General

It’s essay season; do you know where your apostrophe should go?

You gotta write good like you know you should. Take them words and string ’em together all smart-like. Why? Because words make us wanna go:

Pictured: graphic of "Yaaaaaaas werk!" written in the fanciest calligraphy font I could findThat was painful, I know. I am deeply sorry for putting you through that. The point of it was to show how cringeworthy bad writing can be. [Life@UofT will not be held responsible for any damages resulting from rageful fits my above paragraph may have induced, including but not limited to thrown computers, torn pillows, and a decreased faith in humanity]

Good writing is so important in the academic environment. Professors believe that profoundly; a lot of what they do depends on the written word. It’s no surprise, then, that professors are often experts at writing well. I have picked up so many great tricks from them throughout my time at university. In the spirit of solidarity during prime essay season, I would like to share my favourite tips with you lovely people.

Know your possessives

Don’t let a stray apostrophe muscle its’ way into a sentence where it does not belong. See what I did there? Here is a simple and helpful post if you are ever unsure.

Poor old semicolon

Pity the poor semicolon; I think it is one of the most undervalued pieces of punctuation around. I like to think of the semicolon as a less strong period; it links two independent, but related, clauses. The semicolon is so useful when you know how to use it correctly; just make sure you know the rules. However, proceed with caution; the semicolon has become very controversial in the literary world of late.

Pictured: ;-( (a sad semicolon)

Run! There’s a thesaurus on the loose!

In my experience, turning to a thesaurus rarely does much good. Academic writing should be clear and concise. Flowery, aureate, bombastic, florid, grandiloquent, prolix, rococo, magniloquent, and verbose language is unnecessary, gratuitous, irrelevant, supererogatory, nonessential, and uncalled-for.

Be consistent

I don’t care if you use an Oxford comma or not, just as long as you stick to your grammatical choices. Being consistent in your writing shows your consideration, proves you were proofreading, and adds an impressive polish to all of your written work. (#proOxfordcomma)

Be meticulous in citing

I once had a professor who told my class that plagiarism is the academic equivalent of high treason. After all, our degrees don’t mean anything if they are not a fair and accurate reflection of the work we have done. We have to respect the sources we use. You can avoid accidental plagiarism by staying organized while researching and reviewing anything you are unsure of.

PROOFREAD!

Needlepoint this, put it on your wall, live it, and love it.

Pictured: The word "proofread" in a needlework frame

These are some of the writing tips that have helped me the most throughout my university experience. This essay season, I want us all to impress our professors with our stellar word-smithery. I want our professors to say…

Pictured: graphic of "Yaaaaaaas werk!" written in the fanciest calligraphy font I could find

This graphic is so fabulous; I had to use it twice

What are some of your favourite writing tips, UofT?

Be sure to check out UofT’s great resources, designed to help you with your writing skills.

emma

2 Comments

Cynthia Dann-Beardsley

This is very useful advice-for writing throughout the year, not just at the end of term.
There is one error though. In the “Be consistent” section, the sentence contains “…proves your were proofreading,”; I think “proves you were proofreading,” was intended.
Thanks again for an informative piece.

Reply
emma

I was hoping someone would catch that! Proofreading is so important, and sometimes you need a peer to help you catch things you might miss. Thanks so much Cynthia for being my peer!

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