Important writing tips

Checklist for writers

Please follow this list carefully, and check you have observed all the points after you finish each paper. Grammar, punctuation, syntax

  • –  Do not use first person plural (we, us).
  • –  Make only one space after commas, periods, semi-colons and colons.
  • –  Understand the meaning and use of the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a, an).
  • –  Do not use exclamation marks.
  • –  Do not use first person singular (I) or personal opinions, except in personal statement or admission


  • –  Do not capitalize common nouns.
  • –  Avoid all forms of questions, including rhetorical questions.
  • –  Do not use colloquial terms or expressions.
  • –  Do not use empty adverbs such as basically, actually, really.
  • –  Do not use hyperbole (great exaggeration) or hyperbolic words such as enormous, huge, magnificent,

    glorious or other superlatives such as most obnoxious.

  • –  Make sure all verbs agree with their subject in number (singular and plural).
  • –  Make sure all prepositions agree with the verb (in English, most verbs have only one or two

    prepositions that can be used (results in, not results to).

  • –  Check all spellings.
  • –  Check that all adverbs are in the right place (you cannot put an adverb inside an infinitive verb like

    this: He tried to neatly write his name.)

  • –  Do NOT use archaic words or terms. Young native English-speakers do not use these words. Some

    are hence, whereby, nevertheless, henceforth, hereunder, abovementioned, therefore, thus.

    Nowadays, these words are only used in certain forms of Colonial English.

  • –  Do not use meaningless words as transitions just for their own sake.
  • –  Use the present tense. Never use the future tense (will be), unless you intend to suggest the future.
  • –  Do not use the present continuous tense as the main tense of the paper (is writing, are thinking). Use

    the present: writes, think.

  • –  Check punctuation: do not leave out any commas.
  • –  Write short sentences: only one sentence for each concept.
  • –  Do not start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but)
  • –  Do not write useless words to make sentences appear grander or more complicated.
  • –  Make sure each sentence makes perfect, clear and logical sense.
  • –  Use a hyphen for compound words such as stress-free.
  • –  Do not repeat words frequently within the same paragraph. Use a pronoun or a synonym to vary the


  • –  Do not repeat the same concept, idea or thought.
  • –  Do not use gender-specific words for general meaning (man, mankind, men, manhood, gentleman)
  • –  Do not write lady when you mean woman.
  • –  Do not use Latin abbreviations such as etc., i.e., e.g.; use what they mean in English: and so forth,

    that is, for example.

  • –  When paraphrasing, make sure the „synonyms‟ you use mean exactly the same as the word you wish

    to replace.

  • –  Do not start a sentence with „As such.‟
  • –  Never write „so as to‟ when you mean „to‟.


  • –  Do not label paragraphs with Introduction, Conclusion or any other subtitle.
  • –  Use the correct form and punctuation for in-text citations, according to the style choice.
  • –  Make sure the thesis sentence appears in the first paragraph.
  • –  Write a new, original title of less than nine words for each essay.
  • –  Write the lecturer‟s question on the coversheet. Center your new title on top of the essay.
  • –  Do not justify the text. Align it to the left only.
  • –  Do not identify any keywords.
  • –  Make sure you understand how to write and format a reference list.
  • –  Understand the difference between an author‟s first and last names.
  • –  You must state date of retrieval from the Internet.
  • –  Always remove hyperlinks from URLs.
  • –  Support each fact with an in-text citation.
  • –  “Number of sources” means number of books, online texts or articles you need to reference. A paper

    always needs many more in-text citations from the sources than just two or three.

  • –  There is no need for page numbers for essays less than four pages.
  • –  Headers are not necessary for short essays.
  • –  Do not include an abstract for an essay shorter than five pages, or for an essay without sub-headings.

    If you do not know the meaning of some of the words used here, such as rhetorical, common nouns, articles or hyperbole, look them up: you need to know what they are.