No. 1 Lack of Organization

  • Papers with poor organization become confusing or repetitive. 
    • Outline before you begin writing. 
    • Gloss (write the topic of a paragraph in the margins). 
    • Check for transitions, topic sentences, a firm and clear thesis, and a strong introduction and conclusion. 
    • Remember that every paragraph should support your thesis!

Ways to keep your work organized

  • Listing
  • Clustering
  • Mapping
  • Webbing
  • Flowcharting
  • Outlining
  • Glossing
  • Notecards

No. 2 Inflated sentences

  • It’s important for your written work to sound like you. 
  • Inflating sentences by adding many prepositional phrases or passive voice makes your work sound pretentious, and could also make it difficult to read. 
  • For example:
    • Don’t say “in the event of” – say “if.” 
    • Don’t say “In regards to” – say “about.” 
    • Don’t say “I am of the opinion that” – say “I think.” 
    • Also avoid passive voice.
    • Try to eliminate as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible.

A dual-member team proceeded toward the apex of a natural geological protuberance, the purpose of their expedition being the procurement of a sample of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which was unspecified. One member of the team precipitately descended, sustaining severe fractional damage to the upper cranial portion of the anatomical structure. Subsequently the second member of the team performed a self-rotation translation oriented in the direction taken by the first team member.


Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.  Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

To avoid sentence inflation:

  • Use the active voice  
  • Use active verbs
  • Scale down wordy phrases
  • Reduce prepositional phrases
  • Reduce use of “there are/is”
  • Avoid unnecessarily inflated words

No. 3 The difference between speech and writing

  • Keep in mind the difference between speech and writing:
    • Many things we say when we speak are not acceptable in written work. 
    • For example, I might say, “I gotta work ’til eight,” but when I write, I should say, “I have to work until eight.”
    • Other colloquialisms like “something like that” or “like” should be avoided.
    • Remember that even the most informal paper is slightly more formal than speech.

How would you say it to your boss?

  • I’m suppose to (“supposeta”) go home.
    • I’m supposed to go home.
  • Each person went to their homes.
    • Each person went to his or her home.
  • I gotta go home.
    • I’ve got (OR I need) to go home.
  • I use to go (“useta”) go home.
    • I used to go home.
  • I’m gonna go home.
    • I’m going to go home.
  • I hafta go home.
    • I have to go home.
  • She was like, “Go home!”  OR  She goes, “Go home!”
    • She said, “Go home!”

No. 4 Spelling and Grammar Check

  • Spelling and/or Grammar Check may:
    • automatically change a word’s spelling when your spelling was right
    • offer you several words that are spelled similarly but mean radically different things
    • mark sentences wrong that may be correct
    • give “correct” options that are illogical or just plain wrong
  • Remember, you know your work better than any machine – neither grammar nor spell check is a replacement for proofreading your own work.