Let’s go on to analyse now tips six through to follow:
6. WRITING STYLE – This regards specifically students that study English as a foreign language (but it applies for anyone studying any other foreign language too). Force yourself to think in English and avoid, at all costs, translating your thoughts from your native tongue. You must train yourself to acquire proficiency in English through actual practice and writing will help you develop the immediacy needed when speaking. Therefore:
- work on your vocabulary;
- make a list of linking words, idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs;
- use short sentences, avoid subordinate clauses, when possible, simple and concise Language;
- read through your writing several times to ensure that it sounds right.
7. GRAMMAR – This is generally a tough one, but remember writing correctly helps you think wisely. So, when writing you must pay extra care to grammar which entails correct spelling and syntax as well. The best way to avoid serious mistakes is:
- To start each sentence with a subject followed by a verb,
- If you are writing in the third person singular don’t forget the “s” in the present simple verbs.
- Verb agreement is extremely important, don’t jump from past to present or vice versa.
- When using passive sentences and reported or indirect speech use them properly, review the rules if necessary. If uncertain about the spelling of a word check it up on your dictionary, do the same for the past participle or past simple of irregular verbs.
- Remember to position adjectives and adverbs properly.
8. PUNCTUATION – Today it may be considered but a mere detail and therefore of no great concern, yet it helps your writing to flow better, thus helping the reader to understand. I will just list the most used and those that may give more trouble.
Commas are used as follows:
- As a break within a sentence to provide further information about the subject of the sentence
Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, died in 2012.
- To list a series of items, no less than three
I must not forget to bring to school my books, my notebooks, and some pens.
- If the subject of a sentence is described by two or more adjectives, the last one, though, is not followed by a comma.
The red, long, silk dress made him stop short.
- If you have two independent clauses in a sentence you should separate them with a comma
Gas bills increase during winter, as house heating is used more if it is cold.
- When introducing a direct quotation
At that point the policeman asked me, “Do you want to press charges
Semicolons are used as follows:
- If you have two independent but related clauses
Jim didn’t know what to buy for the dinner; all the shops were closed.
Colons are used as follows:
- If you want to introduce a list it’s best to use an independent clause to define the type of list. Be sure the clause is a full sentence ending with a noun (usually the word following, or the expression as follows will be have a colon) My mother gave me only three choices: clean the house, studying, babysitting for my brother.
Keep in mind that if you use an introductory independent sentence that ends with the expressions such as, including, like or consists of, you must not use colons.
9. BIBLIOGRAPHY/REFEREMCES – You may think it’s not necessary to go over this aspect now, since it is highly improbable that you will use quotations when writing an essay for a test, or include a bibliography. However, it is valuable information to acquire in order to avoid any risk of plagiarism, a serious academic offense.
The best way to avoid it, of course, is to paraphrase (saying the same thing in your own words) the material. Nevertheless, a proper quotation needs to be included in the bibliography which also contains all the references used for your research and it is at the very end of your work. Here is an example of how to write both.
- The quotation will be as follows: As Henry James states in his novel, The Portrait of a Lady, “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”. (p. 1)
James, Henry; The Portrait of a Lady, Signet Classic; N.Y., 1995. (Italics are used only for the title of the book)
Remember that there are different ways to list references depending whether it is the title of a book as shown above, or a newspaper article, a magazine article, etc. Do some research and make your own list.
10. DOUBLE CHECKING – Last but not least, make time for it. Before copying over from your rough copy read it all over carefully for grammar or punctuation errors. Ensure that the register you have used is a formal one and that you haven’t used unnecessary contractions, or, worse, colloquial expressions. One last recommendation, ensure that you haven’t taken anything for granted and, therefore, you have provided all reasons and explanations needed to convey your message, whatever it may be. Remember, when you write an essay you are communicating something to your reader.
I do hope I have covered everything, but if I forgotten something, or if you have further questions on studying strategies and writing tips, please do drop a comment in the space below and I will answer at my best of knowledge and in the shortest possible time.
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© L. R. Capuana
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