If there is a cardinal sin of writing, this would be it. Plagiarism is the use of another’s ideas, words, or creation as one’s own. Here we’ll dive into what counts as plagiarism, how to avoid it, and why it is such a big deal.
Mismatched Homonyms & Others
To. Two. Too. English is full of words that sound exactly alike but mean completely different things. If you want to write well, you need to make sure you know the difference between effect and affect, who and whom, then and than, and two, too, and to.
Sometimes there are times when the time for using a word multiple times is annoying. One way to overcome this kind of repetitiveness is to pull out the thesaurus (paper or digital). However, when using a thesaurus you should only ever use words that are already a part of your vocabulary and you clearly know what they mean. Even though they are listed as a synonym, each word will have its own nuances and variations that may make them inappropriate for your sentence.
Another way to get around repetitive words is to restructure your sentence. Flipping a sentence around or combining two sentences together can often allow you to use pronouns or alternative titles for the word you are trying to work around.
Not Answering the Question
If you took the time to clearly understand your assignment before starting your paper, created a well-organized outline, and have referred to your thesis while writing then you will almost certainly not have any problem with this. Although it is hopefully very few cases, there are times when students will think that they understand the question they are being asked to answer, write their entire paper, and then discover that they have misread the assignment prompt and answered the wrong question.
The easiest way to ensure that you are answering the question your instructor is asking is to ask it aloud (read the writing prompt) and then respond with your thesis. If your thesis is a plausible response to your writing prompt then you have answered the right question and are on the right track.
There are almost countless ways to make an argument, but there are some that are consistently bad. Whether it is the Slippery Slope argument or an Ad Hominem personal attack, we’ve collected a list of some of the most popular bad arguments students can make in their papers.
No One Likes a Weak Thesis
Like weak tea and watery soup, no one likes a weak thesis. Your thesis should be an assertive statement of your argument that definitively offers a substantial position on your topic with convincing support.
Theses should avoid using language that is ambiguous or uncertain. That includes words such as might, could, possibly, think, and may. Even if a paper’s thesis is to explain a probability or possibility, it should clearly and assertively state that the probability is a certain and definite fact of your argument. For example:
“Although there remains a marginal chance for error, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider are providing growing evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson.”
A strong thesis creates a strong foundation for a paper to be built on. A weak thesis will leave you and your reader confused as to the paper’s direction and purpose. Stake your claim on your thesis and defend it with everything you’ve got (unless you want to change it, then defend your new one)!
A matter of continuing importance is the recognition and avoidance of biased language in writing. Writing in a way that uses unbiased (stereotyped) language is a matter of convention, respect, and modernity. Biased language can include stereotyped and sexist language, generic bias, and euphemisms. Here are some of the most common and their better-unbiased alternatives.
They are a living, walking stack of needles. Admire from afar, but avoid direct contact for the safety of self and porcupine.