Alphabetical list of Handouts & Guides
Words of Wisdom
The best ideas come to you when you're sitting down, working. That's when most of the breakthroughs occur--simply by doing the work. If someone wanted to be a runner, you don't tell them to think about running, you tell them to run. And the same simple idea applies to writing, I hope.
Once you’re done writing your draft, it’s time for the final two stages of the writing process. First, you’ll need to revise (or edit) your writing for content and style; then, you’ll need to proofread (or copy edit) to make sure your draft is properly formatted, correct, and readable. Before you start revising and proofreading, though, it’s best to take a break. A break will give you a new perspective on your work, allowing you to see what you’ve actually written rather than what you think you’ve written.
Revision is looking critically at your content and style. You may find you have to rearrange, add, or cut significant content to produce a coherent and persuasive final paper. You may even need to go back and conduct more research to clarify information or fill in gaps in your argument. Use this checklist to help you revise your work.
- The paper fulfills the assignment. (Be sure to read over the assignment again.)
- The paper follows assignment guidelines about content.
Title & Introduction
- The title accurately tells the reader what the paper is about.
- The title and introduction will catch the reader’s attention.
- The introduction includes a thesis that clearly states the main argument. Your reader can read your thesis by itself and know exactly what your paper is about.
- The arguments are appropriate for the target audience and will appeal to their sense of logic.
- Explanations and detail are at a level the audience will comprehend.
- The body of the paper provides evidence for the thesis.
- Every argument that supports the thesis is in turn supported by facts, testimony, logic, examples, or other material.
- Possible objections or counter arguments are acknowledged and responded to.
- The argument does not contain fallacies such as over generalizations.
- Paragraphs are logically related to one another, and clear transitions tie them into a coherent whole.
- Content is grouped into sections that relate to each other.
- Main points are ordered clearly and logically, using an appropriate organizational framework such as least to most important, chronological, problem/solution, or cause/effect.
- Every paragraph is fully developed; the reader is not left with questions.
- Every paragraph has a topic sentence (either stated outright or implied) that clearly relates that paragraph to the thesis.
- Every paragraph follows a logical organization.
- No paragraph is so long that it will tire the reader. Breaks are made in logical places.
- The sentences are varied in length.
- The sentences are varied in structure.
- Appropriate transitions are used to help readers follow the flow of ideas.
- Information and quotations gleaned from your research are smoothly integrated into your writing.
Word Choice and Style
- Any words that might be unfamiliar to the readers are defined or replaced by more common words.
- Most verbs are active and vivid.
- Nothing in your words or content is offensive; the language and argument do not exclude or stereotype.
- Unnecessary words have been omitted.
- The style is easy for an educated reader to understand and is not overly complicated or long-winded.
- The conclusion is more than just a restatement of the introduction. It is memorable and emphasizes the thesis, rather than just abruptly stopping or trailing off. For example, readers are exhorted to take action, informed of the significance of something, or warned about possible consequences of an event or position.
Start proofreading when you’re nearing a deadline or have exhausted your topic and completed the above checklist. Be sure to leave time for this final step to avoid obvious or embarrassing errors. Always proofread from printed copy; you’d be surprised how many errors you can miss on a screen. Reading slowly is important; do whatever you can to slow yourself down. Try printing your paper in a larger font size, so you can really see what you’ve written. Also, read your draft aloud to yourself; it’s a great way to find omitted or misplaced words. You may want to ask a friend or family member to check the draft for you, which can be helpful since other readers won’t be as close to the work as you are. Make sure, however, that you do your own final read-through. After all, you’re ultimately the one responsible for your writing.
- The paper is the right length and includes page numbers in the format specified in the assignment.
- The correct documentation style is used consistently; for example, you don’t mix APA and MLA styles.
- Every time you directly or indirectly cite a source, you clearly indicate so in the body of the paper and refer the reader to the appropriate citation in your References or Works Cited section.
- All citations include complete publication information and end with a period.
- There are no spelling errors or typos. Spelling and grammar checkers miss many errors, so read aloud, very slowly, from a print out.
Grammar and Punctuation
- There are no errors in subject/verb or pronoun/antecedent agreement.
- Abbreviations and apostrophes are used correctly and consistently; if contractions are used (as in “it’s” for “it is”), they are appropriate to the style.
- All sentences are complete; if a fragment is used, it is used for rhetorical effect.
- The punctuation is consistent and correct. If you elect to put a comma after introductory clauses, for example, you do so all of time. Don’t use your breathing as a way to decide when to use a comma—find a grammar book or handout on punctuation rules and follow it.