Improve Your Writing I

(Info about "majors" and "minors" in your studies)


As we've seen, the writing section of the TOEFL requires that you produce a 300-word essay in which you take a position on a topic and then defend it. Don't forget, the position you take is absolutely irrelevant; it's how you present your argument and defend it that count.

Before we start, though, a little tip about "format":

There are lots of differences between English and German in the "technicalities" of writing. Details like punctuation (the use of capital letters, commas, apostrophes, etc.), the meanings of words like bzw. vs. respectively, sogenannt  vs. so-called, and "acceptable" sentence length are only a few examples.

Below we see another issue of this type. Apparently, it's OK in German to use something I'll call a "sub-paragraph". What I mean is that there seems to be a writing convention that allows you "subdivide" your paragraph into units bigger than individual sentences. It looks like the writer gets to the middle of the "idea unit" (the paragraph), and then indicates a "change of direction" by ending the sentence in the middle of the line (indicated by the X's in the image on the left below) and then starts the new sentence - still within the same paragraph - on the next line. "True" paragraph breaks are indicated by the O's.

You can't do this in English!

"German style" - incorrect in English OK

Get it?

Now let's look at the steps in writing a good TOEFL essay*.

Please click => 

* This description was originally on the website of a Canadian software company called KnowledgeBuilder™.The URL of the page was <>, but the site doesn't appear to exist anymore (as of 01 Nov 98). Anyway, I wrote to the company (back in 1997), and they kindly gave me permission to modify the original page to suit the purposes of this class.

Last updated: 27 April 2008