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Writing Center: Resources for ESL Students

A guide to information to help you research and write more effectively.

Why Should ESL Writers Visit the Writing Center

While she was a student in the Practicum in Writing Consulting class in the spring, 2016, Rebecca Lee created a video to capture the dominant impression of the Mississippi College Writing Center and to respond to the question "Why should students enrolled in the Intensive English Program (IEP) should visit the MC Writing Center." According to Rebecca, the Mississippi College Writing Center is a welcoming, non-judgmental, engaging place that IEP students can visit for help with assignments.

Writing in U.S. Academic Genres

Are you a non-native English speaker at MC and struggling to grasp what your teachers expected of your college writing? 

If so, this page is for you!

Of course, writing for college presents many challenges. If you grew up speaking and writing in other languages, however, the transition to producing effective college writing can be even more complicated. Not only will you have to know the rules of English grammar, but you also have to learn new ways of thinking and arguing, which means that you have to learn how to write for an American academic audience.

You might be a "good writer" in your motherland, but you seemed to call to write in a way that was new to you here. In fact, many of the ESL writer's common ‘mistakes' may result from their application of the accepted rules of writing in their native language to writing in English.

The following chart contrasts the characteristics of American academic writing with some typical conventions of other languages, which may help you get a sense of the differences between writing in U.S. academic genres and writing in academic genres of your native country.

Writing Convention Contrast

Characteristics of effective writing in English for an American academic audience Examples of some contrasting characteristics in other cultures/languages
1. Writing is viewed as a tool to accomplish a task (i.e. to express a point or present an argument) 1. Writing is viewed as a way of engaging the emotions through beautiful language
2. Focus on clarity, directness, and getting to the point 2. Focus on the language's richness or the ability to repeat ideas in a variety of ways; digression is seen as a way of linking the subject under discussion to other issues to show a wider range of knowledge
3. Direct, explicit statement of main idea(s) 3. No direct statement of main idea(s), with readers expected to infer the writer's main point
4. The writer is responsible for including explicit signals--such as transitions--to show logical links between ideas and make connections clear 4. Explicit signals are not necessary; the writer shows respect for the reader's intelligence to make inferences
5. Information is expected to be highly specific 5. Information is expected to be highly philosophical
6. Specific evidence (facts, statistics, examples) are used to support arguments 6. Traditional wisdom and authority are used to support arguments
7. Heavy use of deductive reasoning (movement from the general to the specific) 7. Heavy use of inductive reasoning (movement from the specific to the general)
8. Emphasis on the individuality and originality of ideas 8. Emphasis on traditional wisdom and shared cultural knowledge

This chart is adapted from the handout by Dr. Margery Tegey, “The International Student As Academic Writer,” Georgetown University Writing Center Seminar, November 13, 2001. Only the format has been changed.