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Easy Writing Tips and Tricks

By Tsivia Chonoles
On February 11, 2016

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    We are one month into the spring semester, which means that many students are probably already facing exams, projects, and essay assignments. Some of those projects and assignments may not be due for weeks or months, so you may be thinking ‘I can put this off a little bit longer; I have time’. Let me go ahead and pop that bubble for you. As a life-long procrastinator, I’d like to offer some tips, tricks, and friendly advice about how to conquer the seemingly long-term assignment.

    First of all, the long-term assignment should not be treated as unimportant. The longer a professor gives you to complete a project or essay usually correlates to not only the amount of time that they are expecting you to spend on the project, but also with the percentage of your grade that the assignment will count for. The more time a professor gives can also tell you how in-depth or involved a professor expects you to get. A fifteen-page research paper assigned on the first day of class and due on the last day should not read like a fifth-grade standardized test essay, or even like an AP or SAT essay. If you are given an entire semester to complete a project or paper, take advantage of this; begin brainstorming topics by at least week two of class so that you have plenty of time to pick a direction and do your research because odds are, half of the research you do find will probably not be used.

    If you are like me and are the kind of person who is easily distracted by shiny objects, I have a few suggestions. The first is to recognize that there will be distractions, even in the library. The key here is to find the place where you concentrate best and stake it out; claim it as your own. If you have trouble sitting still for long periods of time, set small goals for yourself; after two pages or twenty to thirty minutes of solid writing, get up and do some simple yoga stretches or take a short walk. Make sure your water bottle is full and that you have a snack or two on hand if you get the munchies while you work. Writing an essay is hard brain work so make sure to take care of yourself. 

    If it is a long-term assignment, set yourself a schedule and keep to the schedule, whether it’s writing a certain amount every day or writing for a certain amount of time every day. Start your research as early as possible so that you can start writing as soon as possible and not realize two or three weeks before the assignment is due that you have no starting point and find yourself scrambling and stressing to make up for lost time. For procrastinators like myself, it sometimes helps to set an incentive at your end goal; maybe a day trip to your favorite beach or that new video game you wanted, or something else that will help you get it done. The important thing is to not let it sit unfinished.

    An important thing to remember for essays and research papers is that not every professor will want them formatted the same way. In English 101 and 102 you will have learned MLA, which is probably a citation format that most of us have been using since high school. As you get into higher level classes that are geared more specifically to your major, you may be required to try and do a crash course in APA or Chicago-style writing and citing for papers. This is where the internet and the library come in handy; if your professor doesn’t feel the need to go over whichever citation style they want you to use for your paper and you’re too shy or nervous to go and ask them, have no fear: the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) will be your new best friend and can be found at 

    Other than OWL, you can also find physical style guides on the shelves in the Concord University library. Style can count for a lot when writing an essay, so make sure that you follow whichever style it is that your professor specifically asks for, and if you aren’t sure which style they want you to write in then ask them or send them an e-mail. Professors are here to help and to teach us, so you should not be afraid to ask for help; their goal is to see us succeed.

    On to the writing portion. The number one tip is to not start with the introduction of your essay. I know many times where I jot down an introduction for a paper and then halfway through the paper I realize my essay is maybe not going in the direction that my introduction pointed it in. I find that it is so much easier to go back and do your introduction after the cohesive first draft of your essay is finished and you have a clear direction and thesis spelled out in the paper.

    As for the body of your paragraph, the two most important things are accuracy and sincerity. I know you probably hear this in any class you write for, but when writing a research paper avoid sources such as Wikipedia or personal blogs that anyone can edit; any website that ends in .org or .edu is usually going to be a pretty safe bet. Your safest options, however, are going to be books and other scholarly writings, and many of these can also provide you with other resources to consult in their citations. When writing a research paper, your information should be coming from the most accurate source that you can get your hands on. The second thing to do for any paper for which you can choose your own subject is to write about a topic that you actually find interesting. Mean everything that you say and own it; back it up and don’t back down, because if you are invested and truly interested in the subject matter, than the research and writing will be that much easier, not to mention that it will make it a more interesting read for your professor.

    When writing a paper, quotes are your best friend…as long as you don’t overuse them. A single paragraph should not consist of a handful of quotes with a few words or sentence of your own sprinkled in-between. A quote needs to be introduced and given context; treat your reader as if they were a small child and explain to them the importance of the quote. Overusing quotes does not add to your paper, and in fact can detract from it. If you cannot talk about a subject matter in your own words, than maybe you should find a subject to write about that is more interesting to you or that is easier for you to understand.

    Now we reach the end of your paper, or as I like to call it: the mic drop. The final paragraph of any research paper or essay is essentially going to be a short recap or restatement of everything you just covered in your paper to refresh the reader’s memory so that you can restate your thesis before writing your final sentence. Your final sentence should have an impact, something to be remembered. It is the last thing that your reader will read. A good tip that I like to write by is this: if your conclusion does not sound like you could drop a microphone at the end of it, go back and rework it.

    Finally I shall leave you with this: the Microsoft Word citation maker is scum and should be avoided at all costs despite the helpfulness of the endnote and footnote buttons. If you absolutely hate typing out all of your sources in citation format, try using a website like,, or

    Always leave time when you are done writing for careful editing and revision. After staring at this paper for days or weeks or months, your eyes have probably self-corrected any errors so that you read what you meant and not what you have written, so always give your papers to at least one or two other people to read. If there is enough time, some professors are willing to read rough drafts in order to give their own tips and suggestions. Concord University offers free tutoring services that sometimes go under-utilized, so visit one of Student Support Services drop-in English tutors and have one of them check your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Have a friend read it to make sure that your writing makes sense, that none of your sentences are confusing, and that there are no questions that may have been left unanswered. And with that, I leave you. Good luck and happy writing!

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