relevance of formal writing. However, for most teenagers this will prove an…

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How to Effortlessly Write an Abstract

English with a Smile


We’ll look at some useful phrases you can use when you’re writing an abstract of your paper.

First of all:

What’s an abstract?

An abstract is a summary of your study, essay or project. It’s normally used for scientific or academic projects, but you can also use an abstract for other kinds of projects. Because an abstract is only one paragraph, the reader can quickly decide whether reading the full article or study will be worth his or her time.

Your abstract should contain the title of your essay/study/project, and the next line will have the name of the author(s).

In the abstract you’re expected to write the following things:

– Your motivation for doing this project/essay etc.

– How you did this project

– What the results were

– The conclusions and implications or predictions for the future.

I found this YouTube video very practical too.

Here are some…

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Crash Course in CV Writing

English with a Smile

As promised and due to popular request, I was going to explain you in a nutshell how to write a CV (or Resume as Americans say).

There are a few sections you need to prepare.

I recommend writing them in the order that I indicate here.

Oh yeah, before we begin, keep this carefully in mind: your CV is going to be only one page. This is the standard format. Even if you’re the most interesting person in the world, which of course you are, you’re not going to need three pages.

CVLaurent Guedon

French CV..

1     Personal Details

This section must have your name, address, telephone number and email. If any of them is missing, you’re going to be in trouble because the company won’t be able to find you, and if your CV is read by a computer it will automatically reject your application.

You don’t need…

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English Learning: Writing about graphs, tables and charts


LearnEnglish Teens – British Council

Writing about graphs, tables and charts is an important skill, not just in exams like IELTS, but in lots of areas of study and work. Check out our latest great writing activity here for tips, practice exercises and lots of useful vocabulary!

Writing about a bar chart – http://goo.gl/ppg5kI

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Academic writing and the grammar of words

Oxford University Press

Julie MooreClose-up of Dicionary entry in dictionary, a lexicographer for the new Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English, looks at the benefit of using dictionary skills in academic writing.

In ELT, we tend to approach grammar and vocabulary as two quite separate strands, mostly for the convenience of teaching. Of course, we all know that, in reality, they’re closely interwoven. And perhaps nowhere more so than in EAP (English for Academic Purposes), where complex constructions and the importance of appropriate vocabulary choices often make an understanding of lexicogrammar (the grammar of words) absolutely key to writing clearly and persuasively.

Consider the underlined phrases in the following three examples of student writing – are they issues of vocabulary or grammar?

  • This essay aims to exploring how children’s lifestyles can both cause and address the issue of increasing child obesity.
  • Some of these areas are located in seismic belts and encounter with the risk of…

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Writing Competitions

Hey everyone! 😀 Sorry for not being active last week, I was at the linguistics seminar at Petnica Science Center (http://www.petnica.rs/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27&Itemid=41). It was amazing! I’ll write a blog post about it as soon as I find the right words to describe the time spent there. 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about some writing competitions…

1) Konkurs za najbolji literarni rad ili strip na engleskom jeziku

“My English Book 2014”

Pozivamo sve učenike uzrasta osnovnih i srednjih škola iz Republike Srbije da nam pošalju svoju priču, esej, pesmu ili strip na engleskom jeziku na temu po sopstvenom izboru.

Stručni žiri doneće odluku o izboru više najboljih radova, koji će biti objavljeni u knjizi “My English Book 2014”. Knjiga će imati svoju promociju na Beogradskom sajmu knjiga u oktobru 2014. godine, a tri najbolja rada po oceni žirija biće i posebno nagrađena.

Rok za dostavu radova: 10. maj 2014. godine
Proglašenje nagradjenih i dodela nagrada: 7. jun 2014. godine

Vaše radove možete dostaviti na e-mail adresu: myenglishbook@englishbook.rs ili poštom na The English Book, Staro sajmiste 29, 11 070 Beograd.

2) Macmillan Short Story Writing Competition


That’s all for now… 😉 Good luck and have a nice day!

Luka R.

How to Write Great Sentences for Emails – Using Connectors

English with a Smile


Joi Ito

A reader of the newsletter asked me to write about this subject.

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to write complicated language for newsletters. The opposite is true. Many people receive hundreds of emails every day, and they need to understand quickly what you want. What makes an email easier to understand is to use correct spelling and make correct sentences.

Spelling: Some people are incredibly lazy and they don’t check their spelling. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, check it in your (online) dictionary. Or check in Google translate. Nothing is easier now that we’re all writing online.

Making correct sentences: Most mistakes are made in the connecting words. Learning how to use “and,” “but,” “while,” “according to” and “on the other hand” are really basic skills that every email writer should know! You need to know in which situations you…

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И заједничко ћутање пуно је узбудљивог разговора

Ciao everyone! What’s up? This is my Serbian essay. My friends seemed to like it, so I decided to post it here. You can read it both in Serbian and English (I didn’t want to publish only the English version, because it doesn’t sound the same when translated. It somehow loses the true value. I did my best and hope, among others, that foreign visitors will receive the real message (if there is one anyway :D) and realize the means of this essay). Share your impressions in the comments. 🙂 By the way, the topic of the essay is: “Shared silence is also full of exciting talk”.


„Речи су врло често сувишне и превише опасне. Њима се грли, милује, вређа, удара. Ћутање, пак, ретко коме може наудити. Оно говори кад речи не могу. То је наш једини одговор у поједином тренутку. Покрет руку, мимика, осмех, загонетан поглед…

У животу постоје веома посебне особе са којима пролазимо кроз воду и ватру. Заједнички доживљаји нанизани као пера на концу пријатељства која красе сваки тренутак проведен крај ње.“

Многи кажу да је љубав нешто најлепше на свету. Чини да се осећамо узбуђено, и у исто време, преплашено. Једноставно нас чини бољим људима. Чудна је та љубав – свако је схвата другачије, на неки свој начин. Вероватно зато нема ниједне потпуно одговарајуће, праве дефиниције тог тајанственог појма који је стар колико и само човечанство. Уосталом, коме треба дефиниција…

Сваког дана једва чекам да видим тај предиван, искрен осмех, те тајанствене окице боје дивљег кестена, то прелепо бело лице и лепршаву бујну косу како пролазе поред мене, остављајући веома јак утисак и мирис шумских јагодица. Од накита носи једино очи. Њен стидљив осмех упућен мени довољан је. Ах, тако се лепо смеје, дан ми улепша! Једно њено „ћао“ скрива хиљаду емоција… Одаје је, жели нешто да ми каже. Можда она не мисли тако, али све је већ речено. Ни ја не могу све да држим у себи… Тог тренутка све наше бриге нестају, гледајући једно друго и благо се осмехујући. Тај неописиви моменат траје свега неколико секунди, а за мене, то је читава вечност. Та слика вредна је хиљаду речи. Ту слику треба проживети, искусити. Упустити се у неповратну дубину њеног нежног погледа и тамо остати заувек. Мислио сам да је пролећна трава зелена, а онда сам видео њене очи. Живот је леп!

 – Упс! Извините… – налетех на једног професора.

Док сам се прибрао и окренуо, није је више било. Однела ју је река људи, ужурбано пролазећи кроз тесан ходник. Штета, било је лепо док је трајало.

На следећем часу био сам неуобичајено одсутан, другачији. Сви су навикли да гледају марљивог Луку, увек расположеног за шалу. Руку на срце, и даље сам такав. Само ми је требало мало времена… да се вратим у реалност, да бар на тренутак побегнем од њених бисерних очију и јарко-црвених усана које се лагано осмехују. Надам се да ћу се повратити пре следећег сусрета. Ех, шта један наизглед обичан тренутак може да учини човеку!

 – Лука, је л’ све у реду, нешто си замишљен данас? – упита ме професорка.

 – Да, да, све је океј. Хвала.

Малопређашна ситуација на ходнику оставила је толико јак утисак на мене да читав дан ништа нисам могао да радим. Само сам седео и лутао својим разбацаним мислима… Било је девојака до сада, али ова је специјална.

.   .   .

Ма колико год се трудили, не можемо се ваљано испричати. Није све у речима. Зато је ту тај осмех који чини да на тренутак заборавимо на све и уживамо у животу. То све говори. Али ипак, делује тако нестварно…

„Питао сам професора шта је то љубав, рекао је да није учио тај предмет. Питао сам возача шта је то љубав, рекао је да не зна за тај пут. Питао сам лудака шта је то љубав, рекао је да је то разлог због којег је постао луд.“

 _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

 _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

“Words are often redundant and too dangerous. They are hugs, caresses, insults, strikes. Silence, however, can rarely hurt anyone. It speaks when words can’t. That is our only answer in a particular moment. A single hand movement, facial expression, smile, mysterious glance…

There are very special people in life with whom we last through thick and thin. Shared experiences are strung like feathers along the string of friendship that adorn every moment spent by her side.”

Many people say love is the most beautiful thing in the world. When you look in her eyes and she’s looking back in yours… everything… feels… not quite normal. Because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited and at the same time, terrified. The truth is… you don’t know what you feel except you know what kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable and you’re not ready for it.

Every day I can’t wait to see that that wonderful, sincere smile, those mysterious eyes the colour of a chestnut, that beautiful white face and swaying luscious hair passing by me, leaving such a strong impression and the smell of forest strawberries. The only jewelry she wears are her eyes. Her shy smile addressed to me is enough. Oh, she has such a nice smile, my day embellished! One her “hi” hides a thousand emotions. It reveals her, she wants to tell me something. She might not think so, but it’s all been said. Neither can I keep everything to myself. At that moment, all our worries disappear, looking at each other and smiling mildly. That indescribable moment lasts only a few seconds, but feels like eternity. That picture is worth a thousand words! That picture should be lived, experienced. Engage in the irreversible depth of her gentle eyes and remain there eternally. I thought vernal grass was green until I saw her eyes. Life is beautiful!

 – Oops! I’m sorry… – I bumped into a professor.

When I pulled myself together and turned around, she was gone. A river of people took her downstream, hurriedly passing through the narrow corridor. Too bad, it was nice while it lasted.

At the next class, I was clearly away, different. Everyone is used to the industrious Luka, always in the joking mood. To be honest, I’m still like that. I just needed a little time… to get back to reality, to escape from her pearly eyes and bright-red lips slightly smiling. At least for a moment. I hope I’ll succeed before our next encounter. Oh, what a seemingly ordinary moment can do to a man!

 – Luka, is everything alright? You seem a bit conceived today… – a professor asked me.

 – Yes, yes, everything’s just fine. Thank you for the concern. – I replied.

The situation in the hallway earlier that day has left such a strong impression on me that I wasn’t able to do anything the whole day. I was just sitting and wandering through my scattered thoughts… There have been girls so far, but this one is special.

.   .   .

“A little voice of yours makes me feel alive,
A little hug of yours makes me feel happy,
A little care of yours makes me feel perfect,
A little love of yours makes me feel complete,
& a little ignorance of yours kills me inside.
I find my reason for living in those moments.
No matter how much it might hurt,
It will be totally worth it”

.   .   .

We cannot have a proper talk, no matter how hard we try. It’s not all in the words. Therefore is that smile that makes you forget about everything for a moment or two and enjoy life. That says it all. But still, it seems so unreal…

“I asked a professor what love is, he told me he hadn’t studied that subject. I asked a taxi driver what love is, he said he hadn’t heard of that street. I asked a madman what love is, he said that was the reason he became insane.”


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Bye! 😀

Luka R.