Monthly Archives: September 2013

Stylish Writing in English: tout

Essential vocabulary for academic manuscripts

Tout: to praise publicly and energetically with the intention of publicizing something

(pronunciation tip: rhymes with the English out)

This precise verb is quite useful in the introduction section of academic articles.

Tout is often used in the passive voice (because we don’t care who is doing the touting, and most of the time we don’t know anyway) as seen in the examples below:

Crowdfunding has been touted as a mechanism for creators without access to ready cash. (The Economist)

Medical marijuana has been touted as an effective cancer treatment for decades by its various supporters, but despite the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, marijuana remains a sparsely recommended drug for patients with life-threatening illnesses. (RiseEarth)

Social media has been touted as having an increasingly important role in many aspects of the hospitality industry, including guest satisfaction and process improvement. (Ecornell)

Biofuels have been touted as a possible replacement to fossil fuels. (Ted, Jonathan Trent)

But as you can see from the extent of these examples, tout is used is many tenses and contexts.

But that means travellers lose the benefit of a downtown arrival, often touted as an advantage of trains.
For a while it was touted as the fuel of the future, but it remains difficult to produce, transport and store.
Fluorescence is increasingly being touted as the future of clinical imaging due to its selectivity.
Micro fuel cells are being touted as the hot portable energy source of the future.
Some officials have touted the new property tax as another market-dampening measure.

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Real English: The Right to Understand

Medical, legal, and financial documents should be easy to read, but too often they aren’t. With spot-on (and funny) examples, Sandra Fisher Martins shows how overly complex language separates us from the information we need — and three steps to change that.

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September 23, 2013 · 12:00 pm

Best free online dictionaries

learn english dictionaryToo many people depend on google translate to help them with their language learning.

I hate to break it to you, but Google Translate isn’t intended to provide the depth of meaning and nuance typically necessary in an academic or professional environment.

Try these options instead:


especially useful for the forums


offers a medical and financial dictionary as well as acronyms and idioms


a dictionary of synonyms–use with care and preferably in combination with number 4

4. Oxford Collocations Dictionary online

This is not the most comprehensive dictionary ever, but helpful with putting appropriate words together

5. Google search

Not technically a dictionary, but will help you find the meaning of lots of idioms and phrases. If people are using the construction you are looking for, it will come up in google search. Use + or ” ” and don’t underestimate the auto complete feature!


This dictionary uses a language corpus to show you examples of the phrase you are looking for and its translation in another language, so you can easily see the different translations of a word or phrase depending on the context. A delightful discovery!

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Filed under Business English, Language Learning, Writing in English

Improve your English vocabulary | 21st century tools

Continually improving your vocabulary is a constant struggle when living and working in a foreign language. At one point, you reach a plateau and then you feel you aren’t improving anymore. You have enough language to feel comfortable, but you also know that you could be more precise, more nuanced, or more stylish.

Luckily, we have more resources to help us today than ever before. Gone are the days of hand-made flashcards and endless repetition that only got us somewhere very slowly. Vocabulary-learning software and helpful websites keep popping up to help you use your study time more efficiently than ever.

Check out these online resources to help you build your vocabulary in English.

English course Utrecht


makes any webpage clickable with definitions using either uni lingual or bilingual dictionaries.

Advantages: nothing to download, just go to and paste the url of the website you are reading into the box. Now you can just click on any word to get the definition! You can read more easily because you don’t have to go back and forth to a dictionary.

Disadvantages: Unfortunately, there is no way to study new vocabulary, and some of the dictionaries are better than others (English-English is the most comprehensive)

2. anki

download the open-source software onto your computer, phone, or tablet and study word lists more efficiently

Advantages: download word lists or add your own to use these advanced flashcards. You have the option to say how well you know a word when it comes up–then anki will show you that word again at an appropriate interval to maximize your memorization potential. Good for on-the-go studying in short intervals.

Disadvantages: You have to download the software (or mobile app), some downloaded word lists are not correct (but easily editable), creating your own word list can be time-consuming.


Plug-in for chrome to define any word you are reading anywhere on the internet and add it to a word list with picture, definition, and sentence. The program makes automatic quizzes and reminds you to study. It also suggests reading for you elsewhere on the web that incorporates your new words. Cool!

Advantages: Saves words with sentences, definitions, picture (context!) and reminds you to study. Plays a nice sound when you get the right answer (good for motivation!)

Disadvantages: Sometimes you will need to change the definition or picture as they may not be relevant.


Used to be, this site is no longer free, but the software is still pretty good. Study “SAT vocabulary” (don’t study “erudite vocabulary”) or add your own word lists.

Advantages: Good software for memorizing words and sentences, plays a nice sound when you get the answer right and gradually asks harder questions (multiple choice among 5, then 10, then fill in the blank)

Disadvantages: This site is not free and you will have to manually insert your words and sentences.

**Do you use any interesting sites to help you remember or activate new vocabulary? Add them to the comments!


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