College Lessons and Things

College Lesson #10: Grammar

First of all: Double Digits! Woohoo!

Anyway. Today’s lesson: grammar.

Write right. Goodness. It really isn’t that hard to sound relatively educated when writing. We even have spell check, which, with newer software, can even pick up major grammatical errors. It isn’t always right, but it’s certainly a start.

Here are some tips for helping improve your papers, besides the obvious conventions:

  1. We all like that thesaurus button on our computers but beware: if you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it. High level language can easily sound awkward in a paper. Write on your level, of course; don’t dumb your  paper down by any means. Just be careful that all of the words you use in a paper serve their purpose better than any others. Also, don’t make up words. You’re not Dr. Seuss yet.
  2. Never use the word you in an academic paper. The words an individual will work just as well and it sounds better. Less preachy.
  3. Never use I in an academic paper either. If you really think about it, you don’t need to start sentences with I believe or I feel because you should believe in the whole paper; if not, you should reevaluate your opinion(s) being expressed in the paper.
  4. Watch your plurals and whatnot. If you use the word anyone, use his, hers, he, or her. Not theirs, or them. Singular means singular. Period. (See below for bolded example)
  5. Don’t use contractions of any sort. Besides the fact that if you’re writing a paper based on word count or length, following this rule will help, it sounds very informal. In an academic paper, you probably want to sound very formal, i.e. no contractions.
  6. Try not to be vague. Don’t use words like thing or any words that end in it. Be specific and concise. This will make your paper easier to follow and easier to follow generally means a better grade; which of your teachers wants to spend forever trying to decipher what  you were trying to say? None of them. If your teacher doesn’t understand, he’s not gonna spend a whole lot of time trying to figure it out.
  7. Have and of are not the same word. Could have is a real phrase; could of is not. Period. Don’t do it. You probably shouldn’t be using language that is this informal anyway, but if you do, fix it. Now.
  8. Read it aloud. This will force you to slow down and some times catch your mistakes. If nothing else, you will be able to catch any awkward phrasing you might have used.
  9. Get a friend to read it for you. I’m sure we all have a “wonderful” friend who loves correcting everyone’s grammar. If for no other reason than to show off. Let them. You’ll get a better grade for it.
  10. Slow down and manage your time right. If you hit a block, stop, take a break and come back to it. You can look at your paper with fresh eyes and you will be able to better expand on your thoughts and ideas.

Those are my tips and a lovely picture with a few more tips. Good luck in your writing!

For those of you who read this and think “Wow, she broke a lot of her own rules,” you would be incorrect. These are rules for an academic paper and this is not an academic paper. This is an informal blog. Just so we’re all clear.

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