A few general writing tips
- Always answer the question—if in doubt read the instructions or clarify your interpretation of them through your tutor/lecturer. Many a student has spent time and effort exploring a topic only to find that they omitted answering what was actually required.
- Avoid 'waffle'—the tendency to be obscure and verbose without actually saying anything of significance.
- Don't rely on your spellchecker facility alone, get someone else to read your paper before you submit it.
- Take care with jargon, colloquialisms, and abbreviations that may be very familiar to you but leave your reader completely in the dark.
- When writing for publication consider the preferences of the publisher such as spelling format (UK or US), spaces between sentences, referencing style, format and page size.
- If you have tables or figures in your document make sure you indicate where they are to be placed and ensure that you actually refer to them in text.
- Always use word processing software for design of tables, NEVER use the space bar between items to align items, you will create a headache when formatting. This link provides a simple tutorial.
- All references cited must appear in the reference list.
- Your paper should follow the basic principle of 'tell them what you are going to tell them' (introduction), then 'tell them' (body of paper) then 'tell them what you have told them' (conclusion).
- Make sure you match your content to the topic and have not veered off on a tangent of undisputed interest, but which may not answer the set question.
- If you are preparing a long document, such as a thesis/dissertation, consider using styles and a template that correlates with your university or publisher's requirements. This can save you valuable time and effort and ensures consistency in layout. There are also many websites that offer prepared templates where you can simply insert your text and apply styles to headings etc. Just make sure you check and adjust the page size (Letter vs A4) and spelling preference before you submit your work so that you meet your publisher/university requirements.
- If you move your text around during revisions or delete sections then remember to check that your references are also updated by using suitable software such as Endnote. This is particularly important if you are using a numbered referencing style such as Vancouver.
- Avoid clichés such as 'on the one hand', 'at the end of the day', 'last but not least', 'stood the test of time', 'tried and true'. They are over-used phrases that often have no meaning—aim for clarity and simplicity in your writing.
- Determine when you work best and ensure that you proofread your work when you are most alert.
- There are so many useful resources available on the internet that can help you with paraphrasing, referencing style and general academic writing and you are encouraged to access them via this page.
Updated JuUne 19, 2017