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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Use capital letters only for the beginnings of sentences, for titles, and at the beginnings of quotes.
- End all sentences with periods.
- 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.
- Write full sentences. A full sentence has a subject and a predicate.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.