Advanced grammar PDF   .  Basic grammar  .  English for Academic Purposes grammar notes

This presentation offers advanced English language grammar tips that may aid instructors who teach the writing components of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Furthermore, this presentation also aims to assist those who plan to sit for the General or Academic version of this global language test.

This presentation is suitable for future IELTS examinees who are upper intermediate to advanced English language writers. You should read at least one IELTS General writing or one IELTS Academic writing official exam preparation sample question prior to reading these notes.

This page is under construction (March 2017) and shall be reordered into topical sub-sections.

English language versions

It is acceptable to use any major versions of the English language in your written answers, so long as you are consistent. You should adopt a common version such as American English or British English and not switch between versions.

Since 2017, The Free School only uses American English as a matter of policy. This policy aims to avoid confusing English language learners who consult our resources.

This presentation uses American English, except when it cites extracts from IELTS’s exam preparation notes.

IELTS uses British English.


Avoid commencing a sentence with the word ‘and’. Some examiners may consider this to be a violation of English grammar rules. Consider joining two sentences by using punctuation such as a semicolon, comma, wide dash or column. Alternatively, you may start a new sentence with a substitution word such as ‘furthermore’.


My uncle Subash was my private chemistry tutor when I was at high school. Furthermore, he also assisted me with my biology homework on occasion.


Acronyms that are frequently used in the public domain sometimes do not need to be defined. I advise you to avoid using acronyms when writing for the IELTS exam. Ambiguous writing will score lower than discussion that conveys a clear message.

Popular global acronyms

24/7    24 hours a day (please never use this acronym in an IELTS exam)

3D       Three dimensional

AD       Anno Domini

BCE    Before the Common Era

CEO    Chief Executive Officer

NGO    Non Governmental Organization

VP       Vice President

UN      United Nations

Wide dash

The use of the wide dash serves two main purposes in the English language. The first is to denote polar opposite words such as East and West. The second use of the wide dash is to connect sentences.

You may also join sentences using punctuation such as the column, comma and semicolon.

Wide dash –

Column :

Comma ,

Semicolon ;

Polar opposite word examples

“When I was a high school student, I found true–false questions the easier to answer.”


Please do not use the ampersand symbol ‘&’ in place of the word ‘and’. This looks unprofessional and will be penalized by the marker.


My mother’s & father’s values deeply inspire me.


My mother’s and father’s values deeply inspire me.


You should aim to discuss one core message within each paragraph. If your paragraph discusses multiple issues, you may confuse your reader and will receive a lower band score.

Paragraph structure

1. Open with an argument

2. Expand the argument

3. Offer support:

Cite specific details from the diagram (Academic Task 1).

Offer your example (Writing Task 2).


An apostrophe denotes ownership.

If ownership is singular, the apostrophe goes before the letter ‘s’.


Martina’s athleticism, Roseanne’s sense-of-humour, Adele’s voice.

If ownership is collective, the apostrophe goes after the letter ‘s’.


These students’ books, the Gulf States’oil, those Kangaroos’ tails.

Long sentences

As a general rule, writers who use short and sharp sentences are more effective communicators.

Using long sentences may irritate the reader because it is harder for them to follow your message.

If your sentence is longer than around 20 to 22 words, you should consider splitting the sentence into two shorter sentences.


I argue that people who work hard and pursue their passions are more successful because empirical evidence shows that such people are more likely to succeed at work, have a longer life span and report higher levels of happiness. (39 words) I posit that people who work hard and pursue their passions are more successful. (14 words). Empirical evidence shows that such people are more likely to succeed at work. (13 words) Furthermore, they are more likely to have a longer life span and report higher levels of happiness. (17 words)

Double negatives

I suggest that you avoid using double negatives to describe something positive.

Double negatives are grammatically correct.

You earn higher credit when you write in a manner that is more direct, such as when you use positives.


It is not untrue that I am a university graduate.


I am a university graduate.

Compound words

Sometimes a string of words may be regarded as a single word. A compound word exists when the collective meaning of the individual words are widely recognized as having one meaning.

Sometimes it is subjective whether you should use the dash to group multiple words to show that you consider them to be one word. When you do this appropriately, it shows you are an advanced writer.

Widely recognized compound words:

2 base words





3 base words





Longer compound words



Numbers as words

A popular convention in academic writing is to write numbers less than 13 as words.


I interviewed eleven staff, including one executive manager.

An exception to this rule is when you refer to numbers greater than 12 and pair this analysis with numbers smaller than 13. You should write both sets of numbers in numeral form so that there is consistency within your passage of discussion.


I interviewed 250 staff, including 9 senior managers.

Bracketed discussion

Avoid making statements inside a bracket within your sentences.

Bracketed discussion is comparable to conducting two conversations simultaneously.

Bracketed discussion distracts the reader.

You should consider adopting one of these options:

  • Place the bracketed discussion in a new sentence;

  • Omit the brackets;

  • Insert punctuation.

In many cases the use of brackets is not necessary. Using commas or omitting the brackets is grammatically correct and more effective.

Not advisable.

My only brother (who was born two years before me) is my favorite person.


My only brother, who was born two years before me, is my favorite person.


My older brother is my favorite person.

Single and double quotation marks

Double quotation marks are normally used when you quote another source verbatim.


My grandmother is my greatest inspiration. She always told me to “work very hard for your success and never take short-cuts”.

Single quotation marks are normally used to highlight a word or a string of words, i.e., to add emphasis in the reader’s mind. Single quotation marks may also be used to highlight an irregular feature. Examples of these include colloquial words and coarse language.


The term ‘cheesy’ may mean ‘tacky’ even though few dictionaries recognize this definition of the word ‘cheesy’.


Tautology occurs when you unnecessarily repeat a word or statement.

Tautology example:

These products are inferior low quality.


These products are inferior.

These products are low quality.

 The      ree  School