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Archive for September, 2010

The Thesis Statement: What’s It All About?

When we read, we expect that the writer will let us know very early on what the subject is and what we are in for.  Certainly, the title begins to do that job, by getting us to start reading in the first place.  But it is the Introduction and particularly the Thesis Statement that give us the wherewithal to make sense of what follows.

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Ego Confusion

All through the day, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
All through the night, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine. – George Harrison

Thanks to Janet Mance, Program Administrator, Nursing, for suggesting that we ought to do a Writing Tip on the “I – Me” problem.

We choose the word we use to refer to ourselves, “I” or “me”, depending on its role in the sentence.  If I refer to myself as the subject (or “doer” of the action) I choose “I”;  whereas, if I am the recipient of the action, I choose “me”.

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Those Pesky Commas: No Splices, Please!

This week’s tip is in response to a student (you know who you are!) who wrote, “I could use some help with a refresher course in how and when to use commas.”

Of all punctuation marks, commas seem to cause the most confusion.  Either they, sneakily, find their, seemingly useful, way into every nook, corner, and cranny of your writing or they don’t show up at all even when they could be of real assistance in making sense of things.

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The Passive Voice

When we read, we can most easily grasp the meaning when the writer has expressed things actively. That means that sentences in which the subject (some person or thing) does something are much clearer, easier to follow, and more interesting to read than any other arrangement.

In another kind of sentence, the subject does not act, but is the recipient of an action. Those are the sentences we refer to as being written in “The Passive Voice.” There are times, to be sure, when you’ll express yourself in the passive voice, but better not too often, and never without making a conscious decision to do so.

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Build In Some Do-Nothing Time

In an accelerated program like ASAP, it can seem as if time is the commodity always in shortest supply. And yet time away from your course paper can be the difference between good and excellent.

When you work on a paper, especially a research paper, you really must immerse yourself in it. You work on it every spare minute; you wake up at three in the morning thinking about it. That kind of immersion, while necessary, does have the side effect of making it impossible for you to read your work objectively. You know what it’s supposed to say; you understand the relationships of the parts and pieces intimately; you think it’s pretty much perfect.

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What a Difference a Title Makes

We have all been around the block enough times to know how important it is to make a good first impression. And, because it’s the first thing your reader encounters in your paper, making a good first impression is the job of your Title. So it’s worth a bit of effort to make it a good one.

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