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Tips, Tools & Ideas To Improve Your Writing - Graduate Student Survival Kit

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The Graduate Student Survival Kit

[] is a

terrific source of all sorts of information for graduate students and

the faculty who advise them.

A new section on the site, Tips, Tools & Ideas to Improve Your

Writing [] is well worth checking out.

Below is a brief description of the site, followed by two examples,

one on "The Single Biggest Mistake Students Make When Writing

Essays," and the other on "Less Is More: Striving for Simplicity of



Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Tenure and Academic Excellence

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


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The World-Wide Web's first comprehensive English-language writing

assistance center, brought to you by ACI (Academic Consulting

International), is pleased to offer to all Web users a small (but, we

hope, valuable) collection of materials and resources to help them

with their writing.

Although we hope that even skilled writers for whom English is their

first language will find this material worth looking through, our

emphasis here is on those who feel they need help with writing,

particularly those for whom English is not their first language.

Material is presented here in small, bite-size nuggets, designed for

the age of information overload. We realize that your time is

limited, with countless things competing for your attention. Our site

is designed with this reality in mind. Even if you have only 60

seconds or less to visit, the items listed here are set up so that

you can walk away with at least some figurative pearl of wisdom every


The emphasis here is on content. "Eye candy" (elaborate graphics,

animation and so on) has been cut, in order to allow for quick

downloading and easy navigation throughout. For the same reason, we

don't propose to clog up your system with music. You have your own

tastes in music, no doubt, and access to music in one form or another

if you so choose. Get in, get around, get what you want, get on with

the next item of business in your life. That's the concept.

Please click below on whatever items appear of interest to you:

1. How to actually get paid for writing your papers (or thesis or dissertation)

2. Gems to enthrall and inspire

3. Test your writing IQ: a three-question quiz

4. Seven tips for more effective writing

5. A simple, six-part method for choosing term paper topics

6. The single biggest mistake students (and most others) make when

writing essays

7. Active voice versus passive voice

8. Less is more: striving for simplicity of expression

9. When to quote and when to paraphrase

10. Word order in sentences

11. How are punctuation marks like traffic signs?

12. When a single comma made the difference between life and death

13. Using lists to improve your business writing

14. Fun with English: discovering palindromes

15. Peccadillos and pet peeves

16. Professional writers' secrets to becoming a professional writer

17. Free online research & writing resources

18. Recommended books and tapes: Instant ordering from!

19. Food for thought: quotation potpourri

20. "Truth is stranger than fiction"

21. "Student Bloopers"

22. Best college application essay we've ever read

23. The single greatest secret to good writing (a reward for

scrolling to the end of this menu!)

What gives you the most trouble writing English? What questions would

you most like answered? What sort of information would be of greatest

interest and value to you? As we gradually expand this section of our

site, we welcome your input and look forward to hearing from you!

All original material at this Website is copyrighted ? 1996-99 by

ACI/Daniel K. Berman, Ph.D. Such material may not be produced, stored

in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means -

electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise -

without written permission. Any queries concerning the rights to or

use of original materials at this site may be addressed to Webmaster


# 6 The Single Biggest Mistake Students Make When Writing Essays

There are of course many mistakes that students make when writing

essays. The single biggest mistake of all, however, is probably

failing to articulate a clear thesis statement or argument (which

usually belongs in the introduction).

A paper without a clear thesis statement is probably a paper that

lacks focus and direction, written by someone who has not taken

enough time to think through the assignment.

If you want to produce a quality essay, force yourself to formulate a

clear thesis statement that you incorporate into your introduction.

Let it sit for a while and then review it, putting yourself in the

place of the reader. From the perspective of a reader-not your own

perspective-ask yourself:

* Does the thesis statement seem clear to you?

* Does it give you a sense as to where the essay will be leading you?

* Does the thesis argument interest you enough to make you want to

read further?

Try reading the thesis statement out loud to someone you know who is

willing to listen: your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your roommate,

your mother. The simple act of reading the statement out loud will

probably make you more aware of how it might be improved.

Only when your thesis statement has met the tests just described are

you really ready to proceed with the final drafting of the paper.

# 7 Less Is More: Striving for Simplicity of Expression

"If you would be pungent, be brief. For it is with words as with

sunbeams: The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn." -

Robert Southey

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no

unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same

reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine

no unnecessary parts." - William Strunk, Jr.

"Any addition to the truth is a subtraction from it." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

In general, the best writing is simple and direct. Writing that is

simple and direct is most easily understood. It also tends to be the

most forceful and memorable. Use no more words than necessary - and

never use a complicated word if a simpler one will do just as well.

Many people seem to feel that writing in a complicated way makes one

sound serious, scholarly and authoritative. While this type of

writing may sound serious, it is no more authoritative than writing

that is simple and direct. Certainly, it is more difficult to

understand. Often, it sounds pompous and overbearing. If your purpose

is to be understood, in a way that is both forceful and memorable,

adopt a style that is simple and direct.

How can you achieve such a style? One technique is to use

conversation as your guide. Pretend that you are explaining

something, over the telephone, to someone you know: a parent, a

friend, a significant other - someone who is not an expert in

whatever it is that you are writing about. You only have a few

seconds to get your point across. What would you say? Read it out

loud, to see whether it would work under those circumstances. If it

seems to you that it would not, keep rewriting until it seems to you

that it would.