In the Beginning: Introductions


When beginning to compose an argument paper, you’ve probably read a wide variety of discussion on the topic, picked out several key pieces of research you want to include, have constructed at least a working thesis statement, and developed at least three solid reasons that will support the thesis. You may even have an outline. It’s time to start writing – but you’re already stuck. Overwhelmed with all the information you want to communicate, you don’t know where or how to begin.

Sound familiar?

Writing an effective introduction for a research paper is one of the most difficult tasks facing students as they begin the writing process. Introductions are more than simply a good “hook.” Before sitting down to write, it’s important to consider a few key points:

1.    What is your rhetorical purpose?

Understanding rhetorical purpose helps to clarify what exactly you want your writing to do at each stage of the paper. Consider what you want the introduction to do:

·         Do you need to grab the audience’s attention by stating startling statistics?

·         Would it be more effective to tell a narrative to create empathy?

·         Does the argument need historical information or background to inform the reader of the issue?

Below is a list of rhetorical purposes that will help you clarify what you want your introduction to accomplish (this can be done for each section or paragraph):

·         Explain

·         Inform

·         Challenge

·         Create Interest

·         Describe

·         Argue

Ask yourself, what exactly do I want or need to DO in this paragraph? Once you can answer this question, you can more easily decide how to begin.

2.    Who is your Audience?

Your instructor has given you an assignment to write a research paper, but keep in mind that even though you are writing this paper for a class assignment which your instructor will grade, your instructor alone isn’t your audience. You will most likely be writing for a general readership and academic community, unless otherwise directed. Consider this audience as you begin crafting the introduction. If you are still fuzzy on what your rhetorical purpose is, considering who your audience will be might help clarify the purpose. What do they need to know? Answering this question will help you plan your strategy.

3.    What is your focus?

Consider an email; an email has a subject line to identify what the content is for the recipient. This is a simplified way to think about the focus of your paper. Be specific. Keep asking yourself, what do I want to say about this topic? So what about your topic? So what about stem cell research or landfills or texting while driving or bio-engineered crops or fill-in-the-blank? You can’t write an introduction until you can clearly articulate your exact focus in the form of a thesis statement. The thesis serves as the guiding force of your paper, and without it, your argument – and organization – will fall apart.

Beginning the Beginning: What is the Context?

Once you have answered these questions, begin setting the context for your paper. What is the discussion or debate that this argument is a part of? What are the pros and cons of the issue? Who are the players involved? To set the context, provide general information on the issue for your reader, considering why the reader should care about this topic. Provide enough information to compel the audience to pay attention and keep reading. Make the reader care enough to act on an issue, if that is your purpose. Start broad and end narrow, meaning, offer general information about the topic, and conclude the intro with your thesis statement.

What NOT to do in an Introduction:

·         Begin with your thesis statement

·         Tell the reader what the paper will be about (In this paper I will. . .)

·         Reference a dictionary (According to Merriam, a landfill is. . .)

 Final Thoughts

Once you have a first draft of the entire paper and are ready to begin the revision process, go back to the introduction to reconsider if you need to add or remove any information. This is just a first draft, so if it’s not communicating what you want, you can always revise it. The intro might not be exactly the way you want it, but it’s at least a starting point to get you going.

Remember that these suggestions are for argument papers. A research paper might also be an exploratory essay, which will be more an inquiry than argument, and with different rhetorical purposes. Defining your purpose, audience, and focus, then putting the argument  in context, will help you compose a successful introduction and essay.

I Cite: Basic In-Text Citations


When writing a research paper, referring to any works or references requires what is called a parenthetical citation –  parenthetical, meaning in parenthesis, and citation, meaning a word or words taken from a piece of writing. Parenthetical citations are also referred to as “in-text” citations, as they are “in the text” of a paper, as opposed to the end (referred to as a Works Cited, Reference, Bibliography or Works Consulted, depending on the style guide you are following and assignment requirements).

MLA has general guidelines for what goes in parenthetical citations:

·         Information in parenthetical citations depends on the type of source you are citing, whether it is in print form, web form, film, DVD, etc.

·         Parenthetical citations must correspond to the Works Cited page (or Reference page in APA). This means that if a work is cited in the text by an author’s name, that author’s name must appear on the Works Cited page.

In MLA, parenthetical citations usually consist of either an author-page citation, or a page number citation.

Signal Phrases

If the author’s name is mentioned in a signal phrase (also referred to as an author or attributive tag), the parenthetical citation will include only the page number:

Ex. 1

Direct Quote: Herring states, “For the first time, I began to understand the courage and absolute vulnerability it took to put words on a page” (2).

Ex. 2

Paraphrase: In her research, Herring learned how high the emotional stakes are for writers (2).

In both examples above, the author, Herring, is given in the text, so the name will not be in the citation.

If the author’s name is NOT mentioned in a signal phrase, the parenthetical citation will include the author’s last name only and page number:

Direct Quote: The author understands it takes “courage and absolute vulnerability . . . to put words on a page” (Herring 2).

Paraphrase: The emotional stakes are high for writers who compose creative texts (Herring 2).

So the rule for in-text citations is, if the author’s name is given in a signal phrase, only give the page number. If it is not given in a signal phrase, the citation must include the last name only, followed by the page number.

What does this parenthetical citation tell us? We know who the author is, and we know on what page of the book we can find this quote. It doesn’t tell us, however, if it came from a print or web source. We assume it is a book, but only because there is a page number, but this isn’t always the case. We would look alphabetically on the Works Cited page, under “H” for Herring, to learn what type of source the research originated from.

Works Cited Entry:

Herring, Laraine. The Writing Warrior: Discovering the Courage to Free Your True Voice. Boston: Shambhala, 2010. Print.

Non-Print Web Sources

Today, web environments are often a respected source of information, and you may find some quality sources in online-only texts, though online sources must be carefully evaluated. Parenthetical citations for online sources can be tricky, but keep in mind you need basically the same information you would for a print source; however, it is rare that online sources will have page numbers. So what do you put in the parenthetical reference if the source has no page number?

·         First, include the author’s last name.


The Purdue OWL is a great online source for students (Jackson).

Works Cited:

Jackson, Tom. “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.” The OWL at Purdue.

17 June 2012. Purdue University Writing Lab. 2 April 2014.


But what if there is no author given?

·         Include the title of the article. If the title is very long, you can shorten it.

Once the boards are cut to specifications, glue sides to roof (“How to Build”).

Works Cited

“How to Build a Better Bird House.” eHow. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2005.

What should you NOT list in a parenthetical citation if you have no page numbers?

·         Non-existent page numbers!

Never create page numbers from the browser’s print preview. Only give page numbers if the actual numbers are shown on the text. A PDF file, even though you may open it online, most likely has page numbers. Only when a source has numbered paragraphs or sections, use “par.” (or “pars.”) or “sec.” (or “secs.”) in parentheses: (Smith par. 4). Never make up page, paragraph, or section numbers.

The preferred method to cite a source with no page numbers is to include the name of the author, editor, etc., in a signal phrase. Examples below edited from Purdue Owl:

Ex. 1:

No parenthetical citation:

Garcia stated that Fitzcarraldo is “…a beautiful and terrifying critique of obsession and colonialism.”

Works Cited Entry:

Garcia, Elizabeth. “Herzog: a Life.” Online Film Critics Corner. The Film School of New Hampshire, 2 May 2002. Web. 8 Jan. 2009.

Ex. 2:

No parenthetical citation:

In his article “Allston Gothic,” local historian Forman Jackson demonstrates how completely the neighborhood’s gruesome past has been forgotten by its residents.

Works Cited Entry:

Jackson, Forman. “Allston Gothic.” American Historian. 16 Aug. 2002. Web. 4 May 2009.

In both of these examples from web sources, no page numbers existed, so the author is given in a signal phrase, so no parenthetical citation is necessary. The name of the author corresponds with the Works Cited entry. If there is no author, list by the title; the same rule applies that it must correspond with the Works Cited entry.

No Author

If you have no author or page number to list in a parenthetical reference, you can give the title of the article, as shown below. But as stated earlier, the title in a signal phrase is preferred:

Ex. 1

Big foot is believed to reside in the Pacific Northwest and Canada (“Myths and Folklore”).

Ex. 2

Cable television has become more popular than network television (“Trends in Programming”).
This is only the basic formula for parenthetical citations. For more information, visit Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab at

or Bedford St. Martin’s at








A Match Made in Heaven: Subjects and Predicates


We learned last week that failure to include a subject or verb in a sentence will cause a sentence fragment. Even when subjects and verbs are both present, you still may not have a grammatically correct sentence. Subjects and verbs must fit together grammatically. When they don’t, the sentence has a mixed structure, or faulty predication.  A mixed construction is a sentence with parts that do not logically fit together.

Faulty Predication

A predicate is the part of the sentence that makes a statement about the subject, and the main part of the predicate is the verb. Sentences must be logical, meaning the predicate must have the ability to act on the subject. Faulty predication is created when the subject can’t logically do or be whatever the verb says it’s doing or being. Consider the sentence below:


  • A quality that I admire is someone who is patient.

“Someone” is not really a “quality,” so this sentence isn’t logical. This is considered faulty predication because the subject (quality) isn’t consistent with the predicate (is someone who is patient).

  • A quality that I admire is patience.

Is patience a quality? Yes. But note that a person can be patient; a quality is patience. The only way to correct the sentence is to change the form of the word, patient.


  • The rules of the game expect all players to be in full uniform.

“Rules” can’t “expect” anything, right? Rules can require:

  • The rules of the game require that all players be in full uniform.

Trouble with Linking Verbs

Another illogical construction with faulty predication is using when, where, and because immediately after the linking verb “is.”


  • An idiom is when a word or phrase has an unpredictable meaning.

In the previous sentence, the subject, “idiom” is a noun. The sentence is illogical, because a noun must follow the linking verb “is.” When used as a linking verb, “is” must join two nouns:

  • An idiom is a word or phrase with an unpredictable meaning.

The same rule applies to “where” in the following sentence:


  • The summit is where a mountain is the highest.

Omit  “where” and follow “is” with a noun:

  • The summit is the highest point of a mountain.


  • A gulf is where a portion of ocean or sea is partially surrounded by land.
  •  A gulf is a portion of ocean or sea partially surrounded by land.

Reason. . . is Because

Using “is because” following “reason” creates a confusing structure. It’s redundant, as the meaning of “because” is “the reason that.” It’s not only illogical, but confusing:


  • The reason I like to play tennis is because it keeps me in shape.
  • I like to play tennis because it keeps me in shape.


  • The reason I went to work early was to catch up on emails.
  • I went to work early to catch up on emails.

Both of these examples are corrected by removing “the reason” and the linking verb preceding “because.”

Finding these types of sentence-level errors is tricky, and they are often overlooked in academic papers. Read sentences carefully, paying close attention to the subject and predicate of each sentence. You can also try using MS Word’s FIND tab to locate illogical constructions such as “is when,” “is where,” and “reason. . . is because.” When working to eliminate faulty predicate construction, nothing works better than a close reading.

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All About Fragments


For a sentence to be a sentence, it must contain a subject and a verb. Toby barked is a complete sentence, as it contains a subject, Toby, and a verb, barked. A sentence is a sentence if it has at least one independent clause, which is a cluster of words that are “independent” of other phrases or clauses to form a grammatically correct sentence.

A fragment is created when the sentence lacks a subject, a verb, or both. Instead of an independent clause or complete sentence, this creates a fragment, or a group of words that require other words, phrases, or clauses to make it complete.


Missing Subject:

Walking down the block.

Who or what is walking down the block? We don’t know by the information given. This sentence is incomplete, as it lacks a subject.

The man was walking down the block.

Now it’s a complete sentence, or independent clause. It’s a full thought and a complete sentence.

Missing Verb:

The team when the others lost.

What did the team do? This again is an incomplete sentence, as the crucial verb is missing, creating a fragment.

The team won when the others lost.

The verb, “won” now completes the sentence.


Sometimes you can ask yourself if the sentence forms a complete thought, but sometimes spotting fragments can be tricky. Some fragments are actually modifying the sentence, and a reader often reattaches the sentence together, even though the punctuation demands they are separate.

He got his car running again. By fixing the oil gasket.

The first sentence in the example above is an independent clause, or complete sentence. However, the second sentence is a fragment and cannot stand alone without help. It is dependent on other words to form a complete sentence, so it should be attached to the previous sentence (independent clause).

He got his car running again by fixing the oil gasket.


Spotting Fragments

One way to test if a sentence is a fragment is to see if you can rephrase the word group into a yes or no question.

EX. 1

She bought the chocolate from the vending machine.

?          Did she buy the chocolate from the vending machine?

Answer: YES – so this is NOT a fragment.


EX. 2

Bought the sandwich to eat after class.

?          Did ____ buy the sandwich to eat after class?

            Answer: The question has no subject, so it is a fragment.

Dave bought the sandwich to eat after class.


EX. 3

The manager hiring workers for the night shift.

(HINT: avoid beginning the question with is/are or has/have.)

?          Does the manager hiring workers for the night shift?

Answer: The word, hiring, cannot act as the verb in this form.

The manager is hiring workers for the night shift.


Be aware that even very long sentences can be fragments, as we see in the example below:

Some films like Twister, which had cows flying through the air, cars hurdling into the sky, and houses exploding into toothpicks with high-tech special effects.

Don’t be fooled by long sentences. Let’s run our test:

?                      Do some films like Twister, which had cows flying through the air, cars hurdling into the sky, and houses exploding into toothpicks with high-tech special effects?

Answer:        Do some films. . . what? We don’t have a question, so it’s a fragment. Note that the verbs in the relative clause beginning with “which” (flying, hurdling, exploding) are not the main verbs of the sentence.


Even though in academic and business writing, fragments should be carefully edited out, creative writers and advertisers often use fragments as a creative device. Fragments are a part of normal speech patterns and often a stylistic choice when writing dialogue. Writers who use fragments purposefully do so because they know the rule they are breaking.

“Ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!”

“No can do. Too much work to do. Terrible, really.”

Mice in the house? Try Mice-B-Gone!


Turn the following fragments into sentences. Can you identify what makes them fragments?

1. In plenty of time for dinner.

2. A tune most people know.

3. Without any fear at all.

4. Discovered by the police detective.

5. For example, next Sunday.

6. Predicting the weather even with complex instruments.

7. A book I read when I was a child.

8. Hanging around famous people.

9. Making some mistakes.

10. To sit together at dinner.

(from Bedford St. Martin Exercise Central)




Blueprint for Success: Overcome Roadblocks to Build a Great Thesis


Writing an essay is like constructing a building. A blueprint offers a builder guidelines to help erect a building. A writer requires the blueprint of a focused thesis to guide his or her paper to completion. Without a strong, focused thesis statement, a paper may lack the solid structure it requires to maintain a logical argument through to the end.

Once you have decided on a topic, ask yourself the big “SO WHAT?” What do you want to say about your topic? What is your opinion? This question trips up many students who don’t feel they should have a strong opinion on a subject. Many writers prefer to ride the fence, or stay safely in the middle of an argument. That won’t work with a thesis statement. In fact, a thesis should be a statement of opinion that someone would disagree with. If there is no possibility of disagreement, the thesis needs more questioning.

Revising Thesis Statements

Maybe you have an idea what you want to write about, but don’t really know what direction to take. Forming the idea into a research question will begin paving the road to the thesis.

Say you have a passion for the environment. After doing some initial research, you are curious as to why, with all our current legislation, greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise. So you might form a question something like this:

Research Question: Why are greenhouse gas emissions still on the rise?

This isn’t a thesis yet, but it’s on its way. A thesis statement must be a declarative sentence, or a sentence that declares something in the form of an opinion. A thesis cannot be a question, as there is no opinion in a question. However, if you have a question, a thesis could be the answer to that question, but only if it creates disagreement.

The following example takes the research question and forms a declarative statement:

Non-debatable Thesis: Greenhouse gas emissions are bad for the environment.

This thesis statement is not debatable, as it’s an obvious fact that greenhouse gas emissions are bad for the environment. No one would argue pollution is good, right? Saying greenhouse gas emissions are bad for the environment is like saying smoking is bad for your health, again, a proven fact. It cannot be debated, so there is no argument to pursue, and therefore, no thesis.

Often it helps to narrow the focus of the thesis so it isn’t too broad. Consider how we might make this more specific:

Non-debatable Thesis: One of the fastest causes of the rise in greenhouse gas emissions is international transportation.

This is an interesting fact, but, alas, still a fact. I would like to know more about international transportation and its effect on the environment, but this isn’t quite a thesis statement yet. It’s non-debatable because this fact can be looked up in research and found to be true, so not yet an arguable thesis.

You could rework the topic to focus on how we might prevent greenhouse gas emissions:

Arguable Thesis: The US should focus anti-pollution legislation on ocean and air transport, or international transportation, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a thesis that is arguable and makes a declarative statement. It is strong and succinct. The best part is that this thesis is unique, one you (or your instructor) probably haven’t read about. The instructor will approach it with fresh eyes and mind, as opposed to a paper on why we should lower the drinking age, a tired, worn-out topic.

Beware of Feelings over Facts

Often we become so passionate about a topic that it’s difficult to separate our feelings from fact.

Personal Feelings Thesis:  The songs of rock group Post & Stone relate to the feelings of individuals who dare to be different, and are meaningful to me because I can identify with them.

You can’t compose a thesis statement based on personal feelings, as they will never hold up in an argument. But, you ask, isn’t a thesis supposed to be your opinion? Yes, but this thesis has no real argument, as an audience can’t disagree with whether or not music is meaningful to another person.

So how might you rephrase this topic into an arguable thesis? In the previous examples, we needed to narrow the focus to create an arguable thesis. However, this thesis is too narrow, and it will be difficult to keep it focused on one musical group, so consider how you might broaden the scope.

As you read more, you’ll find that music therapy is a popular form of psychotherapy. It’s also shown to be effective in dementia patients. If you want to keep the focus on music, consider the following:

Arguable Thesis: As music therapy has been proven to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, military psychologists should be required to offer music therapy to veterans.  

Arguable Thesis: To decrease medication use, lower costs, and improve patient recovery times, music therapy should be standard practice in all hospitals.

These are both workable thesis statements, and you can see how they will guide each paper. The first will focus on military only, although you could certainly tweak the language for different sub-groups; the second thesis will show how music therapy decreases the need for medication, decreases hospital costs, and speeds recovery times in hospital patients.

Once you’ve done some initial research, you can always adjust the thesis statement. When you have your blueprint in place, building the essay will be much easier than attempting to construct an essay on a faulty foundation.

Thesis Practice

Revise each of the thesis statements below to create an arguable thesis. 

  1.     There are positive and negative aspects of legalizing marijuana.
  2.     This paper will be about the health benefits of exercise in children.
  3.    Fashion magazines have no right arbitrarily to define standards of “beauty,” which often lead to
    eating  disorders.
  4.    Body piercing is popular among kids today.
  5.    Child obesity is a terrible problem society must fix.


Five-Dollar Words: Defining Academic Vocabulary

images words

Recently I was thumbing through a new writing textbook and came upon a glossary of vocabulary. As I skimmed through the pages, it became clear that, though I had heard some of these terms referenced at one time or another, I wasn’t exactly sure what some of them meant. As an instructor, writer, and writing consultant, I thought if I didn’t know what some of these words meant, then I would bet $5 students might not know what some of these five-dollar words meant either.

Students whose first language is not English have an additional burden of learning a foreign language in addition to learning the sometimes foreign language used in college classrooms. You might find that you are familiar with some of these terms listed below. You might find that the term sounds familiar, but you might not be able to define its meaning. Some of the words below might actually look like a foreign word!

A few of the terms below are specific to English academic writing and arguments in particular. Many of the terms may have a slightly different meaning in another language. You may never run across some of these words again in your academic career. Some of the terms are common in academic classes and critical to know; some terms are useful but not critical; and some are interesting, but not really useful (  If you recognize any of these terms from previous classes, it might very well turn up again, so it never hurts to be prepared.

Vocabulary List

Allegorical: from “allegory”; a poem, play, picture, etc. in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning; a symbolical narrative. 

Antithesis: the direct opposite; opposition; contrast. The antithesis of an argument paper is the opposite position of the thesis (anti-thesis).

Assonance: the use of a repetitive vowel sound in successive words or stressed syllables, as in a line of verse. Examples are time and light or shade and made.

Collocation: arrangement of words in a sentence, specifically what nouns go with specific verbs; a co-occurrence of lexical (see below) items, as perform with operation or commit with crime.

Enthymeme: syllogism (see below) or other argument in which a premise or the conclusion is unexpressed; in an enthymeme, part of the argument is missing because it is assumed.

Expository: expounds, sets forth, or explains; a type of essay that informs reader through exposition or explanation.

Gerund: a word with characteristics of both a noun and a verb (by adding the “ing” suffix to the noun);  Reading is easy.

Idiom: a language, dialect, or style of speaking peculiar to a people; unpredictable meaning for words used:  “It was raining cats and dogs.”

Infinitive: the simple or basic form of the verb, as come, take, eat, used after auxiliary verbs, as in I didn’t come, I can’t eat, or this simple form preceded by a function word, as to in I want to eat.

Lexical: the words (or vocabulary) of a language, generally distinguished from its grammatical and syntactical (see below) aspects.

Nominalization: to convert (another part of speech) into a noun, as in changing the adjective lowly into the lowly or the verb legalize into legalization.

Participle:  a form of a verb that is used to indicate a past or present action and that can also be used like an adjective.

Peremptory: leaving no opportunity for denial or refusal; admitting of no contradiction.

Syllogism: deductive reasoning; an extremely subtle, sophisticated, or deceptive argument; a formal argument in logic that is formed by two statements and a conclusion which must be true if the two statements are true.

Syntax/Syntactical:  the organization of words in a sentence; the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure of any language


















Do List on Due Day: Editing Checklist


We’re coming to the end of another term, so this is the time students give a final spit and polish to their essay. Of course, by this time in the term, you have usually read your essay so many times your – I meant you’re – blind to any errors. Hopefully you’re done with the larger issues in the revision process and now can concentrate on the more detailed issues of line editing.

Instead of simply reading through and hoping to catch any and all errors or inconsistencies, it’s more productive to do a read-through for each section below. Even though you are reading through your essay a few times, you can read through faster when you are only concentrating on one aspect of editing.


Works Cited

1. The words, Works Cited, should be at the top of the page, not bolded, not italicized, and double spaced between the title and first entry.

2. Make sure all entries are closed with a period.

3. Make sure the entries are in alphabetical order.

4. Entire page double spaced.

5. Hanging indent, with the second line and subsequent lines of each entry indented.

6. Check multiple authors on the same entry. Only the first author’s name is inverted.

7. Multiple works by same author, use – - – (3 hyphens) instead of repeating name and list titles alphabetically.

8. For online articles or periodicals, if no author, list by title.

9. Make sure you’ve added “Print” or “Web” at the end of each citation.

10. Make sure Works Cited is paginated with essay (if essay is 10 pages long, Works Cited will be page 11).

In-text citations:

1. Make sure every citation is linked to an entry on the Works Cited page.

2. Make sure every direct quote has an attributive tag.

3. Check that all summaries and paraphrases are cited.

4. Make sure the punctuation is correct. The period goes AFTER the parentheses.

5. Make sure the quotation marks are in front of the parentheses. The citation is not part of the quote but it IS part of the sentence.

6. A quote by someone other than the author should have
(qtd. in …).

7. If you have a quote over 4 typed lines, it should be blocked (do not use this often). Blocked quotes have no quotation marks.

8. Move the period in FRONT of the parentheses on blocked quotes.

9. Blocked quotes are introduced with a complete sentence followed by a colon.

10. When the title is quite long, use an abbreviated version for the in-text citation (Ex: Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry = Glossary) followed by page number. (Note: you would NOT use Heraldry, as you must use the first word so it correlates to Works Cited entry.)

 Grammar & Punctuation

1.    Run spellcheck and correct any errors.

2.    Make sure all sentences are complete, checking for fragments or comma splices.

3.    Make sure you know why you are inserting commas.

4.    Make sure you use a comma after introductory phrases.

5.    If your sentence begins with “there is” or “there are,” revise to eliminate this weak phrasing.

6.    If you use “not only,” you MUST use “but also” along with it. That’s a rule; those are called correlative conjunctions.

7.    Check for overuse of “is” as a verb and see if you can replace it with a more concrete verb.

8.    Edit out “we, our, us, you,” unless your instructor has said it is okay to use pronouns.

9.    If you are referring to a person, use “who” in clause structures (not “that”).

10.  Run an “Edit” and “Find” on words you confuse, such as then and than or were and where, making sure you are using them in the correct context.

Of course, this is an abbreviated list. Your instructor might have his or her own checklist of their personal preferences. Taking time to spit and polish one last time before you hand your essay over might make the difference between an okay grade and a WOW! grade. Don’t rely on someone else, including the Writing Center staff, to edit your writing. Learn to read carefully and catch your own mistakes. It’s worth the extra effort.