At HE level, whatever your background or learning issues, you need to take sole responsibility for your English. It is not acceptable just to excuse yourself by saying "I'm bad at spelling."

The majority of errors are caused by carelessness and lack of proof-reading, and are easily correctable. These are the most frequently encountered problems.

  1. Subject-verb agreement.
Structures such as "It were a difficult task" do not belong to formal written English."It was a difficult task", please.  
  1. Incomplete sentences - relative clauses.

A complete sentence must have a verb. A relative clause cannot stand on its own. The following example is two incomplete sentences - the red text indicates where the problem is:

The Tetschen Altar painting 'The Cross in the Mountains'. Which was completed in 1807 was a piece of political propaganda, despite its religious links.

They should be one sentence:

The Tetschen Altar painting 'The Cross in the Mountains', which was completed in 1807, was a piece of political propaganda, despite its religious links.

  1. Its vs. it's.

Its only has one function - as a possessive e.g. "The museum closed its doors in 1999."

It's is a contraction of "It is" or "It has" and should not appear in formal academic writing.

There is no space here to point out other common errors of punctuation, particularly the infamous comma, but it would be well worth your while to read a text such as Lynne Truss Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

  1. Don't can't.
Do not use contractions in academic writing. Avoid abbreviations such as etc. and st. for street unless you are citing from a literary text or script.    
  1. CAD?

Unless you are a designer working with multimedia, you will be unlikely to know this means "Computer Assisted Design".

If you must use an acronym, spell it out clearly in the first instance e.g.
"Computer Assisted Design (CAD)"


What you see is what you get.

No, I do not 'get' it. This is text language. It has no place in academic writing and should not be used in any form of communication unrelated to SMS communication.

  1. Tenses.
If you are not sure, this is where you do need to seek help. Most extended essays should not require more than the basic tense structures such as the simple past and present.    
  1. Rhetorical questions.

These are profoundly irritating in written English, especially if they follow on in sequence e.g.

"How would the learners react to the teacher being silent for the entire lesson?" "Which teaching methodology is a work here?"


"How the learners would react to a teacher being silent for an entire lesson, and which teaching methodology at work, were the main focus of the research."

  1. Colloquialism

"The painting got pinched some time in summer 2004 from the Oslo Museum"

should be

"Munch's Scream was stolen from the Oslo Museum during summer 2004."

  1. First person

Generally discouraged but may be necessary if you are describing a work experience.

Avoid expressing subjective opinions prefixed with "I think".

  1. Being illogical
I only announced ten points in the title, and now we are on 11. If you give your reader a map with landmarks, stick to it.