All posts by Marco

Ensuring Consistency in Your Writing


Before submitting or distributing your essay, research report, email, or any other document, besides performing the usual spell checking and proofreading, you should make certain that your writing is consistent in terms of spellings, usages, and formatting. This is important for two reasons: it helps to guarantee the clarity of your message and it lends an appearance of professionalism to your document.

If, for example, you refer to “theatres” in one part of your paper, you should not use “theaters” in another section. Neither should you vary from “U.S.A.” to “USA” or from “Prof.” to “Professor.” This also applies to names. For example, be careful to spell “Thompson” the same way throughout your paper, and not as “Thomson” and “Tompson.”

You should also make sure you are consistent in reference to your use of numerals and letters in lists. If you use a numbered or lettered list in one section of your paper, maintain that usage later on. You must also be consistent in reference to your use of capital and lower case letters in titles and lists and headings. For example, you may decide to use all capitals in headings and titles, except for articles and prepositions (assuming this is in accordance with the formatting style you are using), as in the following: Some of the Causes of the Civil War. Therefore, similar subsequent headings should be written according to that style. And so, the following would be incorrect: Early battles during the first months of the war.

Consistency applies to spacing and paragraphing too. You should use the same number of spaces between sentences. The common practice is to insert one space between sentences, but two is also acceptable. Of course, if you use block formatting (where all lines of text end at the right margin), then the spaces between sentences (and between words) will vary.

In addition, you should make sure that all of your paragraphs begin in the same formatting manner: that is indented or left justified, and not a mixture of both styles.

Consistency applies to citations and references lists. Do not vary between MLA, APA, Chicago, and other formatting styles. Choose one, and use only that one.

In short, to ensure that your written work represents your best efforts, you must maintain consistency at all times.

Varying Your Vocabulary


Many words in the English language have synonyms. Using them in written material allows documents to sound more interesting by virtue of the fact that it helps the writer to avoid what might sound like repetitious phrases. In addition, some synonyms are more precise and have a more professional/academic sound to them than other words which have similar meanings. Rather than writing, for example, I am going to try to get better grades in school, you might write, I am going to attempt to achieve better grades in school.

Here is a short list of common words, and some of their synonyms:

  • get……..obtain, acquire, acquire…
  • try……..attempt, endeavor, strive…
  • make….create, compose, develop…
  • find……discover, locate, uncover….
  • take……obtain, receive, procure…..
  • do………perform, accomplish, achieve
  • put……, situate, deposit
  • give…….offer, present, furnish
  • idea…….thought, concept, inspiration

Obviously, this is a very small sample of the thousands of words that are commonly used and their synonyms.

Here’s a hint: when you have written a word in a document for a second or third time, use the Microsoft Word Thesaurus to find a synonym. Doing so will allow your written piece to appear to be fresher and more interesting than it would if you were to use the same words repeatedly.

Writing about Writing


Which tense should be used when writing about published content, whether fiction or non-fiction? Should descriptions of characters, scenes, concepts, and themes be written in the present or past tense?

In reference to works of fiction, some may feel comfortable writing, Mark Twain’s character, Huck Finn, was a young boy who travelled the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Others may prefer Mark Twain’s character, Huck Finn, is a young boy who travels the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Both are correct. However, since works of fiction, especially classics, are considered enduring (that is, the characters, scenes, etc. survive), it is preferable to write about them in the present.

This is true of works of fiction that are centuries old, such as The Canterbury Tales, and novels and other fictional works that are on today’s bestseller lists. Therefore, when writing about, for example, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, it is preferable to write Inman climbs out of his hospital bed, and starts for home, rather than Inman climbed out his hospital bed and started for home.

There may be times when you are confronted with the question of how to write about an event in a book which occurred before the timeline of the scene that is being described. For example, in one section of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the narrator, Scout, remembers that her father “had served for years in the state legislature.” When writing about that scene, it would be correct to write in the present tense, except for the part which relates to the past event: At this point, Scout thinks about how her father had served in the state legislature for years.

Of course, when you quote dialogue or narration directly from a book, it must be exact. That includes the tense that the author used, which, in fiction, is generally past, as in the following from Lord of the Flies by William Golding: “And an airplane, and a TV set,” said Ralph sourly, “and a steam engine.”

When writing about non-fiction works, whether they are books, newspaper, magazine, or Internet articles, scholarly papers, etc., it is still appropriate to use the present tense. For example, when describing the building of the Panama Canal in David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas, it is correct to write, McCullough describes the harshness of the Panama rainforest in great detail. On the other hand, when writing about a specific scene or event, since the book is a work of history, and, thus, describes real events which already occurred, the past tense would be correct: Many in Congress were against constructing a sea level canal through the Isthmus of Panama.

Proofreading Your Document


Before you submit your academic or other paper for review, you should take a few minutes to carefully proofread and, if necessary, edit your work so that it reflects your best effort. You should always spell check your written work and read it thoroughly….at least twice. While you are reading, you should be looking for and correcting errors in terms of punctuation, spelling, English usage, vocabulary, logic, etc.

Of course, there are thousands of words in the English language and just as many ways in which you may make errors. However, for the purposes of this paper, let us concentrate on only a few problem areas.

What is the difference between your and you’re? Your is a pronoun; it is used to indicate possession. Here are three examples of the proper use of your:

  • This is your room.
  • The team approved of your idea for the fundraiser.
  • Yes, your turn will come.

You’re is a contraction of you and are. It is used as follows:

  • You’re my all-time favorite friend.
  • He thinks that you’re not going to graduate on time.
  • Mr. Johnson believes that you’re the right person for the job.

How about fewer and less? Both words are adjectives, but they are not used interchangeably. Fewer is used to describe objects or persons—in other words, things which can be counted. The following are examples of when to use fewer:

  • She has fewer hats than Mary.
  • How many fewer cookies did he eat than Elsa?
  • Mr. Jones has had fewer opportunities to speak to clients than I have.

Less is used in reference to things which cannot easily be counted. The following are examples of when to use less:

  • There is less money is circulation now than in the 1990s.
  • He is exercising less often than he did when he was younger.
  • This school appears to have less structure than the one that we visited earlier today.

Two other words which are often confused are number and amount. As with fewer, number is used to describe objects or people—things which can be easily counted. The following are examples of the proper use of number:

  • The number of people voting for Jones is higher than those who voted for Smith.
  • What is the correct number of vehicles crossing the bridge each weekend?
  • I read a large number of books every month.

Amount is used to describe those things which are not easily counted. The following are examples of the correct use of amount:

  • There is a larger amount of water in the Pacific Ocean than that which is in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Which team seems to be displaying a greater amount of confidence?
  • The United States has a larger amount of money in circulation than that in any other nation.

Another common error involves the use of who, that, and which. Use who when referring to people; use that or which when referring to other things. Here are some examples:

  • He is the one who caused the problem.
  • I like plants which do not require much upkeep.
  • He made the one comment that was sure to cause an argument.

The following are words (with examples) which are easily and often confused:

  • There……He is traveling there.
  • There are many ways in which to skin a cat.
  • There he is.
  • Their…….That is their house.
  • We accepted their apology.
  • Did you speak to their mother?
  • They’reThey’re not my friends.
  • They’re always making us late.
  • Do you think they’re coming?

Whose….Whose hat is this?

Harriet Beecher Stowe is the writer whose novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is said to have contributed to the fiery debate that led to the Civil War.

  • Who’s….Ruth is the one who’s always complaining.
  • Who’s coming to the party with me?

People sometimes confuse where and were. Generally, that kind of error is simply a typo. However, in case you are not sure of the difference, where refers to a location, as in Where did you put my coat?

Were is the past plural of is, as in the following: They were in my house just a few minutes ago.

When it comes to writing effectively and correctly, there are thousands of other potential pitfalls that a good writer must avoid. If you are unsure of your writing skills, you might want to send your documents to a professional proofreading and editing service before you submit them.

Writing from an Objective Point of View


Research papers, as opposed to essays, letters, editorials, and other opinion pieces, should be based completely on academic investigation performed by the writer. All such documents should be written from the perspective of an uninvolved third party. The writer should not insert his or her opinion or tailor the document so that it is guided by a point of view.

For example, a research paper on Abraham Lincoln’s presidency should contain verified information, and not the writer’s opinions. That does not mean that the writer is not allowed to draw conclusions or make statements which evaluate Lincoln’s presidential years. But those conclusions and statements must be objectively drawn from the research and they should be stated unemotionally. It would be appropriate to write “Lincoln missed several opportunities to come to terms with the secessionist states, and thus, prevent the Civil War” (followed by a source citation). It would even be correct to write “Many historians have indicated that Lincoln should have pursued opportunities to avoid the Civil War” or “There is evidence that Lincoln could have done more to avoid the Civil War.” However, it would be unacceptable to write “Lincoln should have prevented the Civil War” (whether or not the writer cites a source).

It is also inappropriate, in most instances, to insert first person pronouns in rigorously researched academic papers. Of course, if the writer feels compelled to state that he or she was involved in the experiment or survey or other method that was involved in the research, then it would be reasonable to write “I did….” or “We conducted.” Other than that, the text should be directed at the reader from a distance, as in the following: “The basic research involved distributing questionnaires to 250 first year medical students…..”
Similarly, the writer should not refer to readers as “you.” Rather than writing “This is important information that may benefit you,” it would be more correct to write “This is important information that may benefit all people (or all Americans or all women, etc.).”

Research papers should be devoid of emotion. That does not mean that the writer is forbidden to use strong language. However, while it is not permissible to write “Terrorists are disgusting people who should be wiped out,” it would be suitable to write “It is the responsibility of governments to apprehend, try, and punish terrorists who resort to merciless violence.”

All academic papers that are based on research, as opposed to those which are intended to be point of view pieces, must be written so that readers are presented with facts and with conclusions that have been drawn from those facts. The value of research papers depends on the depth and quality of the research and the conclusions that are drawn from it. The opinions of the writer should be held in abeyance.

Apostrophes and Quotation Marks: When to Use Them


When it comes to punctuation, the two most common kinds of errors involve the use of apostrophes and quotation marks. The rules governing the use of apostrophes and quotation marks are, for the most part, clear and unyielding.

Let us review apostrophes first. They are used for two purposes: to show possession and for contractions.

To show possession of something or someone by a singular noun, an apostrophe followed by an “s” is used, as in the following examples:

  • The doctor’s office was crowded.
  • My younger son’s friends are coming for dinner tonight.
  • Where is Marty’s coat?
  • That is the girl’s necklace.
  • This is Charles’s coat. (Notice that, even though “Charles” ends in an “s,” it is still necessary to add an apostrophe and another “s.”)

The only time that you would add just an apostrophe to the end of a noun ending in “s” would be if adding an apostrophe and an “s” would change the pronunciation of the word, as in the following:

  • We have discussed Sophocles’ body of work.

It should not be “Sophocles’s work.” That would change the pronunciation of “Sophocles.”

When you are indicating possession by plural nouns, just an apostrophe is added, as in the following examples:

  • All of the girls’ mothers came to the reception.
  • That building contains several doctors’ offices.

Irregular plural nouns require the addition of an apostrophe and an “s,” as in the following:

  • That is the children’s room.
  • He decided to join the men’s club.

Contractions are formed by combining two words. Apostrophes are added in place of letters which have been dropped, as in the following examples:

  • should not……shouldn’t
  • could not……..couldn’t
  • she will…………she’ll
  • it is……………….it’s (This should not be confused with the possessive form of “it,” which is “its” (no apostrophe).
  • you are…………you’re
  • cannot (always written as one word)…….can’t

Quotation marks are correctly used only to indicate the actual words that someone has said or written or sung, around the titles of certain created works, and to set off unique phrases.

To indicate speech:
The following are examples of quotation marks being used to indicate the actual words of a speaker or those in a written work or a song:

  • “My brother has been gone all day,” Ken said.
  • “Do you know where he could possibly be?” asked Ralph.
  • “Well,” Ken replied, “he could be anywhere.”
  • I am always thrilled when I hear the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The titles of newspaper, magazine articles, or periodical articles, the titles of short stories, plays, films, musical pieces, poems, essays, and television and radio programs should be enclosed in quotation marks.

Unique phrases or irony:
Quotation marks may be used to indicate that a word or phrase is unique and should, therefore, be set apart from the rest of a sentence, as in the following:

  • Tom decided that he did not want to be part of “the moral majority.”

Here is an example of quotation marks being used to indicate irony:

  • Well, I am going to show my boss just how “irresponsible” I can be.

More often than not, errors involving the use of apostrophes and quotation marks have to do with their overuse. They should not be used to emphasize important phrases. The following is an example of that:

  • Everyone is invited to the “Big Sale.”

As stated above, the rules involving the use of apostrophes and quotation marks are clear. Learning how to use them involves simply studying the rules.

Proofreading and Editing Your Website


When people surf the Net, whether they are digging for information, looking for an answer to a question, searching for a company with which to do business, or for any other reason, they expect the information that they come across to be properly presented and accurate. Incorrect spelling, imprecise wording, and errors in punctuation can give the impression that the information that is being presented may not be authentic. Whether or not that is the case, once a visitor to a site has spotted errors in the writing, he or she is unlikely to read on.

It is very important for those who write the content of websites to use the highest level of English usage. Properly written sentences, reasonable transitions between paragraphs, and interesting vocabulary are necessary in order to produce a site that is readable and which inspires confidence in the reader.

Here are a few tips to follow when writing website content:

  1. Keep paragraphs short: 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. 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 is composed of a vowel-consonant-e combination, such as that word, should have a long 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.
  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: a) Use capital letters only for the beginnings of sentences, titles, and the beginnings of quotes. b) End all sentences with periods. c) 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. d) Write full sentences. A full sentence has a subject and a predicate. e) 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. Be consistent: Use the same spelling for words throughout your document. 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.
  6. 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 discover.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 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.
  9. 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. A writer may forget that the reader does not know the information in a piece of writing as well as he or she does. New ideas need to be introduced and, sometimes, explained.
  10. If you are citing statistics or facts which are not universally known, you must insert the appropriate sources: Readers want to be assured that assertions are based upon facts, and not on whimsy or guesswork.

You may feel that you need professional help to proofread or to edit your website content. There are many reliable proofreading and editing companies out there. Some of them specialize in website content.

Remember: regardless of the content of the website, it must be well written.

Learning How to Write by Reading


One of the best ways by which to learn how to write properly is to read—almost anything, novels, non-fiction books, newspaper and magazine articles, and the content of some Web sites (Notice, I said “some.”). By virtue of a process of slow, deliberate, careful reading, you will be able to observe how to construct well-written sentences, use punctuation correctly, and vary your vocabulary.

This is a time-honored technique. It is said that Abraham Lincoln, who attended country schools only intermittently as a youngster, developed his prodigious oratorical and speech writing skills by devoting his undivided attention to reading.

This process of careful reading is very easily done. All that is required is a well-written reading selection and your ability to concentrate. If you want to make notes, then you should do so on a notepad or right on the text (as long as it is yours, and not the property of the public library). You might want to mark significant pages with paper clips so that you may refer to them at a later point.

In order for this to be an effective learning technique, you must be prepared to devote all of your attention to the task, so the television must be off, the kids must be out of sight, and you must be focused. Just about the only reading materials that might be unsuitable for this task are those found on the Internet because, by and large, they are not subject to rigorous proofreading, review, or editing, so quite a lot out there in cyberspace, while interesting, is poorly written. Much of it defies the rules of Standard English usage.

That said, the process is very simple: just read and observe; when you come across a sentence or phrase that contains something of interest, note or underline it and mark it with a paper clip, if you want. Notice the author’s use of periods, commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, colons, semi colons, and exclamation and question marks. Observe the composition of complete sentences. Notice that a well-constructed sentence may be long, as long as it communicates one complete thought. Take note of the fact that a well written piece relies on a variety of words. Rather than repeatedly using the word “take,” a skilled writer will substitute “obtain,” “attain,” “gather,” and “acquire,” along with other synonyms.

If you have a specific question that you would like answered or a problem to be solved, at some point in your reading, you will probably come across a sentence which will provide you with the information for which you have been searching. If, for example, you are unsure about how to properly place quotation marks in a section of dialogue, when you come to one of those sections (with which novels abound), read it carefully, underline or note it in the margin of the book, and clip it. Look at the following example from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

“Give me those scissors,” Atticus said. “They’re no things to play with. Does this, by any chance, have anything to do with the Radleys?”
“No sir,” said Jem, reddening.

Just by reading, observing, and noting, you can learn a great many of the fundamentals of writing. While you are conducting this exercise, you need not deprive yourself of the pleasure of reading. So, read, enjoy, and learn at the same time.

A Novel Approach to Editing


In general, editing a work of fiction involves allowing more flexibility and variation in wording than the standard type of editing that is used for non-fiction documents. As works of fiction, short stories and novels often contain idiosyncratic language and usages which would, in an essay, newspaper article, research paper, letter, or other type of non-fiction writing appear to be incorrect.

For starters, since short stories and novels almost always include dialogue, both exterior and interior, and since conversational language does not always adhere to the rules of written usage, the editor must ignore what appear to be errors. Here is an example of dialogue which includes non-Standard English from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty:

“Lord, it ain’t been dry yet,” Pea said. “It’s rained aplenty.”

Notice that, despite the fact that the dialogue contains variations from Standard English in terms of the use of “ain’t” and “aplenty,” the punctuation and the tag (Pea said) are correctly written. Punctuation and proper designation of tags are essential in all works of fiction. (However, all bets are off when it comes to poetry. Language in poetry can range from Standard English to the bizarre. It can be edited only for style and appeal, not for adherence to Standard English.) Proper spelling should also be used, even in dialogue. However, there are times when an author wants a character to mispronounce words or to use inappropriate words or speak in a dialect. In those cases, those altered words should be written in italics and/or spelled out phonetically so that the reader understands that they are variations from the usual spelling. In the following example of the use of dialect from Hard Times by Charles Dickens, the author does not use italics, but he does use phonetic spelling:

“I ha’ thowt on ‘t, above a bit, sir. I simply canna coom in. I mun go th’ way as lays afore me. I mun tak’ my leave o’ aw heer.”

In most cases, portions of narration conform to the rules of English usage. Therefore, those portions of works of fiction should be edited in the same way as essays, research papers, letters, etc. In some cases, however, the author wants the narrator’s use of language to vary from the standard. Look at this example, which is the first sentence of Huckleberry Finn:

You don’t know me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.

Of course, if Mark Twain had wanted the narrator to speak in standard English, the sentence would have been written as follows:

You will not know of me unless you had read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that does not matter.

Authors of works of fiction often use, along with full sentences, short phrases for emphasis. In the following example from The Color of Water by James McBride, the first sentence is full and complete, but it is followed by two declarative phrases, which are not full sentences:

Helen didn’t come home that night. Nor the next day. Nor the next.

Notice the use of the contraction didn’t. In serious non-fiction pieces, the use of contractions is frowned upon. In fiction, contractions are acceptable at all times.

If that portion of narration had been part of a non-fiction document, it would be written as follows:

Helen did not come home night, nor for the next two nights.

In general, when editing works of fiction, the rule is that portions of narration should conform to all of the rules of English usage unless the author wants the narrator’s voice to vary from the standard. Short phrases which are not complete sentences should not be altered. Contractions should be allowed. Portions of dialogue should be left as they are written, regardless of how far removed from proper English usage they appear to be. However, all rules of punctuation should always be adhered to throughout the manuscript. Correct punctuation is necessary in order for the reader to be able to understand what the narrator or character is saying.

Remember, the goal of writing is to communicate. If the reader is unable to understand what is written, then the piece of writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, is not fulfilling its goal.

The Little Things That Matter in Writing


As an editor, I am used to correcting the typical writing errors that appear in most papers, such as those having to do with spelling, vocabulary usage, punctuation, tense, and grammar. However, in addition to those common errors, some writers make little ones which should be corrected before their documents are submitted for publication or review. Here are a few of them:

  1. Inconsistencies in terms of font and size: Some writers vary their use of font and text size in their papers, sometimes in the same paragraph. This often occurs when the writer has copied and pasted text from another source into his or her document. This error detracts from the appearance of the paper, and may cause difficulties in comprehension for the reader. It is very easy to correct this mistake. Once the paper has been completed, the writer need only choose “Select All” from the toolbar at the top of Microsoft Word, and then designate one style of font and one size. Of course, if there are titles, subtitles, headings, charts, graphs, etc., then choosing “Select All” would be a mistake. In that case, sections of text should be chosen and highlighted separately, and then standardized.
  2. Misaligned margins: Some documents suffer from inconsistent left-side margins or/and varying types of alignment. Some parts of a paper may be further or closer to the left-side margin than others, and some sections of text may be aligned-left, while others are aligned-right, or centered, or justified in terms of block text. The only instances in which there should be variations in terms of alignment should be when inserting long quotes or graphs or charts or tables or other additions to the regular text.
  3. Paragraph styles: Within a paper, all paragraphs should either be indented or block justified. Block justified paragraphs should be separated from each other by one space. In general, indented paragraphs shuld not be separated by spaces.
  4. Headings, subheadings, and titles: All headings, subheadings, titles, etc. should be consistent in terms of font, size, and the use of italics and boldface. That is not to say that all headings must be the same. Major headings or titles may be written differently from minor headings or titles, but all major headings should look alike and all minor headings should be consistently written.
  5. Numbering: If letters or numbers are used to designate sections in a paper, they should be consistent and in order. If the writer begins by using capital letters to designate sections, then he or she should continue with that, and not skip letters. The same is true in terms of lower case letters. This also applies to numbers. They should all be either Arabic or Roman. All letters or numbers should also be consistent in terms of the use of boldface and italics. Of course, there may be differences in terms of lettering or numbering when designating different types of information. For example, major headings might be set off with the use of capital letters in boldface, and individual facts listed below them may be designated by the use of lower case letters or Roman or Arabic numerals that are not in boldface. There also may be differences in size from one type of heading to another. It is important, however, that all sections of similar importance be designated with the same type of letter or number in the same size.
  6. Use of capitalization: Besides the normal use of capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and for proper nouns, they can be used to set off titles. If they are used for that purpose, then all similar paragraphs must be written in that way.

These fine points are important to the appearance of a paper, and consistency in terms of their use should be incorporated into all documents.