Accuracy: Introduction

Accuracy in EAP


When using English for academic purposes it is important to be accurate both in speaking and writing. It is, however, very difficult to produce language which is intelligent, appropriate and accurate at the same time. It is therefore important to break down the task into stages: an ideas stage and an accuracy stage.


When you are speaking, you therefore need to prepare well. Do not prepare only your ideas; prepare your language as well. Michael Wallace’s advice (Wallace, 1980, pp. 209-210) is very useful. Write out your spoken presentation in the way that you intend to say it. This means that if you are working from a piece of your own written work, you must do some of the work of writing the paper again. Written language is different from spoken language. Your seminar presentation will probably take less time than the written paper it is based on and you cannot summarise while you are standing at the front of the room. When you have written out your talk, you will need to carefully check it for accuracy. Another possibility is to record your presentation and watch it later. While you are watching it, look out for mistakes – a useful way to do this is to transcribe sections of your talk, as it is easier to notice mistakes when they are written down. You can then try to give the talk again.


When you are writing, you need to rewrite and edit your work carefully. In Writing and the writer, Frank Smith distinguishes between “composition” and “transcription” in writing. “Composition” is deciding what you want to say, and “transcription” is what you have to do to say it. His advice is “The rule is simple: Composition and transcription must be separated, and transcription must come last. It is asking too much of anyone, and especially of students trying to improve all aspects of their writing ability, to expect that they can concern themselves with polished transcription at the same time that they are trying to compose. The effort to concentrate on spelling, handwriting, and punctuation at the same time that one is struggling with ideas and their expression not only interferes with composition but creates the least favorable situation in which to develop transcription skills as well” (Smith, 1982, p. 24).

So whether you are speaking or writing, it is important to have a specific time for working on accuracy.


Check how good you are at finding mistakes.

For seminars, plan your talk in detail and carefully Proofread it for accuracy. Or, give your talk, transcribe it and then proofread it.

When writing Proofread your work.

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