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General English An impressive, fully searchable online library of authoritative reference works, verse, fiction and non-fiction, including, under the heading Literary Analysis: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, The King James Bible, the 1914 Oxford Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Strunk's The Elements of Style. This is the BBC's excellent website on learning English, covering a wide variety of usage, vocabulary and grammar topics.
Particularly useful for learners is the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation section. Imagine, for example, that you are not sure about when to use 'who', 'which' or 'that' (relative pronouns). Googling the search strings "BBC English" and "relative pronouns" brings you to this page, which clearly explains the key issues and gives plenty of illustrative examples. There are also quite a few 'Grammar Challenge' topics. Here's an example, on the structure verb+object+to+inf. It includes online audio, a podcast you can subscribe to, and a downloadable PDF. To find out whether an issue you are facing has already been dealt with, go to the Ask About English section. If you can't find the answer, you can submit a new question. On BBC Learning English, you will find the answers to many of your questions. Don't be put off by the rather 'low‑threshold' appearance of the site; there's a lot of useful material here for learners at all levels. Use it and reap the benefits!

Fowler's The King's English ( This final edition, published in 1931 and now considered outdated in some respects, consists of lengthy articles on general topics such as vocabulary, syntax and punctuation, and draws heavily on examples from many sources.

Garbl's Writing Center 'Garbl' is Gary B. Larson of Seattle (Wash.), who kindly maintains this free portal to a plethora of writing tools and references. Compleat [sic] Lexical Tutor — for data-driven language learning on the Web.

Merriam-Webster Words At Play includes articles featuring interesting and unusual words in context, "Words We're Watching", "Usage & Grammar", the "Word of the Day" and words "Trending Now". The Online Dictionary of Language Terminology clearly and concisely explains the sometimes arcane terminology used by English teachers to discuss the workings of the English language. The Phrase Finder, comprising 2,000 everyday English idioms, phrases and proverbs, with explanation of their meanings and origins. Includes Biblical and Shakespearean phrases and the wonderful Phrase Thesaurus, which you can search for phrases related to, or containing, a keyword. KISS = 'Keep It Short and Simple' (polite version), or 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!', would be a suitable motto for the UK-based Campaign for Plain English. For a laugh, check out their examples and 'Golden Bull' and other annual awards. Their blurb: "Since 1979, we have been campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information. We have helped many government departments and other official organisations with their documents, reports and publications. We believe that everyone should have access to clear and concise information." Are you talking aloud? Or is talking allowed? Watch what you write, to make sure it's right is a blog article that uses amusing pairs of pictograms to help learners of English understand the key difference in meaning between homophones — pairs of words that are pronounced exactly the same but have different spellings and very different meanings. Thanks to Alejandra Villalobos for this link.

Academic English

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Cambridge publications on English for Academic Purposes Comprehensive catalogue of books on EAP published by Cambridge University Press, UK.

Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has an impressive collection of online resources for academic writers, including these:

Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, West Lafayette (Ind.), USA. Everything you always wanted to know about academic English but were afraid to ask!

Using English for Academic Purposes ( for students in higher education, by Andy Gillett, English Language and Educational Consultant.


APA style: is the American Psychological Association's website featuring printed and online guides to understanding and applying APA style, including:

MLA style:

MLA Style Centre Modern Language Association writing resources, including Ask the MLA (FAQ).
See also: MLA Formatting and Style Guide of the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University

Referencing/Citations Citation Machine. First click the Create citations button, then you can search for, or submit relevant information on, various types of publication to generate a citation in APA, MLA or Chicago style. For other styles, click the More button.

Citation help on the website of Marquette University, Milwaukee WI includes sample citations, style guides & other writing resources for many common citation styles Citation Generator for APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, ASA, IEEE & AMA.

NoodleTools Express for generating one or two quick citations in MLA, APA or Chicago style.

Classic reference work on the principal requirements of plain English writing style:

Strunk's Elements of Style (

Key differences between formal and informal text clearly explained, with examples:

How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing WikiHow article.

Identifying & Using Formal & Informal Vocabulary (PDF) by David Park, British Council

Lists of appropriately formal words and expressions, and exercises:

Academic Phrasebank, categorised according to function. University of Manchester, UK: "... a general resource for academic writers. It aims to provide you with examples of some of the phraseological 'nuts and bolts' of writing organised under [...] headings [...]. It was designed primarily with international students whose first language is not English in mind. However, if you are a native speaker writer, you may still find parts of the material helpful."

Academic Word List (AWL) (Coxhead, 2000), grouped in alphabetical sublists according to frequency of use. Victoria University of Wellington, NZ.

Academic English exercises for the AWL at Using English for Academic Purposes, includes vocabulary exercises based on the Academic Word List. Click the yellow 'Exercises' button, then 'Selection' in the main menu, then 'Academic Word List'.

Corpus-based tools to illustrate formal usage: The British National Corpus (BNC), a 100-million-word collection of samples of written and spoken English drawn from a wide range of high-quality sources, is a representative cross-section of current British usage. The BNC is searchable on a single word or a phrase (collocation); the result shows the total frequency and up to 50 examples. You can use the BNC – rather like Google – to check the usage(s) and meaning(s) of a word or expression. The context will also help you to understand how to structure a sentence around that word or expression. For example, if you are not familiar with an item in the Academic Word List (see above) and want to check how it is commonly used, this is an excellent reference.

Corpus Concordance English (v.8), part of the Compleat [sic] Lexical Tutor (v.8.3) ( is a more sophisticated tool that enables keyword searching in a variety of corpora to reveal collocations.

Dictionaries & thesauri

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ONLINE DICTIONARIES Cambridge Learner's Dictionary. To select UK or US English (or other languages) click the pull-down menu at the top right. A great time- and money-saver! Reverso English COBUILD dictionary & thesaurus. Online collocation dictionary for students and advanced learners of English. Why buy a print version when you can access this with a couple of mouse clicks? Macmillan British English dictionary (and thesaurus). Arguably, the best British dictionary available online. Merriam-Webster American English dictionary (and thesaurus). Arguably, the best American dictionary available online. The online version of the excellent Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.


What to do when you're writing and can't quite find the right word or phrase to express what you have in mind? In MS Word you can use the built-in thesaurus. Click Review tab / Proofing / Thesaurus and type an approximate synonym into the search box, hit return and then choose the most appropriate word from those listed (and grouped according to which part of speech they are: i.e. noun, adjective or verb, etc.) You can also double click on a word in your text to highlight it and click Shift+F7).

Alternatively, use an online thesaurus such as:

Roget's International Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases ( Type your word into the search box of the Macmillan British English dictionary, press enter and look for entries with a white capital T in a red square. The click the Explore Thesaurus button. Merriam-Webster American English thesaurus (and dictionary). Choose the right tab!

Phrase Thesaurus ( Searchable for phrases related to, or containing, a keyword. Absolutely free and absolutely wobbly! Explore Visuwords, a wonderful online dictionary/thesaurus with a uniquely colourful and kinetic graphic interface showing links between related words. Coloured blobs indicate the part of speech; hovering over a blob brings up a clear definition and an example utterance.


Roget's International Thesaurus (now in its 7th edition) is what you need if you are serious about developing your vocabulary. You can also order it through (Netherlands) or Note that the spelling and some of the vocabulary is American, not British English.

Oxford Learner's Thesaurus, a lower-level, British English reference work that will help you expand your general vocabulary. It includes a CD-ROM with useful vocabulary exercises and games.

Speeches & presentations

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Martin Luther King, Jr. "I've been to the mountaintop" The leader of the US civil rights movement from 1954 to 1968 prophetically delivered this speech on the eve of his assassination. It is surely one of the finest and most moving examples of English oration. N.B. NOT his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

SpeakFirst: Preparing for a Presentation ( video)

SpeakFirst: How to Improve Your Presentations ( video)

How to open and close presentations? Lesson from Mark Powell, Cambridge University Press ELT ( video) One way to improve your presentation skills is to carefully observe other effective presenters at work. What makes their talk so effective? What techniques can you adopt in your own presentation?, undoubtedly, is the most extensive and varied web resource of high-quality presentations. The annual TED Conference on the North American West Coast and numerous other events around the world, including the travelling TEDGlobal, bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). makes the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free. More than 2800 TED Talks are now available.

Inburgerings Curse (Part 1 of 3) Philip Walkate's hilarious parody, entirely in authentic Dunglish, of acculturation courses for foreigners integrating into Dutch society. Sorry, those unfamiliar with the wonderful but bizarre Dunglish language will not be amused.