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Writing a Formal Essay

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  1. Writing a Formal Essay Things to Avoid—especially since you do not want to annoy the teacher who is GRADING YOUR PAPER!

  2. Reasons to avoid these mistakes! These mistakes are simple and easy to avoid They are pet peeves of teachers and college professors—don’t annoy the people in charge of your grade You will write better with these in mind!

  3. Appearance Cut off the paper fringe! If you have more than one piece of paper, you need to paginate: Last name, space, page number in the top right corner of the paper.

  4. Spelling • Spell out words: • “you” is not “u”; “be” is not “b”; “because” is not “b/c” or “bcuz.” • All numbers from 0-100 must be written out: zero to one hundred. • Contractions: • These are not to be used in a formal writing piece and should only be used in very informal assignments, not essays. • Examples: “do not” instead of “don’t” and “I am” instead of “I’m.”

  5. Spelling • Alot = a lot: • There is no such word as “alot.” “A” and “lot” are two separate words. • Allot: To parcel out; distribute or apportion: allotting land to homesteaders; allot blame.

  6. Spelling • There / they’re / their: • “There” is referring to a place. • “They’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are.” • “Their” is a plural possessive and is only used when speaking of a group of people possessing an object. • To / two / too: • “to” is a preposition: “to go somewhere” for example. • “Two” is a number to describe how many items there are. • “Too” is having more of something than what is needed.

  7. Spelling • Lying, not lieing: • When adding “-ing” to a word that ends in “-ie,” you must change the “-ie” to a “y.” When the word ends in “-e,” the “e” is removed (‘vote’ = ‘voting’) • Themselves: • “Them” is plural, so “self” should be as well; therefore, the word is “themselves,” not “themself.” This is the same for other words like this: “bookshelf” becomes “bookshelves.”

  8. Mechanics • Use punctuation! • Use commas, periods, apostrophes, semi-colons! • If you really want to emphasize something, underline the part you want to emphasize—do not use a zillion exclamation marks. • Write in COMPLETE sentences.

  9. Style • Do not begin sentences with “well.” • There is no point to this beginning. In an essay, you do not write as you would speak. • Do not write in your paper “I am going to tell you about…” or “I think…” • The entire paper is based on your thoughts and your topic: it significantly WEAKENS your statements if you couch them with “I think”!

  10. Style Generally, in a formal essay or research paper, you do NOT refer to yourself in any way: no “I”, “me”, “my”, or “we.”