Teachers in middle school, high
school, and college usually require papers to follow specific style
guidelines. The four major styles are APA (American Psychological
Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and CSE
(Council of Science Editors). If you are required to write in a specific
style, your teacher will tell you which style to use. To find in-depth
explanations of each style, you can visit
The Ultimate Resource Guides for MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE
published by GuidetoOnlineSchools.com, a comprehensive site featuring
online degrees and
Thanks for stopping by my Writing Quick Tips page! Today's
Collegian is expected to write clearly and concisely. The
good news is that most professors and post-secondary schools are
willing, ready and able to help students build strong writing
skills. A wide variety of resources, with different presentation
styles and in formats, are available.
The purpose of this page is to present some easy to read and apply
writing "tips & tricks." This Web will not make anyone an
"expert," but it will provide a variety of suggestions and
"short-cuts" to help writers produce readable drafts and
papers that meet post-secondary expectations. The links at the left review some fundamentals of good writing.
For many people, the key to becoming a better writer is to get ideas
organized and then express them in simple, easy to read sentences.
Talk to any professor that has read hundreds of pages of students' work
-- being able to express yourself in short, clear prose is a valuable
If we are unsure of our abilities to write, follow the KISS
principal: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUDENTS! All readers appreciate
writing that gets to the point and respects the reader's intelligence.
Probably the #1 mistake that students make is trying to
"write over their heads." I have yet to see a paper
returned to a student with a comment like: "Great ideas, well
organized, clear presentation; but the sentences are too simple --
Want to learn to write better? Start by clearly
presenting concepts so that your IDEAS shine -- don't worry about
impressing people with your writing style. Make sure your work is
readable, well-organized, spell-checked, and properly punctuated.
It is difficult to help someone improve their writing style until ideas
are clear and basic writing skills are mastered.
Once we achieve
that, the sky's the limit. Someone can help me learn more complex,
creative writing styles once I am ready to apply
fundamental grammar skills and punctuation.
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Three Unbreakable Rules
1. Know your subject. Some sources
for subject knowledge include:
- The "file," previously researched material
- Electronic media
- Internet/World Wide Web
- Audio tapes
- Video tapes
2. Know your reader. This might seem easy when
writing papers for school, but be careful with what you assume.
Here are some questions that can be useful to ask yourself about
the intended audience for your writing:
- Who is going to read this writing?
- Educational background, expertise
- Personal: Age, gender, attitudes, hobbies
- What does the reader already know about the subject?
- What else does the reader need to know?
- What will the reader do about this message? (decide, delegate, transmit, do the
work, evaluate or grade)
- What's in it for the reader? (benefits, risks)
- When will the reader read this message?
How much time will the reader spend on it? (keep it simple and clear)
- When does the reader have to act?
- How interested is the reader in the arrival of this message?
- How will the reader feel about it?
- How will the reader be affected by this message?
3. Know yourself.
- Understanding your interests, motivations, strengths, weaknesses,
- Do not try to use a writing style or form that you are not
comfortable with or ready for. People see through this and it
reflects poorly on the writer.
- Write within your capabilities -- if you want to improve your
writing, always give people work that reflects your abilities and
let them help you expand your skills.
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