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Considerations for Non-native English Speakers


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Match the Verb and the Subject

It is often easy to forget that the subject must match the verb in number, especially when the subject and verb are far apart. Since the verb is sometimes called “the engine of the sentence,” for the sentence to have impact on the reader, it is important to make sure that the verb and subject are working together.

Incorrect: “Luther’s clear writing and his desire for reform is one reason why his work is still relevant today.”

Correct: “Luther’s clear writing and his desire for reform are two reasons why his work is still relevant today.”

Use the Correct Preposition

Because there are so many prepositions in English, and those prepositions can each occur in various contexts, it is often difficult to select the appropriate one. The following example reflects the most common usage of a few prepositions.

Incorrect: “Bavinck and Calvin both agree that we must believe on the Bible as God’s word. If Scripture is used of all spiritual guidance, then we can only discover salvation in reading the Bible. The Christian concept for revelation rests in God giving us a reliable witness for His own character.”

Correct: “Bavinck and Calvin both agree that we must believe in the Bible as God’s word. If Scripture is used for all spiritual guidance, then we can only discover salvation by reading the Bible. The Christian concept of revelation rests in God giving us a reliable witness of His own character.”

Work on Forming Compound and Complex Sentences

It is often less intimidating to write short grammatical sentences. However, although academic writing values concision, it is not true that academic writers use only sentences that are short and simple. In fact, compound and complex sentences are commonly used to express the relation between ideas and to convey complex information.

Choppy Sentences: “God works through suffering. We suffer so that God can show us our own weakness. When we see our weakness, then God will show us His strength in Scripture. God knows all things, and we must trust in his will.”

Academic Writing: “God works through suffering to show us our weakness, which, once seen, allows us to look for His strength. Because God is all-powerful, His will is above our will, and His ways are above our ways. By the light of Scripture, we can see that the strength we have been trying to find in ourselves is actually freely offered to us by the one who suffered for us.”

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