Beefing Up Your Written Vocabulary

Beefing Up Your Written Vocabulary

In all of your important writing, you should try to use better words. Or, if I were to rewrite that sentence with “better words,” it would look like this: In all of your serious writing, you should attempt to employ enhanced vocabulary. Of course, it is not necessary to do that when you are composing emails and memos and other less formal types of writing, but, on the other hand, it would not hurt.

You need not be an English major to improve your written vocabulary. There are three easy ways in which to do this:

  1. After you are finished writing, reread your work. You should always do this anyway in order to spot and eliminate writing errors. But, now, when you reread your writing, think about substitutes for some of the words that you used. You do not need to, and, in fact, you should not replace all of the everyday words with higher level ones. It is not necessary to do so. Using complex words throughout your document may obscure your meaning, and it may cause your writing to appear pompous. In any case, examine your writing, and ask yourself, “Do I know a better word to use instead of …?” For example, instead of get, use obtain or acquire. Instead of do, try implement or perform. Of course, in some cases, do is more suitable than one of its substitutes.
  2. Use Microsoft Word’s Thesaurus. Simply highlight the word that you would like to replace. Then click the Tools function on Microsoft Word. Click on Language. From Language, click Thesaurus. Then choose a substitute.
  3. Use a hard copy of a thesaurus or a dictionary.

Besides bringing your writing to a higher level, using improved vocabulary will also provide a sense of freshness to your work. This is especially true in terms of helping you to avoid one of the pitfalls of so much academic and business writing—the use of repetitious vocabulary. Look at this example, in which the italicized words in the second sentence are repetitions of words that are used in the first:

One of the reasons why the Southern states seceded from the United States in 1861 is that many people in the south thought that Abraham Lincoln was going to try to abolish slavery. They thought that was a good reason to secede from the United States because they thought that people in the north had no right to tell them what to do about the issue of slavery.

In this version of the same paragraph, the italicized words in the second sentence are variations of words used in the first sentence:

One of the reasons why the Southern states seceded from the union in 1861 is that many people in the south thought that Abraham Lincoln was going to try to abolish slavery. They believed that was a good basis for withdrawing from the union because they felt that inhabitants of the north had no right to tell them what to do about the issue of involuntary servitude.

In conclusion, beefing up your vocabulary can improve your written work by making it interesting and of a higher-than-average quality.

Using Proper Punctuation

Using Proper Punctuation

Punctuation marks are like highway signs. Instead of directing vehicular traffic, however, they control how text is to be read. For the most part, knowing where to place periods, commas, etc. is fairly simple, although there are a few tricky aspects to this skill. The following is a brief outline of the uses of the main English punctuation marks.

Periods belong at the ends of sentences and after abbreviations. They are also used in acronyms.

A full sentence expresses a complete thought. Each of the sentences in this document is a full sentence, expressing a full thought.

The following are examples of the use of periods at the end of abbreviations: Mr., Mrs., and corp.

Acronyms, such as U.S.A. and P.E.T.A. are written with periods after each of their letters.

Commas are used to separate phrases and clauses, when listing things, and to separate dialogue from the speaker of the dialogue.

The following is an example of the use of commas to separate independent clauses in a sentence: After the lions devoured their prey, they rested in the shade.

Here is an example of the use of commas to separate items in a list: I bought apples, oranges, cherries, grapes, and lemons.

The part of a sentence with dialogue that indicates who is speaking is called the tag; commas are used to separate dialogue from the tag, as follows: “Traffic was very bad this morning,” said Bob.

Question marks are placed only at the ends of interrogatory sentences and phrases, as in the following: Is there a solution to the problem of global warming?

Exclamation points are used to express heightened emotion: When I realized that the fire was spreading, I yelled, “Everybody out now!”

Colons are used to indicate that more information is to follow, as in: My favorite foods are as follows: pizza, spaghetti, and ice cream.

Semi colons are used to separate independent clauses. Here is an example of their use: This has been a strange winter; most days and nights have been warmer than average.

One way of learning how to punctuate properly is to read widely. Most books, newspaper and magazine articles, and other published material, in general, contain properly punctuated sentences. By observing the punctuation in those sentences, you will be able to learn their use.

If you are uncertain about your use of punctuation, use your spell check function. You might also choose to submit your document to Papercheck to have it professionally edited.

How To Proofread a Document

How To Proofread a Document

You have done the long, laborious research, including reading hundreds of pages and taking copious notes, and book marking websites from the Internet. You have written an outline of your paper. The actual writing of the research paper has taken several days and nights. The writing is good. The sources are accurate. You have followed the directions that were given to you, including using the correct formatting. This paper will count as a large part of your grade. It is ready to print and be brought to class or sent in electronically.

But…wait. Is it really ready for submission? Is it possible that you have some clunky sentences? What about those spelling demons? Those are the words that you never remember how to spell or that you confuse with other words. Then there’s punctuation! Apostrophes, commas, quotation marks, etc., etc.

What should you do? The first step in terms of proofreading a document is to read the paper to yourself, out loud, if that helps. Don’t read what you think you wrote, what you meant to write. Go through the paper line by line, word by word, as if you are a neutral reader, and not the one who put so much blood, sweat, and tears into it.

Then, use the spell check function. It will not catch every error, but it will point out most spelling and usage mistakes.

Even after carefully proofreading my work by reading it on my computer screen, I find additional errors when I read a hard copy of my work. Somehow, seeing the writing on paper allows me to notice missing commas and other errors that I just did not see when I was reading my document on my monitor. So, I print the document, and carefully proofread it again.

Following those steps should help you to produce a well-written document. However, when all is said and done, if you are not sure that your document is completely correct and ready to be handed in or published, you can always refer it to a document editing and proofreading service, such as Papercheck.

Keep Your Focus

Keep Your Focus

When doing a lot of research, you’ll probably end up with a lot of notes, annotations, highlights, etc. That’s fine, but sometimes it can be a challenge to get everything together on paper. Here are some tips to help you stay focused and produce a high-quality essay.

  1. Have a vision:
    If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s going to be pretty hard to get there. You should have some idea—perhaps a thesis statement—of what your essay’s final form will show.
  2. Define the scope:
    You may decide to write an essay about how Kant’s philosophical views were foundational and groundbreaking. But how much of Kant’s views do you want to cover? If you’re writing about the Categorical Imperative, how much of Kantian ethics should you cover? Or if you’re writing about whether a priori synthetic judgments are possible, will you restrict your essay to this topic only, or will you do an overview of The Critique of Pure Reason?

    Scope is very important. Without a clearly defined vision, you won’t know where to go with your essay. But without limits on what you’ll cover, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly, trying to cover way too much material. Remember that it’s much better to have a 5-page paper that clearly defines your perspective, than a 50-page paper tome that doesn’t really make a point.

  3. Be flexible:
    Sometimes essays, like most writing, can take on a life of their own. You may start out wanting to cover one thing, only to realize that your research and writing have led, logically, to something else. While you should definitely have a vision, you should not allow it to prevent you from modifying your direction—or perhaps even your scope—as logic would dictate while writing certain essays.

So, define your vision and determine your scope. Be flexible, making adjustments to your original plan as conditions merit.

Get It Down—Edit It Later

Get It Down—Edit It Later

Many a great idea, profound insight, or creative vision may have been lost because it was not written down in time—and was then forgotten, sometimes never to be retrieved.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge classic, Kubla Khan. The author had fallen asleep and had experienced vivid and unusual dreams, which he thought would amount to several hundred lines of great poetry. Upon awaking, he eagerly began writing down what he had dreamt about. Then, having been called out by someone on business, he was detained for over an hour. When he returned, he found that he could remember very little of what was so fresh in his mind only a short time ago.

Addressing the subject of the fragility of inspired thoughts, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, in his essay, On Noise, asks the following question:

How many great and splendid thoughts, I should like to know, have been lost to the world by the crack of a whip?

Schopenhauer laments noise, particularly unnecessary noise (such as the cracking of whips, which was commonly done by chariot drivers in his day) since it could cause a thinking person to completely lose his or her train of thought.

But it doesn’t require an imposing visitor or an excess of noise to cause a writer to lose a good thought. All that has to happen is for one to get too involved in the mechanics of writing. Proper proofreading and editing are essential, but they should not be done in the beginning. Rather, this is a time for creative flow, for one’s thoughts to come pouring out onto the page. Get them out, and then clean up the grammar, etc. later.

In fact, there’s a way to avoid the tedium of the editing process entirely. Companies such as Papercheck make it possible for writers to write (the fun part) and editors to edit (the not-quite-as-fun-but-still-frightfully-important part). Whether you choose to self-edit or have your documents edited professionally, remember to get it down—edit it later.

The Importance of Correct Citations

The Importance of Correct Citations

If you’re doing an essay, it’s very likely you’re going to be citing quotations from works by other authors. Sometimes these works will be from conventional sources, such as books and journals. At other times, it may be necessary to use more contemporary sources such as websites, blogs, online conferences, PowerPoint presentations, etc. Whatever the sources of your information, it is very important to use correct procedures when using citations.

There are actually two parts of this to consider: in-text citations and references. But before we get to that, it should be pointed out that there are many different style guides, and different places have varying preferences. The two most common, however, are APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association). Of these two, APA seems the more commonly used, although MLA is prevalent at many universities. For the purpose of this short discussion, we’ll look at APA.

One of the most common citations you make will look something like this:

According to Smith (2003), “Adhering to all APA guidelines when writing can be somewhat tedious.” (p. 199).

At the end of your paper, you’d have a References Cited page, and on that page you would have the necessary information about the work you’re citing from:

Smith, M. A. (2003). Why citing sources is so time-consuming. Using Time Wisely Journal, 85, 110-115.

The main problem you’ll find when writing essays that use quotations from other authors is this: it can really take awhile. And you have to follow different citation procedures, depending on which type of media source you’re using.

Because of this, the complete rules are impossible to remember. That’s why it can be a good idea to invest in a style manual, which will let you know just what you need to do. There is another option, however. To avoid the tedious, time-consuming mess of confirming your references, let a pro from an editing company like Papercheck handle it for you.

When Should I Use an Apostrophe?

When Should I Use an Apostrophe?

If you ever want to see an English teacher cringe, let him or her see something like this:

“Theyve got 100’s of CD’s and DVD’s at the malls music store’s.”

Yikes! (Or should I say Yike’s?!) There is an incredible amount of confusion (and, admittedly, apathy) about the correct use of apostrophes (that’s apostrophes, not apostrophe’s).

Generally, apostrophes only have two basic functions. First, they may be used to denote a contraction such as don’t for do not or can’t for cannot. For some reason, people often mistake the distinction between its and it’s (please note that its’ is never used). The possessive form of it is its, not it’s.

Example: Its best feature is that it’s economically priced.

Second, apostrophes are used to indicate that something belongs to someone or something:

Example:My wife’s cooking is absolutely yummy.

Third, when talking about something belonging to more than one person or thing, the apostrophe goes on the other side of the “s”:

Example:The kids’ clothes are out on the line.

Finally, never use an apostrophe to make a plural. I’ve seen signs such as “pony ride’s,” “egg’s,” and “tortilla’s.” Such errors should be diligently avoided, as it may cause readers to assume you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Incidentally, the opening example would be correctly written as:

“They’ve got 100s of CDs and DVDs at the mall’s music stores.”

To make sure your writing is correct in every way, consider a professional editing service such as Papercheck.

Ten Writing Tips

Ten Writing Tips

Whether you are composing a letter, an essay, a deeply researched academic paper, or any other type of writing (other than emails, notes, IMs, and text messages, all of which tend to be informal and, generally, do not follow the common rules of writing), there are a number of common mistakes that writers make. The following tips may help you to avoid some of them.

  1. Do not write paragraphs that are too long: While there is no rule in terms of the correct length of a paragraph, there are some guidelines. A paragraph should be two sentences or more, all of which are about the same topic topic. It should not, if at all possible, exceed twelve full sentences or 200 words or take up more than half of a page.
  2. Try not to fall victim to common spelling errors: It is easy to make spelling mistakes. English is a difficult language because so many words have irregular spellings. Consider enough. The only way to know how to spell that word, and many others like it, is to memorize it. How about words that have silent letters, such as comb? Then there are words which seem to run in the opposite direction from spelling rules, such as done. Typically, a group of letters which are in a vowel-consonant-e combination, such as that word, should have a long vowel sound. This word, however, is pronounced dun. It has a short vowel sound. On the other hand, bone is pronounced with a long vowel sound. And, how about homophones, words that sound the same, but are spelled differently? English abounds with them. Here are a few examples: there and their, one and won, our and hour, find and fined…In any case, what can you do in terms of spelling correctly? There are three solutions: use a spell check program, rely on a dictionary, or submit your papers to an editing service, such as Papercheck.
  3. Use correct punctuation and usage: This is difficult. Even professional writers find punctuation, especially the placement of commas and quotation marks, a difficult skill to master. There are a few simple rules that you can follow. These should help you to avoid a number of common errors:
    1. Use capital letters only for the beginnings of sentences, for titles, and at the beginnings of quotes.
    2. End all sentences with periods.
    3. Use semicolons (;) only rarely. They are generally used in place of periods, between two complete sentences that are very close to each other in terms of their topics. When you use a semi colon, do not begin the second sentence with a capital letter; it is a related phrase. The previous sentence is an example of the proper use of a semi colon.
    4. Write full sentences. A full sentence has a subject and a predicate.
    5. Do not overuse apostrophes. Apostrophes are not used to pluralize words. The plural of doctor is doctors. No apostrophe should be there. Apostrophes are used only for possession and for contractions. Here are examples: That is the doctor’s car…and…I can’t help you.
  4. Remain true to your topic: Attempt to stay on your topic. You can, and should, write about varying aspects of your topic, but do not go too far afield, especially within a sentence. When you change topics, even slightly, attempt to use words and phrases which allow for smooth transitions between them.
  5. Follow the proper format for citing references and for creating bibliographies: Rather than discussing that topic in this paper, you would be better served by going to the Papercheck home page. Once you are there, go to Additional Resources, and then to Writer’s Resources.
  6. Be consistent: Use the same spelling for words throughout your paper. Check your written work to ensure that you do not spell, for example, the name of a cited author as Connor in one place, and Connors, in another.
  7. Do not rely on spell check: You should use your software to check your spelling and usage, but you absolutely must also re-read your work to find the errors that only your perusal can uncover.
  8. Copy quotations carefully: Unless you are copying and pasting text, there is always the possibility that you will transcribe a direct quote incorrectly. This is an error that must be avoided.
  9. Make sure your sentences agree: Words in your sentences must agree in terms of gender, number, and tense. This is also true of sentences within a paragraph or in a longer section of text. For instance, if you are citing a female, then you must use pronouns that refer to females, such as she and her. If you are referring to several cities, do not use the pronoun it. When discussing events that occurred in the past or people who are no longer alive, do not use verbs in the present tense, such as builds or speaks.
  10. Do not assume the reader knows what you are talking about: Do not refer to ideas or books or events or people unless you have mentioned them in previous sentences. Do not forget that the reader may not know the information in a piece of writing as well as you do. New ideas need to be introduced and, sometimes, explained.

Obviously, these ten writing tips only scratch the surface in terms of addressing the problems that you may run into when you sit down to write. If you feel that you need professional help to proofread or to edit your piece of writing, you might want to use the services of Papercheck.