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English 105

Writing Tips

  •  As you prepare to write, clearly identify the questions or topic which you will be addressing, narrow your focus, and check your final work to make sure you fully address each element of the assignment. 
  • Construct an outline to organize your goals. Include elements such as an introduction, thesis statement, body, and conclusion to help structure your work.
  • Be clear and concise. Explain how and why something is important - how it benefits your audience, professional world, or addresses an issue. Focus on essential points that help educate and persuade your audience. Avoid wordiness, redundancy, repetition, and long complicated sentences.
  • Do not begin or end a paragraph with a direct quote. Quotes should support your statements, not replace them.
  • Vary sentence beginnings. Include 3-5 sentences per paragraph to fully develop an idea.
  • Seek to communicate with precision and clarity. Avoid contractions, minimize the use of pronouns and eliminate cliches, slang, jargon, bias, stereotypes, derogatory statements, as well as idiomatic and inflammatory language.
  • Use third person or neutral pronouns unless the statements being made describe your personal actions, direct experiences, or engagement. Avoid attributing human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects. Use gender neutral language unless referring to a specific individual. Use only last names of individuals. The use of first names can introduce bias.
  • Use active, rather than passive voice, and be aware of the tone and mood that is set by your words. Use appropriate verb tense. Check for subject and verb agreement. Remember that any published material should be referred to using past tense language.
  • Read and model your writing after professionals who are known for communicating well.
  • Spell check and proofread your work.  
  • Have someone proofread your work before submission. Read your own work aloud. Set the work aside and read it later to gain a fresh perspective. Get feedback about what you have written. 

Before you turn in a paper

  1. Assignment. Does the draft carry out the assignment? If not, how might the writer better fulfill the assignment?
     
  2. Introduction. Does the introduction orient the reader to the paper? Does it whet the reader’s appetite? Is the thesis clearly stated? Does it provide a road map for the rest of the paper? What else might the writer do to make a more effective introduction?
     
  3. Thesis/claim. Underline the thesis. Does the thesis have a topic with a claim made about it? Is the topic + claim too broad or too narrow for the scope of the paper? Can it stand up to the question, “So what?” 
     
  4. Audience. Who is the audience? How does the draft interest and appeal to its audience? Is it written at the right level for the intended readers?
     
  5. Main Points/Body Paragraphs. Number the main points and review them one by one.
    • Does each point support the claim made in the thesis? Should any points be eliminated or de-emphasized?
    • Underline the evidence used to support the point. Do any points need to be developed (supported) more fully? What evidence, examples, details might help? 
    • Are sources integrated seamlessly into the paragraph, i.e. is there commentary from the writer about the evidence? Is the source cited?
    • Which paragraphs are clearest? Best developed?
       
  6. Organization and flow. Is the writing easy to follow? Are the ideas presented in an order that makes sense to readers? Identify paragraphs/sentences that seem out of place or repetitive.
     
  7. Transitions. Are there effective transitions within sentences, between paragraphs, and from one idea to the next? Are key words repeated to help readers follow logical order? Would headings be appropriate?
     
  8. Sentences. Choose 3 sentences you consider the most interesting, best written, effective, or otherwise memorable. Choose 3 sentences you see as weak, confusing, awkward or uninspiring. Give advice for 1 of these sentences.
     
  9. Conclusion. Does it restate or connect back to thesis? Does it introduce new ideas that belong better in body paragraphs? Does it end in a memorable way, leaving the reader with something to think about, or does it seem to end abruptly or trail off into vagueness?
     
  10. Does the entire draft fulfill the promise of the thesis?