The Importance of Academic Writing for English Language Learners

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Walter Henderson, Senior Supervising Editor, ELT

This blog highlights the importance of academic writing for English Language Learners (ELLs) in Asia and offers a few solutions for those who are unaccompanied by teachers and isolated from traditional classroom settings.

In many Asian countries, writing is considered the highest form of learning. A widely held opinion is that students who lack fluency in academic writing will face significant barriers to success. In China, for example, the well-written English paper is the key to passing from one grade level to the next as well as passing rigorous college entrance exams.

Needless to say, access to traditional educational venues has been disrupted worldwide. As early as January 2020, the Ministry of Education (MoE) of China requested that all K-12 education departments and higher education institutions postpone ongoing courses in order to help in the prevention and control of Coronavirus. In response, the use of online education platforms became commonplace nationwide. Classes via Zoom sprung forth as well as countless webinars on how to teach the fundamentals. The transitions were largely smooth and welcomed as some have come to the realization that there are added advantages to online instruction.

With an average class size of 30 +, many teachers struggle with imparting the intricate skill set needed for writing academic essays in English. They are very adept at helping with content and structure, yet lack sufficient time to provide individualized feedback on important elements such as word choice, grammar, tone and voice. Furthermore, writers always benefit from practice . . . and plenty of it!

Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Centre for Independent Language Learning provides some excellent online recommendations for those autonomous students who seek to practice and improve their academic writing skills:

  1. Linggle is an English grammar and linguistic search engine developed by the Natural Language Processing Lab of the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. It helps students check word choice, usage, and collocations in order to make their writing more natural.
  2. Academic Phrasebank is a web resource originating out of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom for essay writers who are interested in frequently used phrases found in research papers.
  3. is an online English collocations dictionary that helps students find words that often appear together and gives them a clear idea of how the words are used. For example, students can check the prepositions, adjectives, and verbs that most often come with a noun. It is also possible for students to find alternative word matches for variety.


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