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Writing Centre

Writing Tools

  • Grammarly offers two online platforms to help students check their work for sentence clarity. The first platform is free, but it will only provide a limited grammar check. Whereas, Grammarly Premium checks students' work beyond basic grammar. It will look for more complex structure changes needed, word redundancy, word choice, and plagiarism.

  • Engvid is a website that focuses on a variety of English language lessons – they cover a multitude of grammar, general writing topics, language/speaking skills, and sentence structure skills.

  • Writeonline.ca is an academic writing website developed by a number of Canadian universities. It has a straightforward and clear format that offers four streams of writing help: case study report, lab report, literature review, and reflective writing. This website is a great resource for students writing lab reports, such as Bio Technology.

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice has some excellent writing resources. Most of their topics are focused on criminal justice; however, their resources are interactive and engaging – much different than just a simple word .doc or website – forcing the student to think about the entire writing process and take part in online exercises. This is great for higher-level students in any post-grad program, such as the Research Analyst Program.

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab offers a series of APA, MLA, and Chicago guidelines that are easy to follow. They recently launched new formatting guidelines for the Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which details formatting and citation examples. This site would be excellent for any engineering students needing to follow IEEE citation guidelines.

Essay Tips

Essay Writing Words

Showing agreement or similarity?

  • in addition
  • coupled with
  • in the same fashion / way
  • first, second, third
  • in the light of
  • not to mention
  • to say nothing of
  • equally important
  • by the same token
  • again
  • to, and or also
  • then
  • equally
  • identically
  • uniquely
  • like
  • as
  • too
  • moreover
  • as well as
  • together with
  • of course
  • likewise
  • comparatively
  • correspondingly
  • similarly
  • furthermore
  • additionally

Expressing opposition or contrast?

  • although this may be true
  • in contrast
  • different from
  • of course ..., but
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary
  • at the same time
  • in spite of
  • even so / though
  • be that as it may
  • then again
  • above all
  • in reality
  • after all
  • but
  • (and) still
  • unlike
  • or
  • (and) yet
  • while
  • albeit
  • besides
  • as much as
  • even though
  • although
  • instead
  • whereas
  • despite
  • conversely
  • otherwise
  • however
  • rather
  • nevertheless
  • nonetheless
  • regardless
  • notwithstanding

Showing causation?

  • in the event that
  • granted (that)
  • as / so long as
  • in order to
  • seeing / being that
  • in view of
  • If
  • ... then
  • Unless
  • when
  • whenever
  • on (the) condition (that)
  • for the purpose of
  • with this intention
  • while
  • because of
  • as
  • since
  • lest
  • in case
  • provided that
  • with this in mind
  • in the hope that
  • to the end that
  • for fear that
  • given that
  • only / even if
  • so that
  • so as to
  • owing to
  • inasmuch as
  • due to

Showing support or emphasizing something?

  • in other words
  • to put it differently
  • for one thing
  • as an illustration
  • in this case
  • for this reason
  • to put it another way
  • that is to say
  • with attention to
  • by all means
  • important to realize
  • another key point
  • first thing to remember
  • most compelling evidence
  • must be remembered
  • point often overlooked
  • to point out
  • on the positive / negative side
  • with this in mind
  • notably
  • including
  • like
  • to be sure
  • namely
  • chiefly
  • truly
  • indeed
  • certainly
  • surely
  • markedly
  • especially
  • specifically
  • expressively
  • surprisingly
  • frequently
  • significantly
  • in fact
  • in general
  • in particular
  • in detail
  • for example
  • for instance
  • to demonstrate
  • to emphasize
  • to repeat
  • to clarify
  • to explain
  • to enumerate
  • such as

Showing effect or consequence?

  • as a result
  • under those circumstances
  • in that case
  • for this reason
  • in effect
  • for
  • thus
  • because the
  • then
  • hence
  • consequently
  • therefore
  • thereupon
  • forthwith
  • accordingly
  • henceforth

Summarizing or concluding?

  • as can be seen
  • generally speaking
  • in the final analysis
  • all things considered
  • as shown above
  • in the long run
  • given these points
  • as has been noted
  • in a word
  • for the most part
  • after all
  • in fact
  • in summary
  • in conclusion
  • in short
  • in brief
  • in essence
  • to summarize
  • on balance
  • altogether
  • overall
  • ordinarily
  • usually
  • by and large
  • to sum up
  • on the whole
  • in any event
  • all in all
  • Obviously
  • Utimately
  • Definitely

Sequencing or order?

  • at the present time
  • from time to time
  • sooner or later
  • at the same time
  • up to the present time
  • to begin with
  • in due time
  • as soon as
  • as long as
  • in the meantime
  • in a moment
  • without delay
  • in the first place
  • all of a sudden
  • at this instant
  • first, second
  • immediately
  • quickly
  • finally
  • after
  • later
  • last
  • until
  • till
  • since
  • then
  • before
  • hence
  • when
  • once
  • about
  • next
  • now
  • formerly
  • suddenly
  • shortly
  • henceforth
  • whenever
  • eventually
  • meanwhile
  • further
  • during
  • in time
  • prior to
  • forthwith
  • straightaway
  • by the time
  • whenever
  • until now
  • now that
  • instantly
  • presently
  • occasionally

Top Tips for Thesis Statements

Thesis Builder and Example

Let's practice writing a thesis!

Topic: Social media

Your Topic

 

Question: How does social media and mental health interact?

Your Question:

 

Answer to the Question: Social media can be used to promote mental health awareness

Answer to Your Question:

 

Preview of the evidence: Facebook support groups, promotion to wide audience, etc.

Your Evidence:

 

Thesis: Social media can be used to effectively promote mental health awareness as evidenced by various support groups easily accessible to wide audiences.

Thesis Checklist

Do I have a question my thesis can answer?
Does my thesis narrow the focus of my topic?
Does my thesis touch on the evidence my essay will present?
Is my thesis direct, telling the audience exactly what I am going to tell them?
Is my thesis stated as the last sentence in my introduction?
Is my thesis restated in my conclusion?

Editing Checklist - Spelling & Grammar

Editing Tips

Top Tips for Editing

  1. Allow time to check work and make changes
  2. Keep it simple and concise
  3. Read the paper out loud and have someone else read it over
  4. Go to the Writing Centre
  5. Review assignment instructions

Revision Checklist

Content






Organization




Style



Grammar and Spelling





Common Sentence Errors

 

Top Tips for Common Sentence Errors

1. Fragment
  • Part of a sentence that can’t stand alone and make sense
  • Often begins with words like since, although, except, such as, etc.
 

Error: Which is why I think that weekends should be four days long.

Correction: I think weekends should be four days long.

Repair Options:
  • Connect the fragment to the sentence before it, usually with a comma
  • Rewrite the fragment so that it can stand on its own and make sense
 
2. Run-On or Fused Sentence
  • Two complete thoughts stuck together without any punctuation
 

Error: I am going to a show tonight my friends are coming with me

Correction: I am going to a show tonight, and my friends are coming with me

Repair Options:
  • Add a comma and coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, yet, so) after the first thought
  • Split the sentence into two, using a period and a capital letter
  • Separate the first and second complete thoughts with a semicolon
 
3. Comma Splice
  • Two complete thoughts joined with a comma
 

Error: The dog went to the park, he played fetch with his owner

Correction: The dog went to the park, and he played fetch with his owner

Repair Options:
  • Add a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, yet, so) after the comma
  • Replace the comma with a period and change the next letter to a capital
  • Use a semicolon to separate the two complete thoughts

Misused Spellings

Accept
Except

Accept means "take." It is always a verb. Except means "excluding."

Everyone except Brian accepted my explanation.

Advice
Advise

The difference in pronunciation makes the difference in meaning clear. Advise (sounds like wise) is a verb. Advice (sounds like nice) is a noun.

I advise you not to listen to free advice.

Affect
Effect

Affect is a verb meaning "influence." Effect is a noun meaning "result." If you can substitute result, then effect is the word you need.

Learning about the effects of caffeine affected my coffee-drinking.

A lot
Allot

A lot (often misspelled alot) means "many" or "much," and should be avoided in academic writing. Use many or much instead. Allot means "distribute" or "assign."

He still has "a lot of" (many) problems, but he’s coping "a lot" (much) better. The teacher will allot each of the different questions to students.

Are
Our

Are is a verb. Our shows ownership.

Pierre Burton and Margaret Atwood are two of Canada’s best known writers. Canada is our home and native land

Choose
Chose

Pronunciation gives the clue here. Choose means to "select" in the present or future. Chose means that it was "selected" In the past

Please choose a topic. I chose film-making.

Course
Coarse

Coarse means "rough, unrefined." Sandpaper is coarse. Metaphorically, language full of profanities can be described as coarse. For all other meanings, use course.

That sandpaper is too coarse to use on a lacquer finish. You'll enjoy the photography course. Of course you'll come with us.

Complement
Compliment

A complement completes something. A compliment is a gift of praise.

A glass of wine would be the perfect complement to the meal. Some people are embarrassed by compliments.

Conscience
Conscious

Your conscience is your sense of right and wrong. Conscious means "aware" or "awake" (able to feel and think).

After Ann cheated on the test, her conscience bothered her. Ann was conscious of having done wrong. The injured man was unconscious.

Consul
Council
Counsel

A Consul is a government official stationed in another country. A council is an assembly or official group. Members of council are councilors. Counsel can be used to mean both "advice" and "to advise."

The Canadian Consul in Venice was very helpful. The Women's Advisory Council meets next month. Maria gave me good counsel. She counselled me to hire a lawyer

Desert
Dessert

A desert is a dry, barren place. As a verb, desert means "to leave behind." Dessert is the part of a meal you’d probably like two helpings of, so give it two s's.

The tundra is Canada's only desert region. As soon as our backs are turned, our lookout deserted his post. Jell-O is the children’s favourite dessert.

Dining
Dinning

You'll spell dining correctly if you remember the phrase "wining and dining." Dinning means "making a loud noise."

The dog is not supposed to be in the dining room. We are dining out tonight. The sounds of the karaoke bar were dinning in my ears.

Does
Dose

Pronunciation provides the clue. Does is an action (verb). Dose refers to a quantity of medicine.

Joseph does drive fast, doesn’t he? My grandmother used to give me a dose of cod liver oil every spring.

Forth
Fourth

Forth means "forward." Fourth contains the number four, which gives it its meaning.

Please stop racing back and forth. The Raptors lost their fourth game in a row

Hear
Here

Hear is what you do with your ears. Here is used for all other meanings.

Now hear this! Ranjan isn’t here. Here is your assignment

It's
Its

It's is a shortened form of it is. The apostrophe takes the place of the I in is. If you can substitute it is, then it's is the form you need. If you can't substitute it is, then its is the correct word.

It's really not difficult. (It is really not difficult). The book has lost its cover. (The book has lost it is cover makes no sense, so you need its). It's is also commonly used as the shortened form of it has. In this case, the apostrophe takes the place of the h and the a. It's been a bad month for software sales.

Later
Latter

Later refers to time and has the word late in it. Latter means "the second of the two" and has two t's. It is the opposite of the former.

It is later than you think. You take the former, and I’ll take the latter.

Led (Lead)
Lead

The word lead is pronounced "led" only when it refers to the heavy, soft, grey metal used in items such as lead bullets or leaded windows. Otherwise, lead is pronounced to rhyme with "speed" and is used as the present tense of the verb to lead. (Led is the past tense of the same verb).

When I asked her to lead me to the person in charge, she led me to the secretary. Your suitcase is heavy; it must be filled with either gold or lead.

Loose
Lose

Pronunciation is the key to these words. Loose means "not tight." Lose means "misplace" or "be defeated."

A loose electrical connection is dangerous. Some are born to win, some to lose.

Miner
Minor

A miner works in a mine. Minor means "lesser" or "not important." For example, a minor is a person of less than legal age.

Liquor can be served to miners, but not if they're minors. For some people, spelling is a minor problem.

Moral
Morale

Again, pronunciation provides the clue you need. Moral refers to the understanding of what is right and wrong. Morale refers to the spirit or mental condition of a person or group.

Parents are responsible for teaching their children moral behaviour. The low morale of our employees is the reason for their high absenteeism.

Peace
Piece

Peace is what we want on earth. Piece means a part or portion of something, as in a "piece of pie."

Everyone hopes for peace in the Middle East. A piece of the puzzle is missing.

Personal
Personnel

Personal means "private." Personnel refers to the group of people working for a particular employer or to the office responsible for maintaining employees' records.

The letter was marked "Personal and Confidential." We are fortunate in having highly qualified personnel. Yasmin works in the Personnel Office

Principal
Principle

Principal means "main." Principle is a rule.

A principal is the main administrator of a school. A federal government is Summerside's principal employer. The principal and the interest totaled more than I could pay (In this case the Principal is the main amount of money). One of our instructor's principles is to refuse to accept late assignments.

Quiet
Quite

Quiet refers to a low level of sound; quite refers to the extent of something.

The chairperson asked us to be quiet. We had not quite finished our assignment.

Stationary
Stationery

Stationary means "fixed in place." Stationery is writing paper.

Did you want a laptop or stationary computer? Please order a supply of stationery.

Than
Then

Than is used in comparisons. Then refers to time.

Karim is a better speller than Ray. He made his decision then. Tanya withdrew from the competition; then she realized the consequences.

Their
There
They're

Their indicates ownership. There points out something or indicates place, and includes within it the word here (which also indicates place). I'm over here, you’re over there. They're is a shortened form of they are.

It was their fault. There are two weeks left in the term. Let’s walk over there. They're late, as usual.

Too
Two
To

The too with an extra o in it means "more than enough" or "also." Two is the number after one. For all other meanings, use to

She thinks she's been working too hard. He thinks so, too. There are two sides to every argument. The two women knew too much about each other to be friends.

Were
Where
We're

Were is a verb. Where indicates place. We're is a shortened form of we are.

You were joking, weren't you? Where did you want to meet? We're on our way.

Who's
Whose

Who's is a shortened form of who is or who has. Otherwise, use whose.

Who's coming to dinner? (Who is coming to dinner?) Who's been sleeping in my bed? (Who has been sleeping in my bed?) Whose paper is this? ("Who is paper" makes no sense, so you need whose).

Woman
Women
Womyn

Woman is the singular form; compare man. Women is the plural form; compare men. Womyn is a different spelling of the word "Women" used by some to avoid using the suffix "men".

One woman has responded to our ad. The affirmative action policy promotes equality between women and men. Womyn deserve equal rights

You're
Your

You're is a shortened form of you are. If you can substitute you are for the you're in your sentence, then you're using the correct form. If you can't substitute you are, use your.

You're welcome. (You are welcome.) Unfortunately, your hamburger got burned. ("You are hamburger" makes no sense, so your is the word you want.)

Using Semi-Colons and Colons

Semi-Colons

A semi-colon can only separate two complete thoughts
  1. Use a semicolon instead of a coordinating conjunction* to contrast or expand related ideas.
    • Some students accepted their low marks quietly; others complained about them to their teacher.
    • Three doctors began the research project; only one completed it.
  2. Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb.**
    • Sales were good; however, expense continued to be high
    • She received her notes for the exam late; consequently, her grade was not very high
  3. In a list with commas in it already.
    • The student affairs committee is arranging trips to Whistler, B.C.; Banff, Alberta; and Halifax, Nova Scotia

Colons

A colon can be used only after a complete thought
  1. Before a list.
    • These people were in a play: Bill, Natasha, Tom, and Shelley
  2. Before an explanation.
    • The United Nations failed in its mission for one reason: It did not react strongly
    • Brent shouted and waved his arms: He had just set a new world’s record
  3. To introduce a quotation.
    • Hamlet put it best: "To be or not to be, that is the question."
 

*Coordinating Conjunctions = and, or, nor, but, yet, so

**Conjunctive Adverbs include furthermore, hence, thus, in addition

Subject Verb Agreement

A sentence needs a subject and a verb to be complete. A common error in college-level writing is the use of a subject and a verb that do not agree. Here are some rules to help you.

Subject:

A noun or pronoun that tells you who/what the sentence is about. The subject performs the verb.

Example: We ran to catch the bus,
  The student is in the library.
Verb:

A word that shows action (run, eat, study) or a state of being (is, am, are, was, were, etc.).

Example: We ran to catch the bus.
  The student is in the library.
Basic Principle:

Singular subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects need plural verbs.

Example (singular): Sam is a student at Georgian College.
NOT: Sam are a student at Georgian College
 
  •  
  •  
Example (plural): The students have classes every day this week.
NOT: The students has classes every day this week.

Collective nouns (i.e., group, people, family, team, etc.)

Collective nouns are words for single things that are made up of more than one person, animal, place, thing, or idea. For instance, many individuals compose a team, or many cows are referred to as a herd. These are singular subjects and thus require a singular verb agreement

Example: The band is on tour.
  A herd of sheep is grazing in the field.
  A shoal is swimming in the ocean.

Transitional Expressions

To Add To Show Time
or Order
To Clarify To Show
Cause and
Effect
To Contradict To Contrast
Additionally
Again
Also
Besides
Further
Furthermore
Likewise
Moreover
As well as
After
Before
Earlier
Finally
First
Meanwhile
Next
Now
Previously
Then
Lastly
In conclusion
For example
For instance
I mean
In other words
That is
This means
To put it another way
Therefore
Simply put
Accordingly
As a result
Consequently
For this reason
So
Therefore
Thus
Under the circumstances
Actually
But
However
In fact
Instead
Rather
Still
Though
Yet
As opposed to
At the same time
By contrast
Conversely
On the contrary
On the other hand
This being said
 

Note the transitions used in the following example:

Sequence: After he receives the figures, Ned will compile the report.

To clarify: The shops are getting busy already; for example, Wal-Mart was crazy yesterday.

Conclusion: Therefore, in recognition of your hard work, we are awarding you two days off with pay.

Annotated Bibliography

"An annotated bibliography bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph (the annotation). The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited."

Source: How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography

  • Retrieved from http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm
  • Research & Learning Services
  • Olin Library
  • Cornell University Library
  • Ithaca, NY, USA
  • Permission has been granted to reproduce and adapt the information for non-commercial use.

Format of an Annotated Bibliography

Your instructor may have indicated a particular style guide to use (many instructors use APA). If not, consult The Chicago Manual.

Most bibliographies organize items alphabetically by the author's last name. Use a citation style guide to determine what information to include for each item. Your annotation should appear right after or below the citation.

 

Example According to MLA

Waite, Linda J., et al. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review, vol. 51, no. 4, 1986, pp. 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

 

Example According to APA

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51(4), 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

 
 

Notice that the first part of the annotation is descriptive and the last sentence is a brief evaluation.

Notice that the first few sentences of the annotation discuss the reliability of the article while the last sentence relates to its usefulness.

 

For more information, please see How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography, http://guides.library.cornell.edu/c.php?g=32342&p=203789

Active Reading for Research

When you annotate text you are doing the following while you read:

 
  1. Identifying key words, phrases, concepts, terms, or ideas
    • Highlight, circle, and/or underline key words or phrases that identify main ideas or concepts. Be careful not to overdo these types of markings or they will become meaningless
    • Highlight, circle, or underline testable information, or anything that might be useful for future assignments
    • Consider using different colours or markings for various types of information
    • Define any difficult vocabulary words
    • If the text does not already contain clear headings and subheadings, create a marginal index by writing key words in the margin to identify themes, main ideas, topics, and subtopics
  2. Asking questions
    • Put a question mark ("?") in the margin to indicate a question
    • Consider open-ended questions (What if…? Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?) that relate to the following:
      • What the author is saying;
      • Why the author says something;
      • What the author means by something;
      • Details, words, or concepts that need more clarification;
      • What certain sections mean, or how they relate to your area of study;
      • Things that you disagree with or are skeptical of;
      • Bias, reliability, validity, completeness, clarity, accuracy, and currency
    • Explore "What if…?" questions
  3. Making connections
    • Make notes that connect information in the text to the following:
      • Your reading goal
      • Other information on the topic
      • Something you heard or experienced related to the information in the text
      • Applications of the concepts or ideas in the text
      • A possible test question
      • Something that contradicts what the writer is saying
    • Draw arrows that connect one section of the text to another
  4. Recording thoughts, reflections, and feelings
    • Write notes in the margins to indicate the following:
      • How you feel about what the author is saying
      • Whether you agree or disagree and why
      • Any thoughts you have related to the information and ideas