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Writing FAQ

Page history last edited by William G. Lewis 12 years, 8 months ago

How should my paper be formatted?

Any essay you have for this class needs to follow MLA format. This means your paper needs to have 1" margins, a header containing your last name and the page number, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, and double spacing. Here is an sample MLA paper so you can see what an MLA paper looks like. It also contains a sample works cited page. I highly recommend you look this over.

Can I use "I" in my essay?

This is a complicated subject on its own. The short answer is "it depends". Here is an excellent post from Shitty First Drafts on using "I" without making it all about yourself: http://writingishard.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/using-i-without-making-it-all-about-you/.

What about phrases like "I think" or "In my opinion"?

Avoid these phrases entirely. These phrases are hedges, phrases that put distance in between the writer and his ideas. They sound like you are either apologizing for your ideas or trying to protect them using the First Amendment. Lean, tough writing will avoid using hedges and try to state things clearly and to the point.

How do I refer to authors in academic writing?

In academic writing, refer to authors by their last name. You can introduce them by their first and last name and then use their last name for the rest of the essay. This shows that you are respecting their position as a professional rather than treating them as a friend.

Can I begin a paragraph with a quote?

Beginning a paragraph with a quote just catches the reader off guard. There needs to be time to both set up and explain the quotes you use. They are key parts of your essay that advance your argument. Introduce your quote with a phrase or clause and then explain its significance and connection to your work.


Here is a short quite to using quotes effectively: http://www.csub.edu/~mwoodman/how%20to%20use%20quotes.htm

Professor Lewis, do you know APA/Chicago/AMA style?

Every discipline cites their sources differently for their own reasons. There is a good chance you will need to use other citation formats in your essays as well. I know the most about MLA format since it is what English uses, but I do not know much about the other citing formats. My advice is to consult citing guides (you should have a general writer's handbook to consult) or use reliable online sources like OWL Purdue.

May I send you a copy of my essay early?

Please do. Students who send in a copy of their work early often reap the benefits of getting comments and suggestions early. Yet, if you want feedback on your essay, you must send it at least 4 days before its due date. This is the only way I can be sure you will get a useful set of comments.


There is also the Tutoring Center available to you. Many tutors in the Tutoring Center are professors and can give one-on-one attention. That kind of focus can not be replicated in a full classroom environment. I highly recommend you take advantage of it.


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