Table of Contents

Ten Tips for a Better Paper  40 Common Grammar Rules  Tips for Writing Paragraphs  Tips for Writing a Summary

Ten Tips for a Better Paper 

1. Introductions and Conclusions:
• The worst introduction possible is “This paper is about …”
• The worst possible conclusion is “In conclusion, …”
2. Pronouns
• Only use first person rarely. Your name is already listed as the author. Readers already know that every opinion stated is yours and don’t need to be constantly reminded.
• Use only third person pronouns (he, she, it, him, her, his, hers, its, they, and their).
• Do NOT use second person (you, your, or yours). You’ll sound bossy. Readers don’t like being told what to do, how they act, or what they think.
3. Names
• When writing about a person, use their full name the first time you introduce the character. Afterwards, refer them only by last name.
• You are not on a first name basis with Dr. Philip Zimbardo. Do not refer to him as “Phil” but as “Zimbardo”.
4. Verb Tense
• Maintain a common verb tense. Past, present, or future: pick one and stick with it.
5. Weak words
• Try to write a dynamic paper that intrigues the reader. Avoid weak adjectives, verbs, and descriptive nouns such as: great, interesting, cool, neat, good, bad, stuff, and things. You’ve got a better vocabulary than that. Use it.
6. Be specific.
• Do not be vague or wishy-washy. Avoid: “Kind of…” and “Sort of …” Take a solid stance.
• Estimate. Never use “a lot of” or any similar phrase. Use a number or a more precise adjective.
• Avoid using “like” except as a simile. Example: “His face was like an angry orangutan.”
• Avoid excessive modifiers such as really, very, and pretty. Pretty few things are really that very cool. If a work of art is “gorgeous”, saying that it is “really gorgeous” doesn’t add any substance and the word “really” only fills space.
7. Contractions
• DO NOT use contractions in a formal paper. Do not use “don’t”, “won’t”, or other contractions.
8. Et cetera
• Avoid use of etc. It’s tacky.
9. Fragments/Run-on Sentences
• A sentence requires only two items: a noun and a verb which agree. Sentence fragments are unacceptable.
• Avoid run-on sentences and comma splices. Add a conjunction, use a semicolon, or make two sentences.
10. Repetition
• Avoid using the same descriptive adverb or adjective more than once in the same paragraph. Mix it up.

40 Common Grammar Rules

Comma Rules
1. Commas are used to separate two independent clauses (complete thoughts) joined by a FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
Example: Bruce usually felt at home in the wilderness, yet tonight he was afraid.

2. Commas are used after introductory clauses beginning with words like if, when, whenever, because, after, before, although, while, or other conjunctions.
Example: Whenever danger threatens, small animals hide in their burrows.

3. Commas are used after long introductory phrases or after two or more introductory phrases.
Example: At the back of the restaurant, there is a private room for parties
Example: In the middle of the night at the stroke of twelve, the man suddenly awoke.

4. Commas are used to separate three or more items in a list.

5. Commas are used to separate nonessential information or words.
Example:The children, who weren't very happy, were in the corner alone.
Example: Mary, however, was very pleased with herself.

6. Commas are used to separate two or more words (adjectives) describing a word that follows.
Example: It was a hot, dreary day in the old, ugly town of Redbud. Rule of thumb: if you can reverse the adjectives and put "and" between them, then you need a comma. For example old-fashioned living room. You couldn't say living and old-fashioned room you don't need a comma before old-fashioned and living room.

Apostrophe Rules
1. Use apostrophes to take the place of missing letters or numbers
Example: we'd like to invite them to visit next weekend if they're available.
Example: The '98 winner of the scholarship is from our high school.

2. Use apostrophes to show possession by a person or thing. Add an apostrophe (') when the word already has an s. Add an apostrophe s ('s) when the word does not have an s.

3. The word it's with an apostrophe means "it is”. The word its with no apostrophe means "belonging to it"

Title Rules
1. The titles of all long works such as plays, novels, albums, and movies are underlined. Underlining is the same thing as putting something in italics.

2. The titles of all short works such as poems, songs, essays, and short stories should be put in quotation marks

Capitalization Rules
1. The first word in a sentence is always capitalized

2. The titles of movies, plays, books, stories, magazines, and newspapers, and songs also begin with capitals

3. All other words in titles are capitalized except certain short words such as a, an, the, and, but, or, for, of, in at, on, from, to and into UNLESS THEY ARE THE FIRST OR LAST WORD IN THE TITLE

4. Proper nouns are capitalized (names, places, and holidays).

5. Titles are capitalized when they appear before a name. Titles are not capitalized when they do not have a name except for very important titles such as President, King, and Queen.

6. Do not capitalize the names of seasons, summer, spring, fall, and winter unless they are personified.

7. Do not capitalize directions: north, south, east west, unless they are part of the name of a place or they are the name of the place.

8. Capitalize family member titles such as mother, father, aunt, and uncle when they take the place of a name.

9. Adjectives are capitalized if they come from a proper noun, i.e. Japanese, Gregorian, and Canadian.

Subject Verb Agreement Rules
1. When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by AND, use a plural verb.
Example: She and her friend are at the fair.

2. The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone, everybody, everything, anybody, anyone, nobody, nothing,
Somebody, someone and no one are singular and require a singular verb.
Example: Each of these hot dogs is juicy. Example: Everybody knows Mr. Jones

3. The word "they" is plural, it cannot be used to replace a singular subject.
Example: If a student wants to go home, they should contact their parents. WRONG
Example: If a student wants to go home, he should contact his parents. RIGHT
Example: If a student wants to go home, he or she should contact his or her parents. RIGHT

1. A fragment is an incomplete thought that cannot stand alone
Example: After the storm

2. A fragment may lack a subject or a verb
Example: Jack the boy.
Example: Stood alone in the corner.

1. A run-on contains two or more complete sentences written as one
2. A run-on may have a comma splice. A comma splice occurs when two sentences are joined with a comma but they lack a FANBOYS(for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). A comma splice also occurs when a comma is used where a period or a semicolon should go.
Example: There was a mistake in our bill, the server took care of it. WRONG
Example: There was a mistake in our bill, so the server took care of it. RIGHT
Example: There was a mistake in our bill. The server took care of it. RIGHT
Example: There was a mistake in our bill; the server took care of it. RIGHT

Quote Rules
1. A direct quote uses the exact words someone has used. These words go between quotation marks.
Example: Mark said, 'The earth is becoming overpopulated."
2. The introduction to a quote is set apart with commas.
Example: Mark said,
Jamie replied,
Margaret Yelled,

3. An indirect quote is usually introduced by the word that. It does not require quotes
Example: Mark said that the earth is becoming overpopulated.

4. A period or a comma that punctuates the quote is always placed inside the quotation mark.

5. If the quoted words are an exclamation, the exclamation mark belongs inside the quotation mark
Example: "Safe!" shouted the umpire.

6. If the quoted words ask a question, the question mark goes inside the quotes.
Example:"Do you know what time it is?" asked Dean.

7. If the question is not part of the quote, the question mark goes outside of the quotes.
Example: Did he really say, "I had absolutely nothing to do with it"?

Semicolon Rules
1. Semicolons are used in place of the word and to join two sentences.
Example: Bill searched in the woods; I looked along the riverbank

2. Semicolons are used before certain joining words (however, nevertheless, therefore, moreover, furthermore,
subsequently, in fact and for example) when they join two sentences.
Example: The Weather Channel says it's going to rain; however, there's a possibility that we'll have a snowstorm if it gets cold enough.

3. Notice that a semicolon goes before the joining word but a comma goes after it.

Colon Rules
1. Colons are used before a list in a sentence especially when you see these, the following, or as follows
EXAMPLE: Denise has lived in these three cities: Raleigh, Durham, and Wilmington.

2. Do not use a colon after a verb or preposition, even if it introduces a list.
EXAMPLE: Denise ordered her pizzas with: green peppers, onions, and pepperoni. WRONG

3. Use a colon to join two closely related sentences
Example: Of course she's concerned about the child: She's his mother.

Tips for Writing Paragraphs

1. As a general rule, begin with a topic sentence. State the subject and a specific feeling or feature about it.
2. The topic should answer the prompt (or question). You can reuse several of the words in the prompt to be sure you’re answering the prompt.
3. If the paragraph is part of a larger essay, the topic sentence should correlate with the thesis statement.
4. Identify your main points to back up your topic sentence.
5. Build your paragraph in a logical order. Events, in most cases, should appear in your essay in the order they appear in the book.
6. Explain your main points with specific details (events that occurred a book, movie, or real life example)

o Do not say ‘Elie is outraged at what he sees during the Holocaust’.
o Be more specific and quote Wiesel when he says, “Yes, I saw it—saw it with my own eyes…those children in the flames” (p. 41).

7. Clarify how these examples prove your topic!—in your own words, your own original thoughts!
8. You cannot prove your topic with just one specific detail from the story…to prove something is to show that it happens more than once.
9. Your last sentence should conclude (wrap up) the paragraph, if it’s part of a larger essay, this concluding sentence could lead or transition the reader to the next paragraph or idea.
10. Use transitions in your paragraph to lead from one detail/idea to the next (ex. First, next, furthermore, for example, to demonstrate, etc.)
11. Vary your sentence structure, do not start every sentence with “he” or “Joey”. Use both short and long sentences—mix it up.
12. Use precise vocabulary; do not use words that you do not know how to use. Watch for repeat words—get a thesaurus and make sure you’re using the word properly.
13. Have someone proofread your paragraph.
14. Reread it yourself after you’ve stepped away from it for some time (overnight, for example).
15. Spell check, grammar check, no PP on your paper, get control of your contractions.
16. Always refer to an author at first with both his/her first and last name; after that, use only his/her last name.
17. Remember to italicize the book title when you type, underline it when handwritten
18. Make sure that it’s your best work and represents you.
19. Be original in your thinking—outside of the box counts.