It’s finals week. You’re living on coffee and chocolate. Your days are spent in the library. Your nights are spent in the library. You’re wracking your brain trying to remember historical facts no one knows about and chemical equations you will never use. You’re stressed and crazed and far from in the mood to write. But write you will have to do.
Because in exchange for not having to take a final for that literature class you have to write a paper. And not just any paper, but a good paper. A really good paper. Because this paper is worth a large chunk of your final grade. The problem is though, . Sure, you know the basics, but do you know the specifics? Do you know how to avoid the mistakes that will keep that A just out of reach?
Well, I do.
After four years as an English major, one year as a literature tutor, and two semesters worth of thesis writing, I think I’ve cracked the code. And I’m going to share my secrets with you. Below are the most common grammatical and paper writing mistakes, the things you always miss, the things you need to know, the rules standing between you and that elusive A. So bookmark this page and consult it when writing those final papers. You’ll thank me later.
1. No thesis statements.
Don’t even think about starting your paper until you have one of these. Your thesis statement is the entire point behind your paper. It’s the reason you’re writing your paper. It’s the idea that you are trying to prove. You can’t write a paper without a thesis statement. If you do your paper will have no focus. At all.
2. Confusing they’re/there/their.
Let’s clear up the confusion behind this one, shall we?
They’re is a contraction, used in place of the phrase “they are.” Did you hear about Justin and Selena? They’re going out.
There is used to represent a place. Where are Kourtney and Khloe? Over there at the bar.
Their is used to show possession of something. Who are the parents of baby Suri? Tom and Katie. She is their baby.
3. Not proving your point.
Once you have a thesis statement, something you want to prove, you actually have to prove it. So don’t just throw a whole bunch of important sounding information on a page and call it a day. That information has to be both useful and relevant. Before you dedicate a paragraph to something ask yourself, will this help me prove my thesis?
4. Mixing up affect and effect.
Affect is used when actions are affecting someone. My mental stability is far too affected by the lives of celebrities. Effect is used when one is talking about the effects of a situation. I’m still feeling the effects of Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds breakup.
5. Not using transition sentences.
When you move from paragraph to paragraph don’t just jump into a new topic. Yes, the first sentence is a topic sentence, but it also the closing of your last topic. So the first sentence of your new paragraph should do both. That’s why it’s a transition sentence. Transition words (however, nonetheless, on the contrary) are really helpful here.
6. Using the wrong than/then.
Here’s the deal.
If you’re writing about time or order you use then. Then Brad dumped Jen and got with Angelina.
If you’re comparing or contrasting you use than. I think Angelina is way prettier than Jen any way.
7. Using personal pronouns.
Do not use I. Do not use me. Don’t use us or we or we’re. Personal pronouns are a big no-no in formal papers. You are a detached voice relaying information, not a particular person sharing your beliefs.
8.Using double negatives.
This one is guaranteed to make your professor cringe every single time. You cannot use more than one negative in a sentence. That means you cannot say Ronnie didn’t do nothing. Rather you would say, Ronnie didn’t do anything.
9. Not citing your sources!
Whether you’re quoting Spark Notes or the Norton Anthology cite your sources. If you don’t it’s plagiarism, even if you don’t mean for it to be. So cite your sources. But do so correctly. First you have to find out what format your professor wants you to use. If you’re taking an English class it’s probably MLA. Find out which one you need to use and then check the guidelines.
It’s is a contraction. It represents “it is” or “it has.” It is very nice to meet you Leo. I loved you in Inception.
Its represents the possession of something, sort of like a gender neutral his or her. Look at the cute puppy cuddling with its mother.
Need more basic college studying advice? Check out the ABC’s of getting A’s and B’s in college.