A fluent style

You need to think out each sentence (very rapidly!) before you put pen to paper:

  • does it say what you want?
  • does it make the point?


Anyone claiming to be a student of English is expected to have mastered the mechanics of the language:

  • if you know you have problems with spelling and punctuation, do something about it before any examination
  • in examinations you will be penalised for errors
  • examiners often are told to award marks for ‘quality of language'.


  • you need to know your text well enough that all its ideas are in your head and that relevant quotations come easily to mind
  • when you use textual quotations, remember to try to blend them seamlessly into your own sentence-structure
  • if you have simply memorised a few quotations, they may not be the most apt ones. Avoid the temptation of quoting them anyway.

Be succinct!

  • say what you want in a clear way without going round in circles
  • leave yourself time to make new points
  • always avoid repeating ideas
  • if you do find yourself writing ‘as I mentioned earlier', check whether repetition of the same point is really helpful – it will rarely earn any further marks.

Appropriate tone and vocabulary

Most of the essays you will write require a formal register of language:

  • contractions (‘don't', ‘can't') and slang which we all naturally use in spoken language are not appropriate in a written essay
  • the tone and style of the language must be right for the designated audience
  • students of literature are also expected to have a wide range of literary terminology which they can apply correctly (see Glossary). Reading some literary criticism during your course (see Reading List in Resources) will help you.
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