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Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment

January 26, 2013

Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment

1. Avoid it as a subject pronoun.
It was a rainy day. We sat quietly at the ball park.
On a rainy day, we sat quietly at the ball park. (Better)

2. Avoid this and that as subject pronouns. (If this or that is immediately followed by is or was, you should reconsider using the subject pronoun. Of course, you can use that to introduce a relative clause; or you can use this or that to work as a demonstrative adjective. Example: I know that your writing skills will improve during this semester.)

We understood the tasks which were ahead of us. This was the problem.
We understood the tasks which were ahead of us. The anticipated heavy workload was
the problem. (Better)
Understanding the tasks that were ahead of us was the problem. (Better)

3. Avoid there is, there are, there was, there were, there can be, there could be, there shall be, there should be, there will be, there would be, there may be, there might be.
There were several graduates on the stage.
Several graduates were on the stage. (Better)

There were yellow ribbons on every tree and shrub.
Yellow ribbons adorned every tree and shrub. (Better)

4. Avoid a lot.
Brett has a lot of creative ideas.
Brett has many (numerous, several, a great deal of) creative ideas. (Better)

5. Avoid get, gets, getting, got, gotten.
Working at the summer theater, we got only two dollars an hour.
Working at the summer theater, we received (earned) only two dollars an hour.

If you leave by noon, you will get to Kalamazoo by three.
If you leave by noon, you will arrive at Kalamazoo by three. (Better)

At the bookstore, Val got two ringbinders.
At the bookstore, Val purchased two ringbinders. (Better)

6. Do NOT use contractions.
They won’t leave until the team arrives.
They will not leave until the team arrives. (Better)

Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment (page two)

7. Do NOT use abbreviations. (Exceptions: Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr. when meaning “Doctor”) Before using a group of letters to represent a series of words, first spell out the entire phrase and then type the appropriate letters within parentheses; for subsequent uses, you may simply use the group of letters without the parentheses.

Having worked for three years as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), I have returned to Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) to earn my degree in registered nursing. During this semester at MATC, I am taking nine credits.

8. Spell out one digit numbers; type the numerals for two digit (or higher) numbers.
Yesterday she received three roses and 11 cards.

9. Maintain the same verb tense.

10. Take care with time and verb tense. For example, do not use “now” with a verb in the
past tense.

11. Whenever possible, avoid the passive voice: use the active voice of a verb.
The speaker was heard by the entire audience. (passive voice)
The entire audience heard the speaker. (active voice)

12. Follow the format which you are given for each writing assignment: be certain to
use double line spacing.

13. Do not begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
The coordinating conjunctions are: and, but, or, nor, yet, for, so.

14. In a formal writing assignment, use “child” or “children,” instead of “kid” or “kids.”
Also, you may use synonyms such as “student,” “teen-ager,” “adolescent,” “toddlers,”
etc.

15. Avoid the adjective “pretty” when you mean “fairly” or “very.”
Our group thought that the novel was pretty interesting. (Informal)
Our group thought that the novel was somewhat interesting. (Better)
Our group thought that the novel was very interesting. (Better)

16. Avoid informal words such as “stuff” and “thing” in a formal writing assignment.

17. Be certain that pronouns agree in number.
At the onset of the class period, everyone submitted their essays. (NOT correct)
At the onset of the class period, everyone submitted his/her essay. (Correct)
At the onset of the class period, everyone submitted an essay. (Correct)
At the onset of the class period, all students submitted their essays. (Correct)
Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment (page three)

18. Be very careful with the use of absolutes such as all, everyone, everybody, never,
always. Instead, you may wish to consider words such as most, many, several, the
majority, numerous, often, too often, frequently, rarely, too infrequently.

19. Especially in the introduction of an essay, avoid announcements.
In this paper, I will discuss the three stages in the life of a working guide dog. (This sentence which is an announcement needs revision.)

In the life of a guide dog, the three prominent stages are working with a
puppy-raiser, professional trainer, and blind handler. (Better)

20. Read your work aloud in order to edit, revise, and proofread your paper more
effectively.

Capitalize Your Title Properly

1. The first word of a title is always capitalized.
2. The last word of a title is always capitalized.
3. Do not capitalize “a,” “an,” or “the”–unless the article is the first word of the title.
4. Do not capitalize prepositions–unless the preposition is the first (or last) word of the
title. (Refer to Part 4 of the “Core Handout” for a list of prepositions.)
5. Do not capitalize the coordinating conjunctions of the English language.
(The coordinating conjunctions are: and, but, or, nor, yet, for, so.)
6. Do not capitalize “to” which introduces an infinitive (“to” plus a verb)–unless the
word “to” is the first word of a title.
7. Capitalize all words of a title–except the types of words which were noted in numbers
three through six of this listing.
8. Instead of writing merely a label, write a dynamic and interesting title.

NOTE: Any individual is welcome to use this document for his or her own purposes of improving writing skills. If you are a teacher wanting to use this document for a class, please request permission to do so. Thank you.

Alice Jane-Marie Massa
January, 2013

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4 Comments
  1. Very informative post. Thanks so much. I found quite a few things that I have been doing inappropriately. I think I need to think while I am writing.

    Deon

    Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

    Vivian Green

    _____

  2. Hi Alice, this is good. You might want to post it to the Writers’ Partyline List if you haven’t already.

  3. This checklist is excellent!

  4. Carole Morgan permalink

    Thanks, Alice! I love this and am looking forward to more. Kudos!
    Carole

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