Category Archives: Education

Common Mistakes in College Paper Writing

essay-writing-mistakes

Writing assignments for college credit take all different shapes and requirements—and of course, present a variety of stresses. Ultimately, though, a paper is a great opportunity to explore your own ideas and express independent conclusions. Even if you admit to not being the best writer, there is room for success in college paper writing, as long as you see the pitfalls coming and divert via the route of clarity, logic, and compliance.

To follow are some common mistakes students make in college paper writing. Take heed and weed costly errors out of your prose; after all, mistakes are less often related to your skills as a writer, and more often the result of carelessness and bad habits.

Failing to Understand the Assignment

Not taking time to comprehend what a paper assignment calls for is a huge error. Most professors offer ample detail about what they want, so get into the fine print. If the professor assigns 500 words, meet that expectation. Don’t short the essay by 19 words and assume it’s fine because it’s still “in the ballpark.” It is always better to go over by 5 to 10 words (no more) than to miss a word-count benchmark. And don’t question this part of an assignment: there’s method to a prof’s madness in requiring that writers get it said in so many words.

Get clarity, too, on documentation requirements: are in-text citations appropriate, or does this instructor craves footnotes? Ask about how much and what kind of source material you should access and annotate, then dig into research.

Informal Language and Colloquialisms

An academic paper should be presented in formal, academic English; this is no time for “street talk” or for “text speak.” A good rule of thumb is to avoid abbreviations altogether (that includes contractions) and never to rely on slang or jargon. For example, the phrase “a lot” seems to convey something like “many” or “much.” In all actuality, though, “a lot” presents like a noun, especially with the article in play. The phrase is vague; leave it out.

Steer clear of everyday expressions and “trendy” language too, unless the professor indicates this college paper can accommodate it. Elevate tone, elevate content, and elevate end results.

Using First Person and Direct Address

Academic writing typically calls for some amount of objectivity, where first-person announcements like “I feel” or “I contend” aren’t the best options. After all, it is your essay, so isn’t the “In my opinion” construct a given? Take a step back. Distance yourself from the “speaker” platform by using “the author” in place of first person; just don’t get too carried away so that you end up sounding like a stuffed shirt!

And direct address (writing “you this, you that”) is just one more common mistake—and it’s particularly dangerous. Plug in “one” to keep from putting words into a reader’s mouth and to avoid making the reader feel targeted.

Misusing Basic Punctuation

One major pitfall for most writers, especially in college paper writing where authors are spread thin and in a rush, is punctuation. Being comma-happy means your prose is interruptive and stilted; not having an independent clause on either side of a semi-colon confuses a reader. Slow down and edit carefully. In fact, keep a style guide on hand: make use of writing resources available in the library and via online platforms, because every writer needs instant access to the rules and regs regarding grammar, punctuation, and usage.

The Best Quotes to Beat Procrastination

procrastination-writing

Procrastination is a particularly cunning beast. It lures you into feeling of false comfort and then disappears, leaving you face to face with panic and work overload monsters. And be sure: it will never be your ally in this battle.

Luckily, you don’t have to be the first person to fight the traitor. Lots of great people have conquered it and developed their own successful tactics and strategies. We’re not going to instruct you on the ways to do so. The ultimate goal is to inspire you to find the one that works particularly for you.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

The saying belongs to Pablo Picasso. We tend to think artists and the creatives in general are usually in conflict with schedules, deadlines and all kind of organizational pressure. However, Picasso’s example vividly demonstrates that even the most unconventional thinkers realize: getting things done is a precondition of success.

“It is awfully hard work doing nothing.”

A brilliantly witty playwright Oscar Wilde, obviously knew a thing or two about life in general and procrastination in particular. Postponing a task till the very last minute is actually exhausting, since the looming perspective of the need to face it never leaves your mind, bringing you to the state of constant anxiety. Eventually, you get tired of procrastinating, not of the actual dealing with a problem. Add the feeling of guilt and you’ll get the bitter cocktail no one really wants.

“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt couldn’t get it wrong. Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons of delaying work on a task. The trick is that it automatically leads to failure. Mistakes often lead to fascinating experiences. They make you ask for help, get to know more people and generally go down the path of self-development. Procrastination is a way to nowhere. In fact, it’s not even a way.

“If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.”

This precious piece of wisdom says it all. You don’t get to see the results of your work unless you actually do something.

Of course, the most complicated thing here is to make the first step towards change. However, you may use a couple of simple tricks to make the transition far more manageable.

  • Divide the task into small chunks. Let’s say you’ve got a research paper to write. Most of the time you’ll be reluctant to even think about it, taken all the weight of responsibility into consideration.
    Why not try a different way? First, you may google the topic to find proper sources to quote in your work. Then you get to the point of formulating a thesis statement. After that, you craft a detailed outline. And then fill in the gaps!
  • Push through the hard times. Perseverance is often the key element that brings you to the successful completion of the task. This will definitely require significant effort. Nevertheless, once you conquer the first obstacle, the following ones get a little easier.
  • Praise yourself! Positive reinforcement does miracles to one’s productivity. Having finished a small task, reward yourself with a little prize. A piece of fruit, time to surf social media, a short nap – something that makes you feel awesome emotionally and physically.

Any struggle gets easier when you’re no alone. When it comes to fighting procrastination – you definitely have a great crowd to accompany you. So get inspired and get down to work!

How to Do Research for an Essay Without Wasting Time

essay-research

So, it sounded like a good idea to take six classes this semester, but now that you have four or five essays all due by midterm, you’re rethinking that decision. Relax, you’ve got this. Doing the research for your essay is arguably the most challenging part of the whole process, so knowing how to do it quickly and efficiently puts you a little closer to finishing your essays on time and with good results. Let’s look at how to expedite essay research when you’ve got a goal to achieve and deadlines looming near.

Create an Outline

The outlining step to writing an essay can’t be skipped, no matter how short on time you are. Determine how you want to open the essay and what you want to say in the body and the conclusion. Determine if any research is required for information you plan to include. List the facts you want to substantiate as you make your outline, since this streamlines what you’re looking for when you dig into research.

Review Requirements

Essay requirements are like Forest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates; you really never know what your professors are going to ask of you when it comes to writing assignments. One professor may require that you use peer-reviewed sources only, while some others may even accept Wikipedia as a source. Refer to the specific requirements of the essay before you start researching, and get up to speed on what is expected of you (instead of finding out later that a source is not acceptable).

Reserve Materials

Plan well in advance for your essay by reserving any materials that you need from the library. You don’t want to be the 12th student waiting on a particular book when you have to tackle the nitty-gritty and get your paper written. If your school doesn’t have an item that you need in its campus library, turn to your public library instead. Many librarians will even order books and other media that patrons need if the facility does not own the item already; all you have to do is ask.

Take Advantage of Your School’s Library Database

Now you probably prefer searching the materials online, but at one time, students just like you had to actually go to a library and page through peer-reviewed journals themselves to find scholarly articles and studies. Today, even the smallest community colleges usually provide students digital access to databases of material such as EBSCO, Medline/Pub Med, Health Reference Center Academic, Oxford University Press, and more. With just a few search terms entered into your library’s collective databases, you can find oodles of information in seconds and sort it by resource type. Some databases even include a works cited entry for journal articles and other publications, making it easy to construct your works cited page as you choose your resources (be sure to determine if your professor prefers MLA or APA style first).

Take Notes

Note what you want to use from each source as you evaluate and research, keeping the notes organized in the order in which you plan to use the material in the essay. Making a single page for each resource can make it easier to cite things as you go along and keep you on track and moving toward the finish line. You can also make use of research management tools, sometimes available in library databases, such as EndNote or Zotero, to help you organize your material, annotate your work, and generate the reference list for you.

Finally, pace yourself and avoid getting side-tracked. Staying on-task is important to efficient research, within reason. Be sure to allow yourself a break to stretch or even grab some fresh air to keep you alert and in tune to the job at hand. Before you know it, you’ll be finished and ready to move on to the next essay in your pile.

Best Music to Write Essays to: Focus, Think, Write

essay-writing-music

If you’re like most students, writing can be frustrating, especially if you’re tense, stressed, or facing a looming due date for an important essay. The answer to staying focused and tapping into your creative juices may be as nearby as your earbuds: music. A whole body of research suggests that listening to music while you write boost’s your brain’s capacity for spatial-temporal reasoning, which is responsible for creative thinking (and thus, writing). So what type of music improves your concentration and focus the most?

Choosing a Genre

Various studies have been undertaken over the years on music and focus, particularly when it comes to writing (and also, studying), and researchers have found that music sans lyrics is the most effective at keeping you on task and churning out meaningful words. Music with words can be distracting to some writers, causing them to pay more attention to the lyrics than they are to the creative process.

That’s not to say you can’t throw on an epic soundtrack if you’re dealing with a bugger of an essay, a little Kanye, if you’re feeling like a superstar at a particular moment in time, or even some Adele to soothe your soul while you bring your ideas to life. However, electronic music, with its ambient notes and repetitive beats, and Baroque-period classical music, with its harmonic chords, are thought by researchers to be the best at releasing the inner Stephen King or G.R.R. Martin. “Brandenburg Concerto #3” by Johann Sebastian Bach gets numerous nods from researchers when it comes to heightening concentration and productivity.

Although choosing music from these genres can be as personalized as your own specific tastes, there are lots of recommendations floating around the interwebs when it comes to the “right” songs for writing. But don’t worry, we have a writer-approved playlist to help you focus and unleash your creativity.

  • First Breath After Coma” by Explosions in the Sky. If you’ve watched “Friday Night Lights,” then you’ll recognize this tune as the theme song for the show. This instrumental has limited vocals and is interesting enough without being really intense, so you can focus on the job at hand – writing.
  • You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax. This electronic instrumental has an R&B twang and provides tranquil background noise to get your neurons pumping and the words flowing.
  • So What” by Miles Davis. This 60’s instrumental from one of jazz’s greatest will help you maintain focus without distracting you from what you’re writing about.
  • The Bridge of Khazad Dum” by Howard Shore on “The Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. You don’t have to live in the Shire to appreciate this soothing instrumental.
  • Metamorphosis II” by Philip Glass. This piano solo provides mood-lifting background noise for your late-night writing enjoyment.
  • Time” by Hans Zimmer from the “Inception” soundtrack. This peaceful instrumental will keep you focused and relaxed.
  • Shempi” by Ratatat. This vocal-free instrumental has a high-energy feel, helping you stay alert and keep your focus on pushing through the last few hundred words of your research paper.

White Noise

White noise is also worth a mention for breaking the boredom of silence that weighs down some writers. Picture it: crickets chirp, birds sing, and thunder rolls in the background while you pound out 1,000 words on the French Revolution. Words flow like milk and honey from your fingertips, and you finish up your piece with enough time left over to binge watch a few eppys of your favorite show before heading off to bed. That’s the power of white noise. Although not exactly music per se, white noise can put an end to the monotony of quietness, which can, ironically be a big distraction.

Create your own white noise mix with Noisli, a free app (also available on laptops and PCs) with an on-board mixer that lets you add nature sounds, storm sounds, coffee shop sounds, and water sounds, among others, to find the right level of background noise for your tastes.

Music is a great source of inspiration. Find the perfect tune and have fun working on your next assignment.

Skills You Need for College

skills-for-college

You have finally made it to high school graduation and college is looming large in the near future. But are you ready? You know your way around a scientific calculator, and you can write a killer research paper, but do you have the soft skills to be a successful college student? Being academically prepared and being prepared in other areas of your life are two different things altogether.

College readiness goes beyond the courses you’ve taken and the SAT and ACT exams you’ve sat for. Some of the skills that you need to be a successful college student are often not found in a classroom setting. Let’s take a look at some skills you need to ensure your successful passage from graduating senior to lowly freshman undergrad, ready to “adult.”

Time Management

Time: we only get so much of it, and what you do with it really matters. For this reason, one of the most valuable skills you need to hone prior to heading off to college is time management. (Consequently, mastering time management is a good idea, since you will need this skill in nearly every area of your life in adulthood). Learn now how to prepare a schedule that factors in time spent in class and time spent studying and preparing – really studying and preparing – for each class. Now balance that with everything else that you’ll want and need to do once you’re “out on your own”. Maybe you need to factor in time for working, and you’ll naturally want to make time for attending student activities and hanging with your friends. Creating a schedule that works for you is a skill that must be learned, even if on the fly, by all successful college students.

Study Skills

Even if you have some mad study skills in high school, college-level work is another animal altogether. What was “good effort” in high school may not equally translate in college. Learn how to take notes effectively, use the library for research, and hone your study skills now – you’ll need them when you’re taking advanced classes in college.

Managing Stress

Stress management is essential for college students. Whereas before, you were in a more sheltered high school and home environment, living on campus means doing many of the things that adults have to do, all on your own. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to keep stress to a minimum. Find coping mechanisms, whether it’s prayer or yoga, to help you de-stress.

Managing Money

While some high school graduates have the money management thing down pat, the truth is most kids fresh out of school have no idea how to budget and handle money. Learn all you can now about making and sticking to a budget, balancing your checkbook, and living within your means. Most college students live on a shoestring budget, so learning how to get the most for your money and avoiding indulgent purchases is important.

Self-Care

You’ve so far had your parents to monitor your health for the most part. Now you’re in charge. You have to learn how to care for your physical health. Practicing good hygiene and self-care, making time for proper nutrition, and seeking medical attention when a problem arises is all on your shoulders now.

Personal Responsibility

Learning personal responsibility is key to mastering all of the above skills. Personal responsibility means being honest and having integrity, but it also means respecting the rules and following them. It is also your responsibility to avoid risky behaviors that are often enticing to young students and making smart choices now instead of making decisions that might negatively impact your otherwise bright future. In essence, you are the master of your ship, and it’s in your hands how you steer your course.

Writing a Strong Hook Sentence: Start with a Knock-Out

hook-sentence

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in his “A Tale of Two Cities.” This sentence, with its riddle-like structure that both challenges and enthralls the reader, is often used to define the hook sentence concept. As the name implies, a hook sentence “hooks” the reader from the get-go and keeps him actively engaged with the words on the page. Getting the reader’s attention early on in your essay is paramount to keeping his attention going so that he’ll actually want to read the rest of your work. The good news is that you don’t need Dickensian aspirations to come up with a killer hook sentence for a simple essay. Let’s look at how you can sell your reader on what your essay has to offer.

Identify the Audience for Your Paper

If you’re writing an essay, you likely are writing to please one person only – your instructor, teacher, or professor. In this case, your audience is clearly defined, and the hook sentence that you write for this type of essay may be completely different from the hook you might come up with if you were writing an essay to share in the school paper with your friends. The audience determines the message that you portray in your hook sentence; it should speak directly to the audience, and the audience should be able to easily relate to what you say on its own level.

Figure Out What Matters to Your Audience

It can also help to determine what matters to your audience. Your professor is looking for specific information; likely this means that you should demonstrate knowledge of the subject being discussed. The professor may also be looking for mastery of APA or MLA style elements. By contrast, if you’re writing an opinion piece for the newspaper, then write with an eye to appealing to like-minded readers with whom you share a common concern.

Effective Hook Sentences

There is no formula for creating a hook sentence, so let your creativity and a few proven strategies guide you. Consider these examples:

  • Give advice. “If you want to have friends, you have to be a friend first.”
  • Provide an anecdote. Use a short or unbelievable factoid or story about an incident or person to get the reader’s attention. “Mariah Carey lives in an apartment worth millions of dollars, but her sister is homeless.”
  • Make a bold statement. “Before long, doctors will be able to print new kidneys using 3D printing systems.”
  • State a contradiction. “Donald Trump claims he can balance the national budget, but he’s filed bankruptcy several times.”
  • Define something as your hook. “Agoraphobics are people who do not go out of their homes for extended periods of time; some haven’t been shopping in years.”
  • Present the reader with a dilemma. “Enforcing immigration laws keeps terrorists out of the country, but it also breaks up families and destroys lives.”
  • Go for a quote. “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know” – W. H. Auden.
  • Open with humor. “I am not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
  • Ask the reader a rhetorical question. “What does it really mean to be bored?”
  • Share a statistic or factoid. “As many as 80 percent of students report cramming for finals the night before.”
  • Share a personal tidbit. “When I was growing up, there was no Internet, so kids looked up information in encyclopedias.”

Ultimately, the hook sentence you choose should be one that sparks interest and that is directly relatable to what you plan to write and the style you choose for your essay. A good hook can make or break your essay, so put a little elbow grease into crafting yours to make your essay shine.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

narrative-essay

The word “essay” elicits two very different kinds of reaction from college students. Some are thrilled by the prospect of getting to create a unique piece of writing. Others become apprehensive about failing to tell an engaging story and getting their grammar wrong. Writing any form of essay requires a certain amount of skill, but it is the determination that gets you across the line. When it comes to crafting a narrative essay, students are required to be descriptive and have an open mind full of appealing ideas.

As the name clearly suggests, the narrative essay is one where you have to tell a story instead of convincing the readers to agree with a point of view. Your task is to present your perspective on a personal experience and allow the readers to emotionally invest themselves in a story. Even though you are not required to create an argument, you still have to give your essay a purpose or a position. This means that the writing must have a clear thesis and a string of well organized ideas that form a meaningful narrative.


Create an Outline

The first step to writing a narrative essay is to build an outline that will enable you to organize your thoughts and funnel them into a concise story. You will have limited time and words in which to describe your tale, hence it is best to know in advance where you are going with your story.

When outlining your essay, be sure to come up with the main idea before focusing on any of the details. Build your story around this central idea by creating paragraphs that support your thesis in different ways. The purpose of each paragraph is to lead the reader back to the main theme of your story. For example, if you are writing a narrative essay on “An Embarrassing Experience”, you should use the first paragraph to introduce the event that caused you embarrassment and then describe the various reasons why the experience was embarrassing in the paragraphs that follow.

At the very end of your essay, you should write a concluding paragraph where you sum up your narrative and leave the reader with your final thoughts. It is very important for the conclusion to give the readers a sense of closure or resolution.

Be Selective with Your Vocabulary

To make your narrative essay stand out, you need to make your description as vivid as possible. In order to do this effectively, you must use the right words, terms and phrases. Keep the principles of organization (spatial order, chronological order and climactic order) in mind when describing individual events. The use of descriptive words and appropriate synonyms is absolutely essential to make your work attractive and impressive. Instead of giving the readers a bland and detailed account of a particular event, you should present a gripping narrative that grabs and retains the attention of the readers.

Leave out details that do not add to the excitement of the story. Avoid the use of words that sound too formal or academic. Using pretentious words that confuse the readers defeats the purpose of a narrative essay.

Revise and Improve Your Narrative

In writing, there is always room for improvement. Do not just proofread your essay. Look for ways in which you can sharpen the details, use stronger verbs and rearrange the phrases. Furthermore, do not change your story when revising because it creates plot holes and makes your writing look choppy.

Once you are done writing, read out loud to make sure that your sentence construction is smooth and fluid. You can ask a friend or a tutor to read your narrative and offer suggestions. Do not hand over the essay to your professor unless you are confident that it is your best effort.

What Professors Expect from Your Writing: Prepare for the Requirements

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You may not think of yourself as a writer, and you might be convinced you’re never the best writer in the class. News flash: you don’t have to be. The job description for “student writer” is pretty basic, once you distill it down to some key goals—and once you’re focused on just what a professor wants out of your writing.

Here are the basic tricks of the trade for successfully getting through the written work that most every academic degree requires.

Compliance

Let’s be clear: professors devise assignments around certain protocols and they do so for specific reasons. That makes it your job to follow the assignment instructions to the last, minute detail. Who knows why your professor restricts you to 1,007 words, or requires a bigger font than you normally type with. He or she demands green ink on lavender paper? Do it. Whatever is requested of you as a student writer, do it.

Read carefully – and understand thoroughly—what the assignment parameters are. Then, make sure your submission matches exactly what the professor asked for in terms of content, word count, formatting, and deadlines.

Knowing Your Reader

This is an easy one, since it’s usually singular situation: the only eyes likely to grace your essay are those of the professor, or maybe a peer or two along the way of the writing and revising process. In most cases, then, you’re faced with the “initiated audience,” where you share your writing with people who know the subject at hand. No need to start from ground zero or explain away too many basic points. Assume your reader is up to speed and write accordingly. That will result in a more streamlined approach, where your prose can get to the point and really dig into the meat of the chosen matter. Your professor will appreciate your awareness of his or her expertise, and revel in an advanced discussion.

Clarity

Think clearly, write clearly. The end result? You guessed it: clarity. I guarantee that this tops the list of what your professor wants in an essay or research paper.

A professor shouldn’t have to work too hard to understand a writer’s basic idea or argument, then to follow the series of ideas that explain or support it. The best way to really nail down your most coherent position or argument is to start with an idea and then throw questions at it: start with the ever-important “Why?” and work your way down to “So what?” Once you yourself have dealt with this vital interrogation, then it’s likely the prose will stand up to closer scrutiny from the prof. Remember, too, that it’s the writer’s job to work out a logical sequence of ideas ahead of putting pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard), then to constantly circle back to that main theme, keeping the entire essay anchored in the central, formative points.

Consistency

Everyone’s writing style is different, because a person’s writing method and the outcomes are aligned at least somewhat with his or her outlook on life, social conditioning, and personality quirks.

That said, an academic essay is not necessarily the place to revel in deeply personal insights. Tone down colloquialisms and biased rhetoric that can take a reader off course. And know that in your capacity as a student writer, you must strive to develop a consistency of style that speaks to who you are as well as to how you respond to and adapt to various assignments. A professor will enjoy editing and grading your written submissions when he or she senses your voice and your perspectives in play in the prose.

4 Steps to a Winning Admission Essay

A college admissions essay is perhaps one of the most important documents a person will ever write. Believe it. Admissions committees (typically made up of the very professors with whom you want to work) will absolutely read your submission—and then happily use your words for or against you in the selection process.

Any university professor will tell you that a search committee relies on the admissions essay for the insights it provides in helping to measure the “fit” of an applicant to a particular program. A smart search committee member evaluates the attributes of both candidate and school to estimate whether or not an applicant will succeed at the institution.

So with that in mind, how do you develop just the right tone and message for the essay? Consider what follows as a guide toward putting your best essay forward. Your academic success might depend on it.

Do Your Homework

Feed into the ego of the admissions committee members by noting their accomplishments, which obviously shape the reasons you want/need to study at that particular place. Make it clear that “thanks to Dr. Y’s recent published study on X,” there is no better place on the planet for you to come do your work and subsequently make your own brilliant contributions to the field—all filtered through their genius, of course. Are you getting me here? Don’t pander, and don’t wallow. But by all means, speak directly to and about the target school, acknowledging that behind every desirable academic program are instructors, researchers, and administrators making it shine.

Get Personal

Think of the admissions essay as a portrait of you (minus the fake smile and perfect hair) that reveals something about your personal truth. Heavy, I know, but a candidate must relate particulars about just why they want to attend a designated school—and you can do so by setting up some amount of a personal history. Are you the first of your family to go to college or pursue a graduate degree? Maybe your childhood was fraught with varying levels of pain related to financial realities, health problems, or other “issues” you’ve managed to overcome? Say so. Build your case—but don’t go crazy on this front. No need to pull the sympathy card, but if there lurks in your past a legitimate “shadow” which somehow fueled your desire to get into this school, then tell that story.

Build Up Your Story

Now, don’t simply accumulate a list of bullet points; instead, write prose that sequences from one idea to the next via logical transitions and vivid, descriptive wording. Try to offer the admissions committee readers a narrative flow, so that they come away with a sense of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you plan to go. In other words, structure the essay on a sort of past-present-future platform, and always anchor your “plot” in how this school—how this program—is the only logical jumping-off point for your next phase.

Pay Attention to Details

Have two or three people (who have a grasp of the language) read your essay before you submit! It’s imperative to get feedback on content, readability, and even “mechanics” (errors in punctuation are more distracting than you might think). It’s critical that you pad the writing-editing-revising-submitting sequence with the time necessary to do all of the above.

As you craft the essay, always remember that a school cares about who it accepts; after all, a student’s academic trajectory should result in his or her entry into the professional arena, where that now former student will make a distinguished mark in the field. That mark will soon enough reflect positively back onto the school, the program, and yes—on the professors themselves, which bring us full circle: know your audience.

There it is. The road to a truly outstanding admission essay is not that long. The truth is, it does require diligence, creativity and perseverance. However, destination is worth it.

Helpful Blogs for ESL Learners

blogs for esl learners

Learning English isn’t easy. There are so many exceptions to the grammar rules, strange pairings of vowels and consonants, the dreaded “th” sound that’s common throughout the language yet hard for non-native speakers to pronounce. Yet, English is a universal language and that’s why there are over 1 billion ESL students worldwide. Whether you’re a foreigner living in the US or studying English in your country of origin, it’s becoming more and more indispensable to learn English. Fields like information technology and international business require English proficiency. For travelers, English is essential.

If you travel frequently for business or pleasure, it may not always be possible to learn every language of the countries you’re visiting, but English is spoken almost everywhere. If you’re learning English and would like a little extra support, you should check out these ESL blogs:

Phrase Mix offers lessons on idiomatic phrases in English. You can scroll through over 400 pages of phrases and choose ones that interest you. The lesson breaks down the phrase into chunks and explains each part and its meaning. It also offers an audio recording so you can learn the proper pronunciation. And the graphics give a visual representation of the phrase being featured – for those who are visual learners. It also offers articles with practical advice on things like taking the TOEFL, how to express condolences, and English phrases for car owners.

Espresso English offers you daily English lessons sent to your email by ESL teacher Shayna. She also has an e-book and offers self-paced English courses online. She posts informative articles with titles like “11 Advanced English Words with Confusing Pronunciations” and “Answers to 5 Quick English Grammar Questions” as well as colloquial phrases and much more. Access 50 podcasts to improve your pronunciation and auditory skills.

Real Life is perhaps the most comprehensive site out there with the greatest investment in quality. It offers professional videos on a variety of topics from vocabulary building to pronunciation. They have podcasts and articles on all aspects of English learning, from slang to business English and more.

ESL Hip Hop is aimed to make English learning cool. You’ll learn English through hip hop slang. After finishing Stephen Mayeaux’s lessons, you’ll be able to hang out and party like a born hip hop star. By far the most entertaining ESL site out there, with quality content to boot.

About.com features ESL expert Kenneth Beare’s blog. This site offers the standard grammar and pronunciation lessons, but really stands out with its dynamic mix of exercises like short stories and quizzes. They help students improve vocabulary, and you can also try writing exercises that ask students to continue a story. It also offers help on practical things like business English and how to write a resume. You can choose to sign up for daily or weekly lessons sent to your email.

ABA English offers articles and videos on everything from “How to Write a Cover Letter” to “How to Enjoy Your TOEFL Prep”. Fun, real-life videos in their “Street Challenge” section test your auditory and grammar skills. One of the best explanations of the many uses of “Get” I’ve ever seen. Cute illustrations on idiomatic expressions. A fun and light-hearted blog with great content.

My English Teacher is a site that offers English lessons via articles and videos as well as useful references for language exchange websites and best ESL Facebook pages to follow.

Elllo uses short videos to teach students different vocabulary in English. Videos are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels and quizzes are included to make sure you understood the content correctly. The site’s founder, Todd Beuckens, posts two new videos each week.

English with Jo focuses on practical uses of English in conversation for those who want to reach fluency quickly. With posts on topics from “Books & Literature” to “Safety” and “Drugs & Alcohol”, this site introduces you to practical topics and their applications. A “Word of the Day” post helps build vocabulary and a section on Business English is for even more comprehensive learning.

TalkEnglish is an ESL franchise that’s been around for the last decade or so. Their site offers 900 English lessons and 9000 audio files for free. A variety of reading, speaking and listening lessons are available on a range of topics.

Real English is a site that offers English lessons via videos and exercises. The videos are listed in order from beginner to more advanced and follow a certain logic and order. It’s a great resource for beginning students.

Linguarama is a no-frills ESL site with links to quizzes that test your vocabulary and grammar skills. If you’re confused about adverbs, present continuous tense and prepositions, this site offers simple explanations and exercises to get you on track. It also offers great examples of business English.

Business English Site specializes in lessons on business English. With categories that range from “Sales & Marketing”, “Accounting & Finance” and “Information Technology” as well as “Medical English”, they have you covered. A simple vocabulary-building technique is used to improve your business English, so you can impress people in interviews and meetings.

English with a Twist is a really fun blog by ESL teacher Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat. It is one of the only blogs out there designed by someone who isn’t a native English speaker. This blog shows you the ins and outs of all the ESL challenges you could imagine from someone who has gone through it herself. Using a charming mix of humor and practical tips, this site is well worth a visit for anyone wishing to improve their English. No matter what level of English you’re at, these blogs can help enhance your vocabulary, grammar and auditory skills. Colloquialisms and idiomatic phrases present a particularly steep learning curve for non-natives.

Most of the above blogs dedicate their efforts to helping you learn how to speak naturally. Isn’t it great to know there are so many resources out there to help you speak better English?