How to correctly use abbreviations and acronyms/initialism

First, let us define the terms abbreviation, acronym and initialism. According to macquariedictionary.com.au, abbreviation is ‘a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used as a symbol for the whole’, acronym is ‘a word formed from the initial letters of a sequence of words, as radar (from radio detection and ranging) or ANZAC (from Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)’ and initialism is ‘an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a sequence of words, as ACTU (from Australian Council of Trade Unions) or LPG (from liquefied petroleum gas)’. Given these definitions, we can conclude that acronyms and initialisms are forms of abbreviation. And the difference between an acronym and an initialism is that we pronounce the letters in an acronym as a word, …

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How to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is a crucial skill in academic writing. It enables you to present the ideas of researchers and academics in your essay or paper in your own words and writing style, while providing a reference for where you found the information. Most importantly, it is a way to learn new information and prove to your instructor that you have understood it. However, unless you master the skill correctly, you might be accused of plagiarism if you present a passage in your work that is too close to the original (i.e. if you don’t reword it sufficiently and present it as your own words rather than a direct quotation). In addition, if you haven’t rewritten it in your own words and …

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Cultures of Writing: How First Language Can Affect a Non-native Student’s Writing in English

Problems in academic writing in English for non-native students can be the result of the transfer of their first language. Have you ever wondered why no matter how much time you spend learning the English grammatical rules or how hard you pay attention in your English classes, you are still unable to produce an effective English paragraph? When it comes to real writing, you tend to forget the rules of grammar you have learned and end up repeating the same errors again and again. For many ESL students, writing an English paragraph can be problematic. Some students tend to unconsciously produce the same errors repeatedly each time they write. Why is this the case? It is said that writers usually integrate into their …

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Choosing between Similar Words

Often, when writing an essay, article or thesis, you will need to decide which particular word works best with your text. Sometimes this can be difficult when there are several words with the same or similar meaning; these groups of words are called ‘synonyms’. As an example, the word ‘particular’ (used in the first sentence of this blog) is a synonym for ‘specific’, ‘exact’ and ‘precise’. Your choice of word will depend upon the style, context and even the rhythm of your text. What, though, determines your choice between words that are not only synonyms for each other but also look and sound almost exactly the same? The words ‘minimal’ and ‘minimum’ and the words ‘optimal’ and ‘optimum’ are often used interchangeably. While the …

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Active or Passive—Which Voice Is Best?

In academic writing, students are often encouraged to use an ‘objective’ voice; to focus on methodologies, arguments, evidence and results in a way that keeps the author/researcher in the background. Passive sentence structures, which place emphasis on what is being done to the sentence’s subject, are especially common in science disciplines where researchers emphasise results over personal opinions. Here is an example of a passive construction: The ball was thrown into the air by one child and caught by another. In this sentence, the direct subject (or noun) is the ‘ball’, and it is being thrown and caught (verbs) by the children (indirect subjects). Here is the same sentence rewritten as an active construction: One child threw the ball, another caught it. In this sentence, …

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