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Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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Category : Writing Tips


Many students think that writing a paper is a single action: write the paper from beginning to end, print it out, and turn it in to the teacher. But wait! What about catching all the little mistakes you might have made? Or making sure that what you wrote actually makes sense?! That’s what proofreading is for! To “proofread” means to go back through your paper very carefully to find any mistakes or to see your paper as a “whole” rather than just several separate paragraphs. It will help you really see if the theme, thesis, or argument is well-presented throughout the entire paper. Some people proofread only once per paper, while others proofread several times…it’s all up to you!

Don’t avoid proofreading just because it takes more time. It’s worth it in the end, especially if your teacher takes points off for small mistakes! To start, try reading the paper aloud to yourself. Sounds silly, but it will help you see and hear what needs to be changed. You can also ask a friend to proofread your paper- a different perspective may see something you do not. Just remember to go slowly. It may take some time, but soon you will get in the habit of proofreading everything you write. For more detailed advice on catching comma errors, please see the blog post entitled “Proofreading for Commas.”

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a good way to quickly learn a lot about a certain topic, right? So why do teachers tell you that you can’t use it as a source when you are writing a paper? Well, anyone can go onto Wikipedia and write or edit an article; for example, I’m not an expert on sharks, but if I have an account with Wikipedia, I can make some changes to the article on sharks. Instead, most teachers want you to use well-researched and well-edited documents written by experts, or those who have spent years researching a certain topic. However, on most Wikipedia articles, you’ll see a list of citations at the very end of the article. These citations mostly come from “experts,” so you can certainly take a look at these other books and articles to see if they are reliable enough to use in your paper. If you are ever doubt whether a source is “reliable” or not, just ask your teacher. Basically, Wikipedia is not 100% reliable, but it can certainly lead you to some other great sources…

Greeting for Letters and Emails

Greetings for Letters and Emails

When you begin a letter or an email, you usually start by greeting the person you are writing to; this is also known as a “salutation.” But when should you use an informal greeting and when should you use a formal greeting? When writing to friends, family members, or people you are acquainted with, you can use “Dear” and his/her first name, as in:

Dear Michael,

When it is a more formal letter, for example, one to a potential employer or someone you have not met before, you can say “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” (if you do not know the exact name of the person who will be reading your letter). You can also just use the person’s name followed by a colon- for example,

Dr. Williams:

If you don’t know whether you should use formal or informal style, use the formal style (including titles, like Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc…). It is better to be too formal rather than too informal!