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The Most Important Rules of Writing

The Most Important Rules of Writing

Regardless of whether you are writing an essay for your freshmen college composition course, developing a research proposal, or completing online writing jobs, there are some important rules in writing to which you must adhere.

Rule One: Develop a thesis statement.

The thesis statement is the controlling idea of the entire paper. It offers an opinion, an argument, a position, a proposition, or a theory. It cannot be so narrow that it can easily be addressed with a brief statement or explanation nor so broad that it cannot be reasonably addressed within the scope of a proposed project or well-developed paper. Furthermore, everything in the paper must either directly or indirectly support the thesis statement.

Rule Two: Develop an outline.

Developing an outline is simply a way of planning out what information to include in the paper and the order in which to present and discuss ideas. As you conduct research or generate details to support main points, you can add them to your outline. Planning thoughts out helps to organize writing into a fluid, coherent communication of ideas and information.

Rule Three: Write in a formal language style as opposed to informal.

Scholarly writing utilizes a formal style of writing. Colloquialisms, slang terms, abbreviations, and contractions are not acceptable.

One would not write, “The professor was trippin!” Instead, one might write, “The professor was displeased.”

Rule Four: Be precise in word choice.

Specify what you are discussing. Do not begin a sentence with “they” if “they” does not refer back to a specified group. Name the group to which you are referring.

Be careful about agreement in number. Look at the sentence: “The student understands what they must do.” “Student” is singular, but “they” which refers back to “student” is plural. Instead, write: “The students understand what they must do.”

Consider this example: “Everyone thinks they have talent.” “Everyone” is a singular pronoun, but “they” is plural. Since “they” refers back to “everyone,” the two pronouns must agree in number. One way to correct this sentence is to say: “Most people think they have talent.”Notice that the corrected sentences favor using plural pronouns. That is because “he” or “she” is gender-sensitive language, which should be avoided in formal writing. To circumvent the awkward use of “he/she” or “he or she,” writers often resort to the use of plural, non-gender specific nouns and pronouns.

Rule Five: Do not write in first or second person.

Do not write in first person “I” or “we” or second person “you.” However, there are rare exceptions. For example, in a qualitative study where the researcher takes an active role as a participant, the researcher may transition from third person to first person in the methodology section of the report. However, unless there is a specific reason for writing in first or second person, third person should be maintained throughout a scholarly piece of writing.

Rule Six: Be concise

Watch out for wordiness and redundancy. Don’t try to expand your writing to a certain length or a set number of pages. State what you have to say clearly and concisely.

Rule Seven: Cite your sources.

In writing jobs it is especially important to give credit where credit is due, whether using someone else’s words, ideas, research, or graphics.

Finally, when in doubt about word usage, grammar, writing formats, and so forth, remember that online tools are available. Use them.

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