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Writing Tips

  • Each instructor has areas which he or she feels are important to a good essay, but there are some features common to all well-written essays.
    • A thesis is a one sentence summary of your essay. A well-written essay begins with a confident and clear thesis.
    • Your thesis, your main idea, controls the essay. The thesis organizes the essay, its structure, and its arguments.
    • The body of your essay defends and proves your thesis.
  • KISS
    • Keep It (the thesis) Short and Simple. Do not try to cover too much ground. It would take a book to cover a topic as sweeping as Shakespeare.
    • In a ten page paper (2,500 words) all you can discuss is one aspect of one play. Develop a thesis that you can defend thoroughly in the space given.
    • The more focused your topic is, the better the essay. Match your thesis to the length of the essay.
    • A reader can not follow your logic unless it is presented in an organized manner. A reader will not believe your logic unless it is accompanied by proof.
    • Every statement, unless it is common knowledge, should be supported some form of evidence. In academic writing, quotations are often used as evidence.
    • Two important questions you can ask about every sentence in your essay are, "How do I know this is true?" and "How can I prove to my reader that this is true?"
    • Make your writing specific by making specific points and offering evidence to prove each point. Tackle the ideas head on.
    • Write with confidence. Make your points in clear, simple, unambiguous language at the start of each paragraph. Then use the rest of the paragraph to prove your point.
    • Commit to your ideas and then demonstrate to the reader how each idea relates to your thesis statement.
    • An A+ essay guides readers step by step through arguments and evidence to an inevitable conclusion. The body of the essay is a guided tour of the thesis.
    • The best way to stay organized is begin by developing an outline. Think of your outline as a map. First it guides you, then it guides the reader.
    • Never pad an essay. If your essay is shorter than the requested length, it might mean you have not offered enough evidence or enough discussion of the evidence.
    • Perhaps you have not thought deeply enough about the topic, or you may have misunderstood the writing assignment.
    • If your essay is too long, you may be rambling, or you may have tackled too big a topic.
    • Your best bet in either case is to ask your instructor for advice.
    • "You must acknowledge...the exact words taken from another source, including any distinctive individual word or short phrase ... and distinctive ideas that you ... are restating in your own words" (Norton Textra Writer).
    • Academic writers document their sources for two reasons: 1) to give credit to other people for their words and ideas, and 2) to give credibility to their own statements.
    • Citing only a textbook, encyclopedia, or dictionary makes your writing sound like it belongs in a Grade 9 Social Studies class.
    • Academic writers research thoroughly and deeply using a wide range of books and academic journals.
    • Drawing on a variety of sources gives your essay credibility and depth.
    • Academic writing traditionally adopts a formal tone. Avoid slang, colloquialisms, contractions, and the pronoun I.
    • Write using a professional, objective voice. Your goal is not to use fancy words or sound pompous, but rather to sound reasonable.
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