Here, we will post frequently asked questions from our tutorials and class discussions (and our answers to them of course!). If you have any questions that you think should be added to this list, please mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I use ”we” in a text? Short answer: yes, sometimes.
Typically, more traditional fields tend to avoid personal pronouns like ”we” whereas more recent disciplines, like computer science, use personal pronouns more. Also consider that although ”we” is fairly common, ”you” and ”I” are not used very much at all.
Can I begin a sentence with ”and” or ”but”? Short answer: no.
What are the differences between American and British English?
Whichever form of English you prefer, it is important to be consistent.
Spelling difference examples
|“s” constructions, e.g. organisation, organise, utilisation, utilise||“z” constructions, e.g. organization, organize, utilization, utilize|
|use of ”u” in words like: colour, vapour, honour, labour, mould||no ”u” in words like: color, vapor, honor, labor, mold|
|”-re” endings, e.g. centre, litre, fibre||”-er” endings, e.g. center, liter, fiber|
|doubled Ls, e.g. fuelled, traveller, equalling||single Ls, e.g. fueled, traveler, equaling|
|”-nce” endings, e.g. offence, licence||”-nse” endings, e.g. offense, license|
|double vowels, e.g. paediatric, oestrogen, anaesthetic||single vowels, e.g. pediatric, estrogen, anasthetic|
|choice of ”-t” or ”-ed” past tense verb ending, e.g. burnt/burned, smelt/smelled, dreamt/dreamed||only the ”-ed” past tense verb ending, e.g. burned, smelled, dreamed|
|some chemical terms, e.g. sulphur, sulphate, aluminium, caesium||some chemical terms, e.g. sulfur, sulfate, aluminum, cesium|
Vocabulary difference examples
|base rate||prime rate|
|(round) brackets||parentheses (“brackets” refers to  )|
|CV||résumé (“CV” is only used for professors and academics)|
|earth wire||ground wire|
|hand brake||parking brake|
|hire purchase||installment plan|
|juggernaut||18-wheeler, semi truck|
|managing director||chief executive officer, CEO|
|number plate||license plate|
|pet hate||pet peeve|
|postal code||ZIP code|
|queue||line (”line up” if using a verb)|
|zed||the letter z (pronounced ”zee”)|
What are the most common informalities that I should avoid in my writing?
Below are some informalities that students frequently include in their writing, along with some suggestions for revision. For more about informalities, see the information under Style and Register.
|get||This word is often used when “have” is a better choice. So, “The client needs to get a clear idea of the project goals” would be more formal if it read, “The client needs to have a clear idea of the project goals”.|
|etc.||When you have a list that you would like to indicate is not a complete catalogue of all possible items, avoid using “etc.” Instead, use the phrase “such as” to indicate one or more examples: “The team tested many different battery types, such as lithium-ion, chromic acid cell, alkaline, and nickel-cadmium batteries”.|
|kind of, sort of||“Kind of” is acceptable when used to indicate “type of” (as in the example “Chromic acid cell is one kind of battery”) but is informal when it is used to indicate extent or quantity, as in: “The carbon fiber machine is kind of expensive”. Instead, be more precise: “The carbon fiber machine’s cost exceeds the budget”. “Sort of” is also informal, and it also should be avoided.|
|pros and cons||These are prefixes, not full words, so better options include “advantages and disadvantages” or “benefits and detriments”.|
|thing||Replace this word with a more specific noun to clarify your writing.|
|ups and downs||Replace with “successes and challenges”, “advances and setbacks”, or another phrase that more specifically conveys the intended meaning.|
|the reason being||This phrase cannot function as a sentence’s subject. For example, “The reason being that plutonium is scarce” is incorrect, and could better be expressed as “The reason for this is that plutonium is scarce”. To correctly use this phrase, it must begin a description. An example of this, which should be used only in informal situations, is: “Plutonium is not an ideal choice for this application, the reason being that it is scarce.”|
Does Urkund react if I change just a few words in a paragraph? Short answer: yes.
Where should I put references in a text? Short answer: it depends on which reference system is used.
Which words should have capital letters in a document or chapter title?
1. Title case: Capitalise all significant words, i.e. most words apart from articles (a, an, the), linking words (e.g. and, but) and prepositions (e.g. of, in, at). This is the way that the titles of novels usually appear on the cover of the book, for instance.
|Examples: Titles Using Title Case
Modelling and Analysis of Urban Flooding
Management in Sweden and China: a Comparison of Cultures
Note: Since ”in”, ”a” ”and” and ”of” are not significant words, they are not capitalised. Note in the 2nd example that there is no capital letter after the colon (British English). In American English, there would be a capital ”A” since this is the start of an independent clause. If the subtitle came on the next line, it would start with a capital letter.
2. Sentence case: This means capitalising the first word and all proper nouns, just as a writer would do when writing a sentence in English.
|Examples: Titles using sentence case
Modelling and analysis of urban flooding
Management in Sweden and China: a comparison of cultures
Note: In the 2nd example, since ”Sweden” and ”China” are proper nouns, they have capital letters, but none of the other words needs a capital.
Am I allowed to use abbreviations like e.g. and etc. in reports and other texts?
However, there is not one clear answer for the use of ”e.g.” Some people feel that it should not be used in formal texts, except in instances which require extreme concision (like footnotes). Other people feel that ”e.g.” is a usefully concise way to introduce an example. Check with your supervisor to find out what his or her preference is. If you are still uncertain, then avoid using ”e.g.”
If I write out an acronym or abbreviation, which letters should I capitalize?
If an acronym stands for a proper noun (the name of a specific person, place, or thing, such as a company’s name), then the words must follow the same capitalization rules as other proper nouns.
For instance, if spelling out the full name of INTERPOL, it would appear as the ”International Criminal Police Organization”. Why? That is the specific name of that organization.
However, if spelling out the full phrase for FAQ, it should appear as ”frequently asked questions” because that is not the name of a specific person, place, or thing.