Writing Pathway

Writing Pathway


Writing is one of the fundamental skills in English, and includes a variety of subareas, including grammar, sentence construction, paragraph writing, research and source citation, and a variety styles and structures from academic essays to cover letters and graduate admission essays.


Come to the English Language Support Service where the Visiting Tutors can help you target those areas of writing that you need the most work on and develop an independent learning plan that addresses those particular needs. You can bring in a short writing sample for us to look over and use as a starting point to think about ways to improve your writing, get suggestions for some tools and activities to improve your grammar, ask us about how to structure a particular kind of essay or other writing task (cover letter, graduate school statement of purpose, etc.), or even target particular writing based skills such as writing for the IELTS exam or summarizing. Come to the ELSS in LBY 202 and see what the Visiting Tutors can do for you, we are here to help!


The Writing Tutorial Service is a resource open to all UGC students at Lingnan University. The aims of the service are to encourage reflection and evaluation of writing through critical thinking and exploration. Tutees develop their writing skills through discussion and guided tasks on textual elements; such as, structure, style, expression, argumentation, conventions of grammar and word usage.

Tutorials are held in LBY 205 near the ELSS Drop-in Center.  Interested students can sign up for a time slot on Moodle.


Writing Books

There are many other books on academic writing available for loan from the LU Library. You could work your way through one of these books or select useful chapters for work on your own or with a friend.

Here are a few other texts available in Lingnan’s library:

  • Exploring Academic English by Jennifer Thurstun and Christopher N. Candlin

  • Writing Logically, Thinking Critically by Shelia Cooper and Rosemary Patton

  • They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

  • The Academic Writer’s Handbook by Leonard J. Rosen

  • A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker

  • Writing Academic English by Alice Oshima and Anne Hogue


There is a multitude of resources available to you online that focus on the different areas of writing. To find the ones most useful for you, take a look at the categories below.

Interactive Exercises
Here is a link to a variety of online reading exercise on the CEAL ELSS website that was put together through Hong Kong universities and the Inter-university Collaborative Online Self-Access (ICOSA) Programme.

Needs Analysis   
To begin thinking about improving your writing, it is useful to consider what your particular needs are. Once you have decided what you want to work on, it is easier to develop a plan for how to accomplish that goal and what resources will be most useful for you.


The best source to help improve your grammar is by using Tensebusters. On that site you can take pretests on a variety of grammar areas to target your level and what you need to work on and then use interactive tutorials to improve your understanding and track improvement, reassessing yourself afterwards.

For more grammar resources, see the Grammar Pathway.

Sentence Construction
These OWL resources will help you with sentence level organization and style. This area includes resources on writing issues, such as active and passive voice, parallel sentence structure, parts of speech, and transitions.

Sentence Clarity and Structure
These OWL resources offer information and exercises on how to clarify sentences and specifically discuss sentence clauses, sentence fragments, sentence structure, and subject-verb agreement. Others contain information on how to write clear and strong sentences and include exercises on how to eliminate wordiness.


General Essay Writing Resources

Practical Advice on Academic Writing
This website offers practical advice on academic writing: reading and researching, planning and organizing essays, using sources, and editing.

Insightful Writers. Informed Writers
This website contains tips on academic writing and many featured articles to inspire academic writers.

The Writing Machine
The HKU English Centre guide to writing better academic essays.

What is an Academic Essay?
From Sussex Language Institute of the University of Sussex. A comprehensive guidelines on academic writing.

Academic Writing Styles
This writing based website is a useful page full of PDF files that offer valuable explanations on academic writing styles. There are links to files on how to interpret writing tasks, how to structure your writing, how to use sources, and on how to write using an academic voice.

Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English
This site was designed for non-native speakers looking to improve their written work. On the site there are many useful guides on how to write different types of essays. Also, there are many tools to help improve grammar and reading skills.

Academic Essay Writing Checklist
Before and after writing an academic paper, it is a good idea to make sure that you have all of the necessary components. This checklist is a great resource to verify that you have followed the proper format of an academic essay and that you have paid close attention to things like grammar, style, and other writing conventions.

The Writing Process

Steps in Process Writing
This  an ordering activity activity that reviews the proper steps in writing an essay.

Structure and Organization

Writing Argumentative Essays
Here is a detailed web textbook with exercises on how to write argumentative essays (by Bill Daly).

Cause and Effect
This exercise introduces the vocabulary and grammar needed to describe causes and effects. Includes an exercise.

The Order of an Essay
This is an exercise designed to practice putting essay paragraphs in the correct order.

Categorisation is dividing a topic into sub-topics. Some topics can be divided into a small number of sub-topics that account for all of the topic. This exercise introduces the vocabulary and grammar needed for the function of categorisation.

Because academic writing usually reports on research, and in your research area there may be information that you have not found, exceptions to the rules that you find and the situation may change over time. This exercise teaches you how to use more cautious language when stating your point to avoid mistakes.

This exercise is designed to help you with using definitions, comparisons, and contrasts.

Coherence in a Text on Palmistry
This is an exercise on creating coherence in an essay.

Word Choice and Grammar

Academic Grammar
The HKU English Centre guide to essay writing and literature reviews is designed for social science students, but a lot of the advice is useful for students from other faculties.

Formal and Informal Sentences
This is an exercise in matching formal and informal sentences in order to learn the differences between the two.

Common Errors in Formality in Academic Writing
Similar to the exercise above, this activity allows you to practice matching formal and informal sentences in order to identify common English errors.

Using Precise Words
In order to help expand your vocabulary, this exercise works with similar words to help improve precision in language.

Replacing Idioms with Formal Verbs
Here’s a good way to expand your vocabulary and practice English idioms.

Features of Academic Writing
This website, from UEFAP (Using English for Academic Purposes),University of Hertfordshire, UK, introduces six features of academic writing.

The Common Error Detector
Copy and paste your essay into the box and the Error Detector finds some common problems in academic essay writing and gives you tips how to solve them.

Other Essay Writing Resources

Reference Materials on Critical Writing
This source from Colorado State University Writing Center offers short, readable references on all kinds of writing.

Explanation of Functions
In order to practice recognizing key words in assignments, this exercise is a practice in function words.

Introductory Paragraph Techniques
This source helps you to identify four basic techniques for composing the opening statement of your introductory paragraph: the general statement, the rhetorical question, the impact statement, and the anecdote.

The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing

This site show how the language work and the meaning beyond the text. It is useful when you are interpreting the truth from the newspaper.

Technical Writing

Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students
Penn State University offers some formats, checklists, and models for a range of technical writing including laboratory reports, proposals, progress reports and business correspondence.

Tools for Thinking About Writing

Pizzaz - “People Interested in Zippy and ZAny Zcribbling”
A collection of creative ideas for writing activities using the Internet as a resource. The ideas are in the form of classroom handouts, but you could easily use them for self-study especially in pairs or small groups.

Good Point!
This site provides reading and sharing points on topics that you can use for essays, discussions and presentations.

Mind-maps and Journalistic Questioning
Here are some new ideas to help with generating ideas and organising writing.

Organisation Tool
Helps you to re-organise lists; e.g. lists of topics to put in essays.

Pros and Cons Calculator
Helps you decide which side of an argument is stronger

Style Guides

Writing for Certain Audiences
This website, also from the Purdue OWL, has a section especially for ESL students. It provides a variety of articles explaining different styles of writing including business settings and academic settings in different regions of the world.

Grammar and Style Notes
On this site, Jack Lynch provides a miscellany of grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage.

Strunk: The Elements of Style
Many American writers swear by a book by Strunk & White called The Elements of Style. This is a link to the original 1918 version, which many writers still admire.

Online Writing Labs (OWLs)

Purdue University OWL

The Online Writery (Missouri University)

The Writer's Handbook (UW-Madison)

APA and Resource Citation

Research and Documentation Online
This is a page by Diana Hacker and Barbara Fisters on how to find and cite sources using the major citation styles such as MLA, Chicago, and APA.

Citing Sources
Duke University’s site provides resources on how to create a Works Cited page and in-text citations according to the various citation styles and to avoid plagiarism.

Other Types of Writing

The following sites have information, templates, and practice activities related to different types of writing, particularly the different types of letters.

How to Write Memos

How to Write Emails

Arranging a Meeting
Enquiry Letters
Complaint Letters
Adjustment Letters
Job Application Letters
Reference Letters

Writing Exercises

Interactive Exercises
This link provides a wide variety of interactive English grammar, listening and reading exercises for academic writing.

BBC Skillswise
This website is full of worksheets to improve sentence structure. There are also quizzes and games that students can take to improve their English

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