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Ten Tips for Student Writing
Steve Estes

1. An essay’s introduction should serve as a roadmap for the reader, giving an idea of the topics the writer will cover and also delivering a clear, concise thesis sentence.

2. Use active rather than passive voice for conciseness and clarity.
For example, “Bill hit the ball.” rather than “The ball was hit (by Bill).”

3. Evocative verbs drive a paper forward, while numerous, flowery, ornate adjectives tend to bog prose down.

4. Avoid repetition of words and phrases unless you are using repetition intentionally to add emphasis and/or rhythm to your prose.

5. Focus on transition sentences at the beginning or end of paragraphs, drawing connections between the primary topics in the surrounding paragraphs.

6. Choose quotations that capture the unique analysis, emotion, or language of historical actors and scholars. Paraphrase factual information.

7. Attribute quotes explicitly whenever this may not be clear from context, but the attribution does not need to come at the beginning of the quotation (e.g. “I know not what course others may take,” Patrick Henry reportedly said, “but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”)

8. A good conclusion shows how all of the essay’s main points support the central thesis or argument laid out originally in the introduction. But it does not simply repeat the thesis sentence verbatim.

9. Use the computer to check spelling and grammar, but the programs alone are not substitutes for re-reading your work. Look out for homonyms (e.g. “there,” “their,” and “they’re”) that the spellchecker will not catch.

10. Proofread your essay out loud to check for mistakes and also to make sure that the prose is readable.