How international students should tackle the AWA and the E-rater.
The conventions for the AWA can be summarized in a single statement: written English requires that each paragraph be developed either directly away from a topic (or thesis) sentence or directly towards a topic (or thesis) sentence. Writers in English have less freedom to wander from the main point of their discourse than writers in other languages. English writing style must be direct and to the point even though it is necessary to support each main idea with examples, explanations, and illustrations. The thesis (or topic sentence) must contain the germ of the idea that permeates the entire paragraph. Each example or illustration must be connected to that idea with transitional markers such as for example, thus, or moreover.
The E-rater speaks “American.”
Your essays should be written in “American”, not “English.” Phrases that are more commonly spoken in English (indeed, hence, midst, “do the needful,” etc.) are less common in an American writing style. Phrases that are commonly spoken in English are unlikely to be picked up by the E-rater, which picks up phrases used among high scorers (who are overwhelmingly American).
Students from the UK, Hong Kong, India and other Commonwealth nations should adjust their syntax, style, and language to better suit the flavor of English used in America, as this is the language of the E-rater. Avoid any local jargon and, particularly, any unusual transitional phrases (e.g., “heretofore”). Got that mate? In addition, the human graders are overwhelmingly American and will have an easier time with arguments written in American.
Beware of words that have a non-American spelling:
“centre” = center
“analyse” = analyze
The best solution to writing in the appropriate style is to read all of our sample essays. You should also familiarize yourself with American scholarly journals to see how American writers structure arguments.