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Graduate Writing: Building Grammatical Confidence

Building Grammatical Confidence

Writing well is often synonymous with writing grammatically, but understanding grammatical rules and conventions is just one part of effective communication. That said, if you are unsure of when to use an apostrophe or which preposition to choose, then it is it worth building your grammatical knowledge as errors may impact readability and, in some cases, comprehension. For some writers, this process may involve reflecting on recurring grammatical errors and learning how to correct those specific concerns. For others, it may involve bookmarking or purchasing a trusted resource you can revisit as needed, like a grammar handbook. Use the strategy that works for you!

Recognize too that some so-called grammatical rules that you may have encountered are outdated or reflect a style concern rather than a grammatical error.


Looking for some general grammar resources?


Online Grammar Courses

Depending on your previous schooling, you may not have been taught English grammar formally. If that’s the case, or if you want a general grammar refresher, then completing a short grammar course can help you build your knowledge and confidence.


Looking for a free online grammar course?

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

While most university programs in Canada are taught in English, many students may not be native English speakers. If this reflects your reality (whether your mother tongue is Cree, Farsi, French, Hindi, or Mandarin, among others), you may at times feel overwhelmed by the challenge of speaking, reading, and writing in English at the graduate-level.

For EAL graduate students, developing as a writer means not only refining one’s grammatical knowledge but also understanding the genre-specific as well as general conventions that shape English-language texts. These conventions are often more cultural than grammatical with English-Canadian and American texts even reflecting norms that are distinct from British writing.

Parallel to learning such norms, EAL graduate student must also develop their voice as a writer while simultaneously balancing the needs of their intended reader. This task is easier said than done!

Fortunately, while the English language may feature some particularities and several grammatical exceptions (reflecting a mix of Germanic roots and Romance influences), the basic sentence pattern (subject + action + object) is fairly straightforward and is consequently appealing to readers.

For students requiring more language support, the USask Language Centre offers a range of fee-based courses to support international students at the university.


Looking for more perspectives on being a non-native English speaker in academia?