Academic Writing Assistant
Developed at the Leuven Language Institute

About the Academic Writing Assistant

The AWA was developed at the Leuven Language Institute (KU Leuven). The text below described spells out principles underlying and sources informing the components.

Language issues


The AWA spellchecker is based on SCOWL (Spell Checker Oriented Word Lists), complemented with manually compiled information. Words highlighted in red possibly contain a spelling error. If the word has also been underlined, this means one or more suggestions are available. These are based on Levenshtein Distance and ranked by frequency.

Language errors

This component flags possible grammar and vocabulary errors on the basis of PoS tagging, the use of a parser, and information from a language model. Pop-ups help the user identify and correct mistakes (such as *less countries or subject-verb agreement errors). If the system detects a pattern that may contain a mistake, the pop-up prompts the user to check whether they have used the word(s) correctly, as in the following example.

Tense use

The buttons under Tense use provide a brief overview of the most commonly confused tenses. Relevant verb forms are highlighted in the text, and it is up to the writer to check whether the tense used corresponds with the rules of thumb provided.

Adverb position

Adverbs have been grouped together in categories following the same placement rules. Once a category is clicked, the placement rules are shown and corresponding adverbs are highlighted in the text. Adverbs highlighted in blue follow the standard pattern as set out in the placement rules; for adverbs highlighted in green, additional information is provided in a pop-up. It is up to the writer to check whether the place of the adverb corresponds with the placement rules provided.

Cohesion and coherence


The readability index shows the complexity of a text based on the Flesh Reading Ease test.

Sentence length and Paragraphing

These menu items can be used to highlight very short or long sentences and paragraphs. For Sentence length, more information on combining sentences is provided; for Paragraphing, there is an extra section on topic sentences.

Reference and Linking words and phrases

These menu items focus on possible problems related to vague reference or overuse of particular linking items, all of which are highlighted in the text. For writers looking for more variation, this section includes an overview of commonly used linking words organised by frequency in Academic English for each category.

Recurring words and patterns

To help writers avoid needless repetition, recurring words are highlighted: single words occurring twice ore more in a 15-word span; word combinations (2-, 3- and 4-grams) over a longer a stretch of text.


The buttons Personal language and Informal language highlight words and phrases that are not typically used in academic genres. In addition number of strategies to avoid personal and subjective language are shown.

The Academic Writing Assistant is also available for Dutch (

to the Academic Writing Assistant