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Concise explanations for writing and communicating in the English language. No advertising. Mobile-friendly. Feedback welcome! Enjoy!

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Mastering Online Presentations

The strong shift to making fuller use of digital presentation and meeting tools like Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. is one of the most lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not a temporary measure; it is the way of the future. Mastering effectively presenting to...

Verb Usage: Subject-verb agreement

Subject-verb agreement can be an issue in any sentence in English. Verbs need to be conjugated to their nouns, and this can become more complicated when grammatical subjects become longer and more complicated. Additionally, some nouns can cause confusion about whether they are singular or plural.

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are words that are used to describe or provide more information about a noun or pronoun. They can be used to describe the appearance, size, shape, age, color, or other qualities of a person, place, or thing. The Basics There are many descriptive...

Choosing the Right Words

Choosing the right word is often more complicated than translating, which often leads to issues of appropriacy. Translating without a clear understanding of vocabulary can lead to the use of words that are rare, obsolete, or belong to an inappropriate genre or register.

Where To Put Commas

Do you just scatter commas around, randomly? Or are there rules for using them? Find out – quickly!

Evaluate Source Quality

You can’t just use random webpages and data you find. Getting good at parsing source credibility will help you in school and beyond.


Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that writers should “not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.” He might have been right. It seems exceedingly unlikely that anyone in the history of...


Quick overview of non-verbal mistakes when presenting – and how to avoid them.

What is an Independent Clause?

Simple, short definition of the building block of written English: the independent clause.

Find Sources to Support Your Argument

Steps to finding credible, specific sources to support your argument.

Negation for English Verbs

English relies on the auxiliary verbs "to do" and "to be" to express negation. Which verb to use will often depend on if the action is past, present, or future.  Present Tense With "Do"  The auxiliary verb "do" plus the word not is used to form negative...

APA Paper Formatting with Sample & Comments

Summary of APA document formatting basics with a sample paper you can download from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue. The sample includes annotations explaining the various rules (PDF).

Word Choice: Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency describe how often things occur, or how often we do things. These can be used as part of a hedging strategy, to describe frequency without having to use exact numbers. Learning to use indefinite adverbs appropriately is something that can be developed through extensive reading and listening.

MLA In-Text Citations: the Source is a Website

How do you give credit in your writing (not the bibliography) when the source is a website?

Comparatives and Superlatives

Comparatives are words that are used to (as the name suggests) compare things. Words like: bigger, longer, taller, faster, slower, shorter, and smaller are comparatives. Superlatives are those things that you find in high school yearbooks where students vote for the...

The Difference Between /b/ and /v/ Pronunciation – Guide for ESL Learners

The b and v sounds in English are often confused by English language learners because they are produced in a similar way. Both sounds are made with the lips coming together, but there is a subtle difference in the way they are pronounced. To produce the b sound, the...

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are words that are used to show ownership or possession. In English, there are eight possessive adjectives: "my," "your," "his," "her," "its," "our," "your," and "their." "My" is used to show ownership or possession of something by the speaker....

100 Irregular Verbs in English

English has lots of different verbs that don't follow the same rules as other verbs. This is because English has changed a lot over time, and has mixed with other languages.  English used to have two ways of making past verbs. One (that we still have today) is by...

MLA Works Cited Page – Basic Formatting

Straight answers on the ‘Works Cited’ page requried by MLA. NOT a ‘Bibliography’!

Its vs. It’s, Their/there, Led/lead etc

Examples of words that sound the same but have different meanings – homonyms. Too/to, pear, pair, led/lead etc.



One of the largest challenges to moving from high school writing to more advanced work is the challenge to write something original. This doesn’t mean you have to invent some whole new theory of life, the universe, and everything. Rather, it means you have to make your reader think.

You can’t just regurgitate a bunch of facts from the internet or your class notes. So how do you turn the general idea of “Holden Caulfield is alienated from his community” into something original? Something that hasn’t been written about hundreds of times already?

Read on Macduff…


Using Evidence to Win the Day

After developing an original, argumentative thesis, using evidence well is the key to academic writing. Dirty secret: many readers (yes, including teachers) will forgive grammatical errors if you’ve got a compelling argument, have thought deeply about the right evidence to use, and analyze that evidence.

The two are inseparable, really. If you think deeply about evidence – whether key quotes from the novel you are reading or statistics on the subject of your research paper – chances are an interesting, original angle will dawn on you…


Write with Style

What does it mean to write with style? Particularly in an academic environment?

It doesn’t mean:

  • Using big words
  • Padding your writing to reach word/page minimums
  • Picking the right font

Writing teachers joke that “flow” is the “other four-letter ‘F’ word” because students use it as such a grab bag catch-all…

Writing style is difficult to articulate. If you’ve ever listened to a master comedian parse what makes something funny you’re in the right ball park.

The good news? Style in academic writing has some pretty concrete and, honestly, low barriers to entry.

Research & documentation

MLA, APA, Rules Rules Rules...

Research is crucial for writers trying to argue a point and be judged as credible. Including quality research, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, is often one of the most challenging aspects to writers moving into advanced high school and college work. Crucial concepts include:

  • Developing quality sources
  • Citing information properly
  • Creating accurate Works Cited pages

Presentation Skills

Presentation Skills

Presentation skills are crucial to success in today’s business world. While details change a lot from company to company and culture to culture, many skills are consistent: eye contact, slide design, handling questions.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Get a great gig with a differentiated resume

Fantastic tips and insights on writing modern, relevant resumes from 11trees’ partner Let’s Eat, Grandma – a resume writing and career coaching startup based in Austin, TX.