With over 68 different languages being spoken in Kenya, ESL students from that region can face significant challenges when attempting to write academic essays in English.

It is impossible to compare all the similarities and differences between English and the 69 different languages spoken in Kenya, so this article is going to dwell upon the differences between Swahili and English as understanding these differences can make it much easier for ESL students from the region to master writing academic essays in English.

Important similarities between English and Swahili

Before exploring the similarities and differences between the two languages, it is important to understand some key terminology:


The person, place, thing or idea that is doing or being something


An action word, e.g. give, say, call, try, eat


The person or thing affected by the verb, e.g. in “He ate a sandwich”, the sandwich is the object because it is being affected by the actions of the person eating it.


Tells you when the action occurred, e.g. in the future, the past or if it is happening in the present.

The sentence structures between Swahili and English are very similar, as they all contain a subject, verb, and an object. In both English and Swahili, nouns can be grouped together according to type. In Swahili, for example, there are eight noun groups.

Rules for written English

Now you are aware of the similarities between the two languages it is time to take note of the written English rules which will help you to write fantastic essays, papers, and dissertations:

1. Use the active voice

The active voice is far more common in written English than the passive voice. For example, “Barry kicked the ball” is more easily understood than “the ball was hit”. However, there are certain circumstances when the passive voice is acceptable, e.g. when you do not know who completed the action.

2. Avoid over-using words and phrases such as there is, there are, it is etc

Overusing these words and phrases just leads to “word fill” – you might fill the word count but you’ve not actually said anything.

3. Two negatives do not make a positive!

Compare “He was not unwilling” with “He is willing”. Which one is more easily understood?

4. Be consistent

When writing about several ideas, be consistent in the grammatical form that you use. The technical term for this is “parallel construction”. Failure to apply this in your writing can leave the reader finding it very difficult to understand your work.

5.Sentence structure


Sentence structure is really important in written English and it is important to remember that the grammar rules of written English can be very different from the grammar rules of spoken English.

In other words, don’t rush to write something down exactly as you would say it! Unless, of course, you’re writing a novel, in which case it is fine.

6.Starting a sentence with an incomplete sentence or clause

Starting a sentence in this way is acceptable if it is followed very closely by the person or thing it describes.

7. Avoid danglers!

You can get away with “danglers” in spoken English because the person who is listening to you can infer your meaning from your body language, the tone of voice and the context of the conversation.

This is not the same in written English, where the reader cannot take into account your body language or tone of voice as they read your writing.

An example of a “dangler” is something like, “Hoping to garner favor, the teacher was unimpressed with her gift”. It is dangling because we don’t know who or what is giving the gift.

By adding a proper subject, or by identifying who bought the gift, the sentence starts to make sense:

“Hoping to garner favor, the annoying parents bought the teacher a gift which that left her unimpressed”.

8.Place descriptive words and phrases close to the object they describe

Compare “I have a cake that Mollie baked in my bag” with “In my bag is a cake that Mollie baked for me”.

Whilst both sentences make sense, the second is more grammatically accurate because of the position of the descriptive phrase (in this case, “in my lunch bag” is a descriptive phrase)

9. Avoid overly long sentences

Speaks for itself!

Overly long sentences can be unwieldy and hard to understand. If in doubt about the length of your sentences, remember to KISS (not literally). KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid! Keep your sentences simple and easy to understand.

10. Make sure that each sentence makes a clear statement

It can be tempting to include lots of irrelevant sentences in your work to increase the word count. However, in doing this you are lowering the quality of your work.

If a sentence doesn’t have a clear point or purpose to it, then get rid of it.

11. Understand each word that you use!

This is one of the easiest, most important rules to remember.

If you don’t know the meaning of a word, then do not use it! At all! If you use a word incorrectly you can alter the whole meaning of a sentence (at best). At worst, you can make yourself look silly, and you don’t want that.

If you find yourself in a challenging situation when writing an essay in English, then follow these 11 steps for guaranteed success… in the meantime, to help you get used to the standard that is expected, why not use an online essay writing service to help you get the best grades in a fast way?