Tag Archives: how to

Rules for Paper Writing: Best Practices

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I spent a couple of posts telling you guys what you shouldn’t do when writing papers. Today, however, I’m going to take some time to outline some things that you should do if you want to get a decent grade.

I put together some videos detailing the Fried Chicken Method, which was taught to me several years ago by my favorite professor, Dr. Ricciardi. It’s a pretty straightforward method that deals mainly with paragraph construction. It’s designed to be a system that can allow anyone of any skill level to write a solid paper. I’m going to take it for granted that you watched the videos, because I don’t like retreading the same ground twice, and it really is a lot of information to type out here. Just… just watch the videos, okay? I put a lot of work into them. They’re free.

Whether you decide to use the Fried Chicken Method or not, there are some things that everyone should do in their papers. Continue reading

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Dialogue: How to Write Interesting Conversations

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People like reading dialogue. Most readers tend to not actually read every word that’s on each page of a story; they skip over sections of description, picking up a sentence here or there so that they can get the gist of it. But, by and large, every word of dialogue that’s written is usually read. Something about the sight of quotation marks catches our eye, and commands our attention. That means that your dialogue is usually the most heavily scrutinized portion of your stories.

So it had better be good.

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How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part Two: The Sneaky Way

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I told you last week that trying to use tricks and chicanery to artificially inflate your paper’s length is the wrong way to go about it. Before I go any further, I want to reiterate the reasons not to use the tricks I’m about to tell you.  Continue reading

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Characters People Loathe, Part Two: Passive and Reactive

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Let’s continue our look at characters people tend to hate, shall we? Last time, I wrote about Mary Sues, which is a type that is pretty easy to spot. This next one is a bit more nebulous, and can be harder to pin down, because they can be likable people! In the hands of another author, they would likely be compelling and genuinely interesting. Unfortunately, there’s something about them that just seems… off.

Maybe it’s because they don’t actually do anything on their own. 

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How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part One: The Right Way

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In my first video, I told the viewers that I wouldn’t use that series to teach people how to artificially increase the length of their papers. That much is going to remain true– for a short time. Today, however, I’m going to give you some advice on reaching your page quota the right way. There won’t be any tricks or chicanery in this post; it is designed to actually boost your word count.

The fact of the matter is that professors are increasingly requiring digital copies of papers. This is ostensibly to reduce plagiarism, but a side effect of that is that there is a handy little word counter in the bottom left corner of Microsoft Word, so the second they open your document, they’ll know you’ve pulled a fast one. Even if that doesn’t tip them off, they’ll be able to see that you’ve messed with margins and spacing and font sizes. So, really, it doesn’t pay to be sneaky very often anymore.

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Author Overreach: How to Lose a Reader in Ten Pages or Less

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It isn’t enough for some authors to tell us about their characters or the setting when they’re working on a story. They can’t limit themselves to just a bit of background information. No. In order for them to tell you about this world that they have created, they need to tell you about each of its Kings and Queens. From the beginning of the monarchy. In order. And in excruciating detail. Also, how the monarchy was formed. And the attempted revolution three hundred years before the current story takes place. But don’t worry about that revolution, because it didn’t work. You know what else didn’t work? When notable citizen Mark Lingtree thought it would be a good idea to try to bring metal carriage wheels to market fifty years before the story began. It wasn’t that they were designed poorly, you understand– they worked quite well, but they were hard to manufacture, and delivery times were too long. Speaking of things that were too long, did you…

I think you get it. This is an author who needs an intervention, because it is entirely possible to give too much detail when you’re writing a story.

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Advanced Technique: Integrated Quotes

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In my recent video, I mention that your quotes within a body paragraph should be “integrated.” I give an example in the video, but, as I suspected, I feel the need to get more in-depth with it.

First, you should know what an integrated quote is designed to avoid: an interruption to the narrative of a paper. There is nothing worse when grading a paper than finding an ugly six-line block quote smack dab in the middle of a body paragraph. It’s a distraction that completely removes the reader from the point you were trying to make. Suddenly, the momentum you had built for your argument in the previous paragraph is stalled in your attempt to prove its relevance.  Continue reading

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Tools of the Trade: Anticlimax

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We’ve all seen it before: the story is built up, tensions are rising, suspense is palpable enough that you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat. This is it, you might think to yourself. This is going to be an epic fight. I wonder how he’s going to–

Wait. Did that random, unnamed character from the second chapter just… did he just shoot Bad Guy in the head from a rooftop?

You just got anticlimaxed.  Continue reading

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Formatting: Parenthetical Citations Made Easy

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This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on in-text citations. Consistently one of the most common questions I get from students or classmates is “How do I format this citation?” And honestly? It’s pretty straightforward most of the time. Here’s the rundown.

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Common Paper Writing Mistakes, Part One: Where To Put Citations

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This one seems to come up frequently. One of my classmates or students will email me a copy of their paper and ask me to take a look at it before they hand it in. I oblige, because I actually like editing (I’m one of those people) and I like giving friends a hand. Looking over the paper, the text itself seems pretty good, and I reword a few things for them or catch a couple of grammatical errors– basic stuff. But there’s one problem that is rampant throughout the paper: the writer clearly doesn’t know where to put his or her citations, so he or she puts them everywhere. Or, there aren’t any citations at all, and at the end they stick in a works cited page.

I can’t really blame them for not knowing; I can only assume they have never been taught. So I explain to them how to cite properly, fix it for them and move on. Well, to prevent future questions, I thought that I’d put together an article explaining when and where your citations belong in your paper.  Continue reading

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