1. For assistance drafting, organizing, revising, and editing your college papers, visit the Writing Center.
2. For assistance with a presentation visit the Presentation Practice Center.
3. Take Eng-106 to develop your basic Writing Skills.
4. Speak what you write: Basically: If what you're writing is hard to speak, what makes you think it's going to be easy to read- It won't be. So speak out loud what you write. If you can't speak it naturally, rewrite it. Simple.
5. Punctuate. Here's a quick and dirty guide when to use punctuation:
- Periods: When you're writing down a thought and you're at the end of that thought, put a period.
- Commas: When you're writing down a thought and you want to take a breath, whether mental or physical, put in a comma.
- Semi-colon: Put these in your writing in the place where, in conversation, you'd arch your eyebrow or make some other sort of physical gesture signalling that you want to emphasize a point.
- Colon: Use when you want to make an example of something: For example, just like this.
- Question Mark: Quite obviously, when you have a question.
- Exclamation point: When you're really excited about something. You almost never need to use more than one in a paragraph.
- Dashes: You can use these when you've already used a colon or a semi-colon in a sentence, but be aware that if you have more than one colon or semi-colon in a sentence, you're probably doing something wrong.
6. With sentences, shorter is better than longer: If a sentence you're writing is longer than it would be comfortable to speak, it's probably too long. Cut it up.
7. Learn to spell: Everyone makes spelling errors so use 'spell-check' when possible (email or Microsoft Word, etc). However, be particularly conscience of basic spelling errors like using "your" when you're supposed to be using "you're" or "its" for "it's" (or in both cases, vice-versa). Here's a good rule of thumb: For every spelling error you make, your apparent IQ drops by 5 points. For every "there, they're, their" type of mistake you make, your apparent IQ drops by 10 points. Sorry about that, but there it is.
8. Don't use words you don't really know: It's nice to use impressive words from time to time, but if you use an impressive word incorrectly, everyone who does know what the word means will think of you as a pathetic, insecure dork. But generally: stick to words you know you know.
9. Grammar matters, but not as much as grammar Nazis think it does: The point of grammar is to make the language as clear to as many people as possible.If you're not confident about the grammar of a sentence, re-write it and strive for clarity. It's better to be plain and understood than to have people admire your style and have not the slightest idea what you're trying to say.
10. Write a clear thesis statement: A thesis statement is a declarative statement that reveals the author's purpose, provides justification to read the paper, and presents an opinion the author will support. The thesis statement gives the reader a reason to read, provides the reader a roadmap of your paper, and gives your essay structure and direction. Use this thesis statement checklist to ensure you have a good thesis statement.
11. Front-load your point: If you make people wade through seven paragraphs of unrelated anecdotes before you get to what you're really trying to say, you've lost.
12. Try to write well every single time you write: if you actually want to be a better writer, you have to be a better writer every time you write. It won't kill you to write a complete sentence in bloggs or e-mail. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it until it will actually be more difficult to write poorly in e-mail than not.
13. Read people who write well: Don't just read for entertainment, but also look to see how they do their writing - how they craft sentences, use punctuation, break their prose into paragraphs, and so on.
14. When in doubt, simplify: Worried you're not using the right words- Use simpler words. Worried that your sentence isn't clear- Make a simpler sentence. Worried that people won't see your point- Make your point simpler. Nearly every writing problem you have can be solved by making things simpler.
15. Have a trusted associate read your printed document carefully for errors
16. Become familiar with the various writing styles that your wrting assignments may require. These are available on the English Department home page.
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