Writing is a major form of communication for people around the world. It helps us to communicate, do business, understand our human history, and share our stories with each other and future generations. Writing is one of the most important abilities we have. But one of the most crucial parts of writing is doing it in a way that many can understand and reference.
Writing is an art, but it is also a tool, and any tool needs to be useful. By avoiding common writing pitfalls, utilizing correct reference styles, and using understandable grammar and proper sentence mechanics, writing can be one of the most useful and valuable tools people have. To learn more, visit Marquette University: What makes writing so important.
The Writing Process
The writing process is different for everyone, but there are some basic approaches that make for good writing. MIT notes that starting by preparing to write, or prewriting, can be helpful to organize your thoughts, and Purdue University gives a list of resources to help you start thinking about writing and creating an outline, which is another important step.
Writing can require several steps, such as prewriting and an outline, but even when you start putting actual paragraphs down on paper, there are more steps to take. Consider aspects such as how to edit for clarity and to make your thesis, or main argument, more convincing. Whatever way you write, utilizing resources and following a writing process can be helpful.
For more information, go to:
- MIT: Resources for writers
- Purdue University: The writing process
- Kansas University: The writing process
Common Writing Pitfalls
Writing is important, but it can also be difficult. There are many common writing pitfalls, but knowing about them can help make it easier to avoid them! Not proofreading is a major pitfall but it is a simple one to correct. Stanford University’s Hume Center for Writing and Speaking gives a list of common pitfalls in writing that can be useful to read while editing.
For writing resources, visit:
- Appalachian State University: Writing tips, proofreading, and common pitfalls to avoid
- Stanford University Hume Center for Writing and Speaking: Top twenty errors in undergraduate writing
Useful Writing Tips
Once you’ve mastered the writing process, there are also several important writing tips worth remembering. There are many different types of writing an each comes with its own unique set of rules. The resources below cover many different types of writing that you may encounter. Knowing how to write well can help you make a clearer argument, but can also save time and prevent errors.
For more information, go to:
- Webster University: Writing tips
- The University of North Carolina: Handouts
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Writing tips
Grammar and Mechanics
Grammar and mechanics are crucial to good writing. Grammar means using the correct parts of speech, such as tenses, subject-verb agreement, and so on. Mechanics refers to the correct structuring of sentences. It is important to have good grammar and mechanics, as writing clearly leads to communication that many can read and understand.
Proper grammar and mechanics are one of the most crucial parts of good writing. Writing should generally be free of errors in order to make it clear, convincing, and useful.
To learn more, go to:
- Learn NC: The five features of effective writing
- The Council of Writing Program Administrators: Grammar and mechanics
There are many different standardized ways of writing. These writing styles refer to how you include citations, how you format sentences, and how you format any papers you write. Many academic disciplines have their own writing styles and corresponding style guides. Below are a few of the most common. Wheaton College notes that style is important, as it again makes your writing clearer. To learn more, visit Wheaton College: Style, diction, tone, and voice.
The American Psychological Association, or APA, has its own writing style, but it is used in many scientific fields, not just psychology. APA style usually involves citing sources in the text itself, within parentheses, and organizing your information in specific ways, according to Walden University. American University notes that journalism, statistics, psychology, and some other social sciences use APA format.
For more on APA style, go to:
MLA, or Modern Language Association, is another type of writing style, and governs citations, formatting, and style. MLA style is a well-respected writing style and is easy to access and learn more about online.
For more information on MLA style, visit:
- University of Maryland University College: MLA citation examples
- Modern Languages Association: MLA style
CSE style, or Council of Science Editors Documentation Style, has several different styles included in it, but it is generally a style that included in-text citations and a reference list. CSE is generally used by the sciences, but primarily the physical sciences.
For more CSE style information, go to:
- Council of Science Editors: Council of science editors’ documentation style
- Oglethorpe University: CSE style
The Chicago Manual of Style was written in 1906 and was first standardized by the University of Chicago Press in 1891, according to The Chicago of Manual Style Online. Chicago style includes footnoted citations and a specific bibliography style, and is used within the humanities.
To learn more about the Chicago style of writing, visit:
- The Chicago Manual Style Online: About the Chicago manual of style
- The University of Arkansas: Chicago style
Turabian style is very close to Chicago style in both style and substance, but it was created by Kate Turabian, university dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago, to apply primarily to theses and dissertations by graduate students. Georgetown University provides a style guide that breaks down the main points of Turabian style writing, citation, and formatting.
To learn more, go to:
- The University of Chicago Press: Who was Kate Turabian?
- Georgetown University: Turabian endnote/footnote style
The American Anthropological Association also has a style guide, but it is very similar to Chicago style. Skidmore College notes that this style is a close cousin of Chicago style, but that it is used by anthropologists specifically.
For more information, visit:
- American Anthropological Association: Publishing style guide
- Skidmore College: Citing sources in anthropology
Writing can be fun, helpful, and informative, but it can also be fraught with struggle. It is important to cite, format, and write clearly. These additional resources can help.
Yale University discusses writing for undergraduates at Undergraduate writing.
Stanford University offers a resource for science writing at Writing in the sciences.
Vanderbilt University also provides writing resources at Resources.