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Writing Rules to Commit to Memory

In elementary school, they made you learn how to write in cursive, claiming it was a necessary skill for your future academic career. Well, that turned out to be not exactly true, but they weren’t wrong about everything. In order to be successful in college and in the real world, it is imperative that you know how to draft an accurate and effective piece of writing. That means leaving out these common mistakes and committing the rules to memory.

1. Know Your Homophones
Your, you’re. There, their, they’re. Two, too, to. Than, then. They may all sound the same, but using the wrong one in a piece of writing can totally change the meaning of your sentence – not to mention make you appear careless or sloppy. Know how to use each one correctly, and be sure to proofread anything you write. These errors can happen by simple mistake when you’re writing in a hurry, so take the time to double check.

2. Don’t Stray from Your Point
Between your admissions essay, freshman composition classes for your General Education Requirements (GERs), and all the papers you’ll write before you graduate, you’ll surely develop your own system for writing an essay start-to-finish. You’ll probably write dozens of thesis, hundreds of paragraphs, and many thousands of words before you graduate. One of the most important things to remember while you’re typing essay after essay, paper after paper, is your purpose. Anecdotes may be great to illustrate your point, but make sure they are relevant and contribute well to the purpose of your paper. Especially around mid-terms and finals, it’s easy to fall into an Essay Coma, but that is when it’s especially important to double check that all your papers keep to your thesis and effectively and clearly demonstrate your point.

3. Create and Maintain Structure
You know how much writing a boring paper bugs you. Imagine how boring it is for the professor who has to read a few dozen of them. Don’t make your instructor’s job any more difficult by turning in a sloppily-formatted essay. Pay close attention to your paragraph formations, header, and footer. A huge block of text with a number of different points and examples is not a paragraph; it’s a headache. Delineate examples and arguments with carefully crafted paragraphs.

4. Know Your Format
For the majority of papers you’ll write in college, you will be expected to properly employ MLA format for your citations and formatting. This may change depending on your field of primary study, but you will, without a doubt, need to know a proper, formal citation method. It often surprises new students that this does not just apply to a Works Cited page, but also to in-text references and citations, margin and type styles, and headers or cover pages. Check your bookstore for a style guide and learn the rules you use most often.

5. Never Turn in a First Draft
You may write a beautiful first draft of an essay. But you’re not done. Even if you don’t see the need to modify your points, arguments, or examples, I’ve got a hundred bucks that says at least one read-through of your first draft will reveal a spelling or grammar mistake or a sentence or phrase that you don’t need. Re-read it after a few hours. Read it out loud. Have your mom read it. Whatever you do, do not turn in your unpolished first draft to your professor. You can thank me when you get your proofread, thoroughly edited essay back with an A+.

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