There are many varieties of spoken and written English (sometimes called World Englishes), and all forms of English are valid. Even though you are already able to communicate effectively in your own English, you may notice that your writing style is different from your instructors', and if so, it may be helpful for you to understand what these differences are. Kelly et al. (2020) observe that “grammar is a situated practice,” meaning that writers choose “certain words and sentence structures and tenses (and so on) in certain communication and rhetorical situations and not in others” (para. 1). You may find that considering the intended audience for your writing can help you choose the grammatical and structural conventions that will let you share your ideas most clearly with your audience.
Academic audiences generally expect that writers will follow the grammatical conventions of academic English, such as agreed-upon practices for punctuation and spelling, and keeping verb tenses consistent and appropriate to the action being described. No one form of English can be considered “standard” or “correct,” however, and writers may apply the conventions of academic English differently depending on the form(s) of English they use. Some common variations include word choice, such as prepositions and articles. Students whose academic writing will be graded can sometimes experience a tension between their preferred style of writing and the conventions an instructor may expect them to follow. If you are unsure how the conventions of your written English will mesh with your instructor’s expectations, please talk with your instructor before submitting your assignment. Once you have had that conversation, please feel welcome to schedule an appointment with the Writing Centre. We would be happy to talk with you and answer any questions you have about writing in North American academic English!
Kelly, E., Humphreys, S., Boldt, N., & Ami, N. (2020). Grammar as a situated practice. In S. Humphreys and E. Kelly (Eds.), Why write? A guide for students in Canada. Academic Writing Program, University of Victoria. https://doi.org/10.18357/9781550587005
If you'd like to learn more about English parts of speech to help you construct sentences that follow North American academic English conventions, please see the information and resources provided in this guide. You can navigate through the guide using the buttons at the bottom of each page, or feel free to jump into the section that interests you: