Academic Writing for ESL Students: 7 Tips and Strategies You Can Start Using Now

by Arushi Gupta
Academic writing for ESL students

Many of us are under the impression that English is a global language that is spoken and written by everyone. However, only around 20% of the world’s population speaks English at all, and just 5% of the world speaks English as a native language. 1 The fact that a number of people speak English as a second language is what makes it one of the most widely used languages in the world.2 It is the main language used in the academic and research arena around the world. Given that a large majority of researchers and academics employ multi-lingual techniques, there are multiple challenges faced by ESL authors.

If you are an ESL author or scholar you can easily understand how unnerving it can be to hand in those essays, dissertations, research papers, and other assignments in English if you are not a native English speaker. In this article, we will highlight a few ESL writing tips and strategies that you can use to improve your ESL writing skills.

ESL writing strategies

Writing for ESL students, especially in the field of academic writing is a formidable challenge. By following the ESL writing strategies listed below, you can improve your writing skills and also increase your confidence and credibility in the academic and research world.

Understand the main academic writing conventions and structures: One of the key aspects to ensure that your academic writing is effective is to follow the typical structure for academic writing which typically includes an introduction, main body and a conclusion. You can also choose to insert sub-sections to classify the content and make it easier to read. Remember, as you start your ESL writing journey, adhering to proper planning and structuring your research output goes a long way in keeping you focused.

Keep your language style professional/formal for research content: Using formal language and ensuring that you follow a professional style for your writing is very critical. In ESL writing, especially in the academic and research field, you should be always alert not to allow conversational/informal expressions or slangs to creep in. To be able to communicate ideas and observations in a clear manner, stick to using clear and short language. 

Organize your ideas and thoughts visually to create a strong outline: ESL authors need to call upon their inner artist as they break down their body of work into smaller, adaptable pieces. You can use tools like mind maps, flowcharts or concept maps as you begin to flesh out your all-important outline. For example, you can write your key research idea in the centre of the page and go on to create branches relating it to sub-topics or concepts, denoting each one with various colors or symbols.

Aim to create clear, concise, and well-structured sentences: Remember not to use complex words or unduly long sentences as you write. Focus on writing simple sentences with clarity. Aiming to sound highly academic with complex sentences can leave your reader confused.

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Do not insist on perfect English in the first drafts or it may slow you down: Never aim for perfection in your early drafts as an ESL academic writer. Always work on writing your drafts by re-reading it several times and focusing on specific aspects. This process of fine tuning your writing will eventually lead to a very good English narrative as you progress.

Ensure there is coherent and logical flow between the paragraphs/sections: ESL writers should ensure that transition words and phrases like, ‘however’ or ‘therefore’ are used to connect the flow of ideas between paragraphs and sections. Weave in topic sentences to convey your idea in the paragraph with clear introductory sentences.Thoughtful editing and revision is necessary on your drafts to make it engaging and easy to understand for readers.

Use tools like Paperpal that can help you translate or improve your writing: ESL writers can benefit from using AI tools like Paperpal that help to overcome academic writing challenges. It delivers a comprehensive English language check providing you with grammar and vocabulary corrections, rephrasing suggestions, highlighting academic writing conventions, consistency checks and offering you invaluable writing tips as well. It is no surprise therefore that over 20,000 authors use Paperpal to improve their academic writing and is trusted by leading global publishers as well.

In conclusion, the seven tips provided will serve as valuable tools to enhance your writing skills and boost your confidence. Remember that practice, perseverance, and continuous improvement are key here. By employing these strategies, you can effectively bridge language barriers and elevate the quality of your academic work.


  1. Top Languages of the Internet, Today and Tomorrow.
  2. What Is the Most Spoken Language in the World.,spoken%20people%20in%20the%20world

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Try it for free or upgrade to Paperpal Prime, which unlocks unlimited access to premium features like academic translation, paraphrasing, contextual synonyms, consistency checks, submission readiness and more. It’s like always having a professional academic editor by your side! Go beyond limitations and experience the future of academic writing. Get Paperpal Prime now at just US$12 a month!


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