Writing Your Paper
Writing Your First Draft
- Write freely and don't worry about making mistakes. Just get your ideas down on paper.
- Double-space your first draft so it's easy to edit.
- You don't have to worry about your introduction and conclusion at this point if you are feeling blocked in these areas ...you can write those sections later when the body of your paper is finished.
Revising Your First Draft
- Write simply and directly.
- Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
- Spelling correctly is very important. Invest in a dictionary.
- Correct grammar usage is also very important. Don't rely on the grammar checkers in word processing software. They are generally not very reliable. If you feel uneasy with your grammar invest in or (check out at the library) a guide to grammar:
- When Words Collide : A Journalist's Guide to Grammar and Style by Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald. Call # at Huie: PE 1112 .K435 1984.
- Executive Guide to Grammar by Albert Joseph. Call # at Huie: PE 1115 .J67 1984.
- A Modern Approach to English Grammar: An Introduction to Systematic Grammar by James Muir. Call # at Huie: PE 1106 .M8.
- Beginning English Grammar by Samuel J. Keyser and Paul M. Postal. Call # at Huie: PE 112 .K45.
- Making Sense of Grammar by John Clark Jordan. Call # at Huie: PE 1105 .J6 19080.
- Some things to really watch out for:
- Avoid wordiness.
- Use the correct language for your audience and don't use unnecessarily complicated words.
- Use apostophes correctly.
- Join clauses well with conjunctions.
- Make sure:
- verbs agree with their subjects.
- pronouns agree with their antecedent.
- participles don't dangle.
- tenses are consistent. In literary papers, write in present tense; in history papers write in the past or simple past (preterite) tense (if you are writing about past events). The main narrative should be in a consistent tense. Events that will happen in the future should be in the future tense, and events that have happened in the past should be in the past tense.
- use unnecessary commas. Place commas before conjunctions if the conjunction introduces an independent clause. There is no comma if the clause is dependent.
- write run-on sentences.
- use double negatives.
- use sentence fragments.
- use split infinitives.
- use cliches.
- The introduction and conclusion should be easy to write after you have written the body of your paper, but here are some tips that may make it go smoothly for you:
- Your introduction should be one to three paragraphs long. State the thesis (the overall point or topic of the paper) in the first paragraph in one or two sentences and don't go into detail. Provide any background information your reader needs to know in the first and/or second paragraphs. In the final paragraph of the introduction, list the aspects of the topic that are covered in the paper.
- In the conclusion, never introduce any new information. Paraphrase the thesis/main point of the paper, wrap up any loose ends (if there are any), and briefly summarize the conclusions of the paper. Here is also where you can emphasize the importance of the topic and the significance of your conclusions.
- Verb Usage
Use active voice. The subject performs the action and the object receives the action or is acted upon, in active sentences. EX: The cat bit Tommy. or Suzy threw the ball.
Avoid passive tense when possible because it is boring. This is important, whether in narration or in dialogue. In passive sentences, the subject receives the action and the object performs the action. EX: Tommy was bitten by the cat. or The ball was thrown by Suzy. A simple way to check your paper for passive tense is to use the FIND command (in the EDIT menu) for the words was, has, or had. These words frequently modify passive verbs.
In general, avoid excessive or inappropriate use of the subjunctive tense (use of would and/or would have). EX: After his first term, President Clinton would earn a second term. or If you followed my directions, you would have arrived on time.
- Format and Bibliography/Works Cited List
- It is a good idea to begin a working bibliography when you start searching for sources. Keep a detailed running record of each item you consult. Even if you don't check every book out of the library or make a hard copy of each article, you might discover later that you would like to look at an item again. See Writing a Bibliography for more information.
- Be sure to write your paper in the format assigned by your professor. Some formats that are frequently used in university classes are:
- When in doubt, CITE YOUR SOURCES. If you have specific questions about citation style or aspects of formatting your paper, ask your professor, visit the HSU Writing Center in McBrien Rm. #108, or get help in the library.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. And get someone else to proofread your work for you, if you can. Use the spell check on your word processor, but watch out for its tendency to make mistakes with homonyms, such as to, too, & two; here & hear; or there, their, & they're.