A veteran distance educator offers the writing guidelines she distributes to her students at the beginning of each course.
- Do not use first person point of view: I, me, we, our, us, etc.
- NEVER use second person point of view: you, your, etc.
- Don't give readers commands such as: Be sure to ..... or any similar sentences.
- Do not use phrases such as I think that, I believe that, I feel that, in my opinion, etc.
- Qualifiers such as these should not be used: very, extremely, really, a lot, great, best, etc.
- Write out all contractions: can't should be cannot, for instance.
- Do not begin sentences (or phrases/clauses within sentences) with ANY of the following words: AS, IT, IN, THERE, THIS, THAT, THEY, THEIR, BY, IF, WHEN, WHILE, BECAUSE, THE REASON IS THAT, IT IS IMPORTANT, THIS MEANS THAT
- Do not use the words important, vital, paramount, essential, key, or other similar words.
- Do not use THAT when referring to people. The pronoun WHO refers to people.
- Do not use slang or other informal diction.
- "to be" verbs should be used sparingly: is, are, was, were, etc.
- AVOID Wordiness: the fact that, at that point in time. in other words
- Do not make announcements such as this paper will, in this paper I will, in the article, in the essay, etc.
- Do not use pretentious words intended to impress readers. If you use words your reader might not know, explain them.
- Never use words that seem uncertain: could, might, maybe, probably, etc.
- Avoid negatives (use failed rather than did not, for example)
- Use commas and semi-colons properly.
- In a series of three or more nouns or noun phrases, insert a comma before the word "and" or "or"
- Possessive nouns -- use apostrophes properly for singular and plural possessive noun forms.
- Do not use scenarios or anecdotes to illustrate points. This is a research paper, not a creative writing assignment.
- Do not use passive voice in your writing. Be concise and clear. Passive voice makes the sentence too wordy. Use active voice, clear, precise, and concise sentences
- Paragraphs: See writing effective paragraphs for help. Make sure your discussion postings and responses are in block style (single spaced, no first line indention, skip one line between paragraphs).
- Pronouns: Work that includes too many of the following: he, she, it, they, etc. indicates not enough time spent on the writing to clarify pronoun reference. See pronoun agreement and pronoun reference for additional information.
- Subject/verb agreement: Check to make sure that your tenses don't shift from the present to the past tense. Be consistent. Also be sure that your subjects and verbs agree. See subject-verb agreement for help.
- Spelling: If you have a computer with a spell checker, use it! Even if you have a spell-checker, have another person read your essay for small errors. You might have entered an incorrect spelling in your spell checker! Also, see commonly confused words for additional help.
- Commas: See commas for all the comma usage rules.
- Sentence structure: Read your work aloud to ensure proper sentence structure. See Sentence Punctuation Patterns , Sentence Structure , Sentences: Run-ons, and Comma Splices , and Sentences: Fragments
- Parallelism: Sentences that are not parallel can be confusing so that the meaning of your writing is not clear. See parallelism
- Apostrophes: This is another indication of rushing through your work. Proofread for singular and plural possessives. See using apostrophes to show possession
- Dangling modifiers: If these are in your writing, you definitely did not proofread. See modifiers
- First and second person point of view: Using these indicates that you have not taken time to proofread and revise to demonstrate objectivity in your work. This is not about you; it is about learning and expressing knowledge of the topics. In your responses, you may use first person point of view only when you are relating course concepts to personal experience.
Verb/Subject Agreement: main verbs agree with the subject in person and number
Verb Tense: writing does not shift inappropriately back and forth from present to past
Noun Plurals: regular plurals ending in "s" and irregular plurals
Articles: articles should be properly placed ("a," "an," and "the")
Punctuation: Commas, semi-colons, colons; ending punctuation INSIDE quotation marks
Pronoun Reference: every pronoun has a clear referent. Do not use "he," she," "they," etc. more than twice per paragraph.
Vague Pronouns: Make sure that pronouns such as "it" and "this" refer to something specific.
- In the report it suggests that moderate exercise is better than no exercise at all. X
- The report suggests that moderate exercise is better than no exercise at all. OK
- The group wanted to meet in January, but this didn't happen until May. X
- The group wanted to meet in January, but the conference didn't take place until May. OK
PRONOUNS SHOULD BE REPLACED WITH PRECISE NOUNS to improve clarity. Use precise language. Avoid "it." "You" and other personal pronouns are never used in an academic report. "This" and "these" need a noun referent for clarity. "One" is generally a formal and acceptable pronoun.
Modifiers: A word or phrase describing something.
Make sure the modifier clearly refers to the element you want it to modify.
- The council advises physicians at regular intervals to administer the drug. X
- The council advises physicians to administer the drug at regular intervals. OK
- At regular intervals, the council advises physicians to administer the drug. OK
Make sure that a modifying phrase or clause has something to modify.
- By manipulating the lower back, the pain was greatly eased. (X--implies the pain was doing the manipulating)
- By manipulating the lower back, the therapist greatly eased the pain. OK
- When not going to school, my hobbies range from athletics to automobiles. (X--implies the hobbies go to school)
- When I am not going to school, my hobbies range from athletics to automobiles. OK
X: Boy Scouts at the camp can learn cooking, canoeing, swimming, or how to make ropes.
OK: Boy Scouts at the camp can learn cooking, canoeing, swimming, or rope-making.
X: I enjoy biking and to walk down by the pier.
OK: I enjoy biking and walking down by the pier.
X: Non-traditional students often study long hours, get limited sleep, and up again with the sunrise.
OK: Non-traditional students often study long hours, get limited sleep, and are up again with the sunrise.
Using That and Who
In academic writing that refers only to things. Who (or its forms whom and whose) refers only to people.
These are the books that I need for the class.
He is the man who will be teaching the class.
Use "it" "they" and "you" carefully
X In Chapter four of my autobiography it says that I was born out of wedlock.
OK: Chapter four of my autobiography states that I was born out of wedlock.
X In the restaurant they gave me someone else's linguini.
OK In the restaurant, the server gave me someone else's linguini.
X In the fourteenth century, you had to struggle to survive.
OK In the fourteenth century, English peasant farmers had to struggle to survive.
The antecedent of a pronoun is the word that the pronoun stands for.
X Every student must have their pencils.
(Both every and student are singular; therefore, his, her, or his or her must be used. Their is plural and cannot refer to a singular noun.)
OK Every student must have his or her pencil.
X: I never go to that place because they have stale bread. (What does they refer to? Both I and place are singular.)
OK: I never go to that place because it has stale bread.
X: He ought to speak French well. He lived there for twenty years.
OK: He ought to speak French well. He lived in France for twenty years.
X: The suitcase was on the plane, but now it's gone. (What is gone? The suitcase or the plane?)
OK The suitcase was on the plane, but now the suitcase is gone.
The suitcase was on the plane, but now the plane is gone. (Depends on which you mean...)
Punctuation: Use a semicolon as well as a conjunctive adverb to join two independent clauses.
- Much of the literature advocates stretching preparatory to exercise, however, the mechanisms are not well understood. X
- Much of the literature advocates stretching preparatory to exercise; however, the mechanisms are not well understood. OK
These are the most common conjunctive adverbs:
as a result
Comma, Semi-Colon, Colon
a. Use a comma after each item in a series of three or more.
b. Use a comma when you join independent clauses with one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (and, or, nor, but, so, yet , for).
- Many studies indicate favorable results in function, decreased pain and range of motion. X
- Many studies indicate favorable results in function, decreased pain, and range of motion. OK
c. Use a semicolon when you join independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction.
- Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. X
- Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. OK
d. Do not use a comma to separate subject and verb.
His enthusiasm for the subject and his desire to be of help, led him to volunteer. X
His enthusiasm for the subject and his desire to be of help led him to volunteer. OK
e. Use a colon after a complete statement in order to introduce one or more directly related ideas, such as a series of directions, a list, or a quotation or other comment illustrating or explaining the statement.
- Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. OK
- Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. BETTER
- The daily newspaper contains four sections: news, sports, entertainment, and classified ads.
- Omit the filler phrases "it is," "there is," and "there are" at the beginning of sentences; these often delay the sentence's true subject and verb.
X It is expensive to upgrade computer systems.
OK Upgrading computer systems is expensive.
- Omit "this" from the beginning of a sentence by joining it to the preceding sentence with a comma.
X Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols. This has lessened the ozone layer's depletion.
OK Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from aerosols, lessening the ozone layer's depletion.
- Change "which" or "that" constructions to an "-ing" word.
X The committee, which meets monthly, oversees accounting procedures and audits.
OK The committee, meeting monthly, oversees accounting procedures and audits.
- Omit "which" or "that" altogether when possible.
X Because the fluid, which was brown and poisonous, was dumped into the river, the company that was negligent had to shut down.
OK Because the brown, poisonous fluid was dumped into the river, the negligent company had to shut down.
- Replace passive verbs with active verbs. In passive constructions, the subject of the sentence is being acted upon; in active constructions, the subject is the actor.
X Rain forests are being destroyed by uncontrolled logging.
OK Uncontrolled logging is destroying rain forests.
- Change "is" or "was" when they occur alone to a strong verb.
X A new fire curtain is necessary for the stage.
OK The stage needs a new fire curtain.
- Replace "is," "are," "was," "were," or "have + an -ing word" to a simple present or past tense verb.
X The South African government was undergoing significant changes.
OK The South African government underwent significant changes.
- Replace "should," "would," or "could" with strong verbs.
X The environmental council could see several solutions.
OK The environmental council saw several solutions.
- Substitute strong verbs for "-tion" and "-sion" words whenever possible.
X I submitted an application for the job.
OK I applied for the job.
Redundant Pairs: Many pairs of words imply each other. Finish implies complete, so the phrase completely finish is redundant in most cases. So are many other pairs of words:
each individual _____
large in size
of a bright color
heavy in weight
period in timeround in shape
at an early time
of cheap quality
honest in character
of an uncertain condition
in a confused state
unusual in nature
extreme in degree
of a strange type
X Before the travel agent was completely able to finish explaining the various differences among all of the many very unique vacation packages his travel agency was offering, the customer changed her future plans.
OK Before the travel agent finished explaining the differences among the unique vacation packages his travel agency was offering, the customer changed her plans.
X During that time period, many car buyers preferred cars that were pink in color and shiny in appearance.
The microscope revealed a group of organisms that were round in shape and peculiar in nature.
OK During that period, many car buyers preferred pink, shiny cars.
The microscope revealed a group of peculiar, round organisms.
All essays should include the following:
Proper Paragraph Development
APA Citations and Reference List
PAPER FORMAT: All written papers must be formatted as follows:
**type page headers or page numbers. Use the MS Word page header feature
**hit enter to double space. Use the MS Word formatting feature for double spacing.
**use space bar to indent. Use the MS Word formatting feature
- Title page: Always use only Times New Roman 12 point font; no bold print. Do not put title in all capital letters; use title case.
- Headers: First two-three words of paper title followed by page number, aligned right margin
- Use ONLY 12 font Times New Roman for title page, paper, reference list (no other font is acceptable in my class)
- Word Processed
- One-inch margins
- Only one space after the ending punctuation of sentences. If you usually put two spaces, use Find and Replace to fix them all after you've completed the paper
- Margins should be aligned left (do not justify margins)
- Indent first line of each paragraph 5 spaces to show paragraph and do not skip extra lines between paragraphs.
HOW TO WRITE A THESIS STATEMENT, INTRODUCTION, & CONCLUSION
The thesis statement is part of the introduction and not a separate part of the paper.
DO NOT ANNOUNCE the thesis of your paper with phrases such as"I will discuss..." or "This paper will..."
A thesis sentence should both identify the topic of the paper and indicate the author's attitude toward the topic or position on the topic. Thus, it should do more than announce a topic. Announcements take the form of This paper will do such-and-such or In this paper I will…
Alice L. Trupe, 2001, Bridgewater College
From University of Madison-Wisconsin Writing Center:
A thesis statement is a sentence that makes an assertion about a topic and predicts how the topic will be developed. It does not simply announce a topic: it says something about the topic.
X: In this paper, I will discuss how ABC…
OK: ABC has made a significant impact on the teenage population due to its…
A thesis statement makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of the paper. It summarizes the conclusions that the writer has reached about the topic. A thesis statement is focused and specific enough to be proven within the boundaries of the paper. Key words (nouns and verbs) should be specific, accurate, and indicative of the range of research, thrust of the argument or analysis, and the organization of supporting information.
» More Gazette articles...