Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The Graduate Student Survival Kit
[http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Lakes/6007/Survival.htm] is a
terrific source of all sorts of information for graduate students and
the faculty who advise them.
A new section on the site, Tips, Tools & Ideas to Improve Your
Writing [http://www.aci-plus.com/tips/] is well worth checking out.
Below is a brief description of the site, followed by two examples,
one on "The Single Biggest Mistake Students Make When Writing
Essays," and the other on "Less Is More: Striving for Simplicity of
UP NEXT: Tenure and Academic Excellence
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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TIPS, TOOLS & IDEAS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING - GRADUATE STUDENT SURVIVAL KIT
The World-Wide Web's first comprehensive English-language writing
assistance center, brought to you by ACI (Academic Consulting
International), is pleased to offer to all Web users a small (but, we
hope, valuable) collection of materials and resources to help them
with their writing.
Although we hope that even skilled writers for whom English is their
first language will find this material worth looking through, our
emphasis here is on those who feel they need help with writing,
particularly those for whom English is not their first language.
Material is presented here in small, bite-size nuggets, designed for
the age of information overload. We realize that your time is
limited, with countless things competing for your attention. Our site
is designed with this reality in mind. Even if you have only 60
seconds or less to visit, the items listed here are set up so that
you can walk away with at least some figurative pearl of wisdom every
The emphasis here is on content. "Eye candy" (elaborate graphics,
animation and so on) has been cut, in order to allow for quick
downloading and easy navigation throughout. For the same reason, we
don't propose to clog up your system with music. You have your own
tastes in music, no doubt, and access to music in one form or another
if you so choose. Get in, get around, get what you want, get on with
the next item of business in your life. That's the concept.
Please click below on whatever items appear of interest to you:
1. How to actually get paid for writing your papers (or thesis or dissertation)
2. Gems to enthrall and inspire
3. Test your writing IQ: a three-question quiz
4. Seven tips for more effective writing
5. A simple, six-part method for choosing term paper topics
6. The single biggest mistake students (and most others) make when
7. Active voice versus passive voice
8. Less is more: striving for simplicity of expression
9. When to quote and when to paraphrase
10. Word order in sentences
11. How are punctuation marks like traffic signs?
12. When a single comma made the difference between life and death
13. Using lists to improve your business writing
14. Fun with English: discovering palindromes
15. Peccadillos and pet peeves
16. Professional writers' secrets to becoming a professional writer
17. Free online research & writing resources
18. Recommended books and tapes: Instant ordering from Amazon.com!
19. Food for thought: quotation potpourri
20. "Truth is stranger than fiction"
21. "Student Bloopers"
22. Best college application essay we've ever read
23. The single greatest secret to good writing (a reward for
scrolling to the end of this menu!)
What gives you the most trouble writing English? What questions would
you most like answered? What sort of information would be of greatest
interest and value to you? As we gradually expand this section of our
site, we welcome your input and look forward to hearing from you!
All original material at this Website is copyrighted ? 1996-99 by
ACI/Daniel K. Berman, Ph.D. Such material may not be produced, stored
in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means -
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise -
without written permission. Any queries concerning the rights to or
use of original materials at this site may be addressed to Webmaster
# 6 The Single Biggest Mistake Students Make When Writing Essays
There are of course many mistakes that students make when writing
essays. The single biggest mistake of all, however, is probably
failing to articulate a clear thesis statement or argument (which
usually belongs in the introduction).
A paper without a clear thesis statement is probably a paper that
lacks focus and direction, written by someone who has not taken
enough time to think through the assignment.
If you want to produce a quality essay, force yourself to formulate a
clear thesis statement that you incorporate into your introduction.
Let it sit for a while and then review it, putting yourself in the
place of the reader. From the perspective of a reader-not your own
* Does the thesis statement seem clear to you?
* Does it give you a sense as to where the essay will be leading you?
* Does the thesis argument interest you enough to make you want to
Try reading the thesis statement out loud to someone you know who is
willing to listen: your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your roommate,
your mother. The simple act of reading the statement out loud will
probably make you more aware of how it might be improved.
Only when your thesis statement has met the tests just described are
you really ready to proceed with the final drafting of the paper.
# 7 Less Is More: Striving for Simplicity of Expression
"If you would be pungent, be brief. For it is with words as with
sunbeams: The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn." -
"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no
unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same
reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine
no unnecessary parts." - William Strunk, Jr.
"Any addition to the truth is a subtraction from it." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn
In general, the best writing is simple and direct. Writing that is
simple and direct is most easily understood. It also tends to be the
most forceful and memorable. Use no more words than necessary - and
never use a complicated word if a simpler one will do just as well.
Many people seem to feel that writing in a complicated way makes one
sound serious, scholarly and authoritative. While this type of
writing may sound serious, it is no more authoritative than writing
that is simple and direct. Certainly, it is more difficult to
understand. Often, it sounds pompous and overbearing. If your purpose
is to be understood, in a way that is both forceful and memorable,
adopt a style that is simple and direct.
How can you achieve such a style? One technique is to use
conversation as your guide. Pretend that you are explaining
something, over the telephone, to someone you know: a parent, a
friend, a significant other - someone who is not an expert in
whatever it is that you are writing about. You only have a few
seconds to get your point across. What would you say? Read it out
loud, to see whether it would work under those circumstances. If it
seems to you that it would not, keep rewriting until it seems to you
that it would.