Online Resources for Improving Grammar and Word Choice in Writing


Online Dictionaries

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary

a dictionary for language learners with simple word definitions and examples of use

Longman Dictionary

another learner's dictionary


a collocation dictionary, which shows other words that are commonly used with a target word

Word Reference

a bilingual dictionary, which provides translations of English words into other languages

Cambridge Dictionary

a combination of a learner's and bilingual dictionary

Possible uses: check which part of speech a given word is, what grammatical structure follows a reporting verb (e.g. suggest), and how a word is used in context.


Phrase List

Academic Phrasebank

a collection of phrases commonly used for writing research papers theses and dissertations. A great resource especially for graduate writers.

Possible uses: discover which phrases are commonly used in different parts of research papers (e.g. introductions, method sections, discussions, conclusions) or how you can describe trends and graphs or define terms.



A corpus (pl. corpora) is a large collection of texts. Using a search box, writers can see how a particular word or phrase is used in context by examining multiple sentences.

Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)

a corpus that allows users to search for words and phrases and provides a great number of examples

COCA Word and Phrase

despite its name Word and Phrase, this corpus lets users search for words only. It displays fewer examples than the corpus mentioned above, but at the same time, it is more detailed. COCA Word and Phrase provides definitions, collocations, and synonyms for the target word, and writers can also see in which registers (e.g. spoken or academic) the word is used more commonly.


Possible uses: see how a new word you learned or a specific grammatical construction is used in context to avoid usage mistakes, and identify whether a certain word is appropriate for academic writing.


Online Writing Evaluation Tools


These free online tools allow users to check their texts for grammar, words choice, stylistic, and punctuation mistakes. Writers can copy and paste their papers in one of the tools, and the website will identify some sentence-level issues and provide suggestions about the ways to fix them. While using these tools, however, it is important to remember that they might not be completely accurate in some cases, so writers should evaluate suggestions critically.



Language Tool


Spellchecker Plus

Possible uses: before submitting your paper or going to the Writing Center, run your paper through one or two online writing evaluation tools mentioned above. They will help you notice some typos or simple grammatical mistakes that you can fix on your own.


Note: To find the links to the resources, you can also go to the Writing Center website -> Writing Resources -> Helpful Links -> Grammar, Style, and Punctuation.


Last Updated 11/02/2017