Writing Notes for Students

One of the goals that the faculty of this program has is to help all of the students become fluent writers.  The following is a list of common errors to avoid.  Students should note that some of the faculty members use the number next to the writing error when grading papers rather than providing corrections (for example, on a paper a student may see the number "10" if the student has used the pronoun "you"). Instructors often provide feedback right in Word documents. Check that you are able to view comments and edits. In Word 2007, go to Review, click on Show Markup, and then choose (from the dropdown menu) comments, and all other markup features.

  1. Watch your verb tense - past, present or future (use the same throughout the entire paper and certainly within a paragraph)
  2. Paragraphs need more than one sentence (usually the minimum is three but that would be an exception rather than a rule).
  3. Use active verbs rather than passive voice!
  4. Vary the first word of sentences within paragraphs (in one paragraph every sentence should, ideally, start with a different word).  This makes the reading more interesting for the reader.
  5. Avoid colloquialisms or slang.
  6. Write out numbers less than ten when writing in paragraph form (not necessary if writing a child's name at the top of an assessment write-up or when listing a series of the same kind).
  7. Paragraphs should flow from one to another - the end of a paragraph should have some connection to the beginning of the next paragraph
  8. Do not fall into the habit of personification - giving people-like characteristics to non-people things ("the book says"...instead, it should read..."the author of the books writes that...")
  9. NEVER use children's, families' or teachers' real names in your writing.  The first time the pseudonym appears, it should be in quotes, thus alerting the reader that you are not using the person's real name.  After that, the pseudonym can simply be used without quotes.
  10. Use the same "person", first or third, throughout the paper.  Second person, or "you", is rarely used in professional writing and should not appear in the assignments for any of your classes.
  11. Common errors in writing "there" vs. "their" and "effect" vs. "affect". Note that "effect" and "affect" used as nouns have totally different meanings. Example: Global warming has an effect on today's climate vs. He shows a flat affect when he teaches math. However, you can also use affect as a verb. Example: Global warming affects today's climate. For further information see: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/affect.html 
  12. Be careful how to use e.g. and i.e. Here is an explanation: E.g. means for example or for instance (use it only to list some examples). I.e. means "that is" or "in other words" (use it only to provide more clarity).
  13. Be careful about punctuation. Commas are used before an element (or, and) in a series of three or more items. They are used to separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction.  They are also used to set off years in dates. Also use a comma to set off a nonessential clause that leaves the sentence in tact if the comma were removed. Avoid overuse of commas.
  14. When referring to people, use the pronoun "who" rather than "that".
  15. Do not use acronyms alone the first time they are mentioned. Write out the full name and then include the acronym in parentheses. For example: In the year 2009, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) revised its ethical guidelines for professionals.  In subsequent sentences the acronym can then be used alone except at the beginning of a sentence. 
  16. If you are not familiar with APA - pick up a brochure from the library, purchase an APA Manual, or use the on-line quick guide http://library.uww.edu/Documents/library/apacite.pdf  Here is also a short video, Getting Started With APA Style:  http://libguides.uww.edu/cite
  17. Try to use a Word program (newer version), which tells the writer the level of writing (under Tools, Word Count).  Unless otherwise specified, you should be writing at the 12+ level.
  18. Use an 11 or 12 point font, double space with one inch margins, putting your name and page numbers on each page.
  19. Avoid having hanging headings or subtitles at the end of a page without content following the title or subheading on the same page.
  20. Use people first language.
  21. Watch singular/plural agreement...very common error..."the child was watching television and eating popcorn, when the show was over they [should be he or she] went to bed" (singular to singular instead of singular to plural).
  22. Develop your thoughts - one deep profound, poignant thought is much more meaningful than ten undeveloped ideas or repetitious points.
  23. Be sure every paper has a beginning, middle, and end.
  24. Understand plagiarism and the ramifications: http://library.uww.edu/guides/tutorials/plagiarism-cut-and-paste-doesnt-cut-it
    1. Information from websites should not be cut and pasted without complete citations.
    2. Changing around a few words does not make it o.k.
    3. Ideas when paraphrased should be cited.
  25. Back all electronically written work up in three locations!  Use flash drives, your student "netspace", as well as your eportfolio.
  26. Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again!
  27. For writing tutoring help, feel free to use the writing center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW): http://www.uww.edu/tutorial/wc.html