One of the largest challenges to moving from high school writing to more advanced work is the challenge to write something original. This doesn’t mean you have to invent some whole new theory of life, the universe, and everything. Rather, it means you have to make your reader think.

You can’t just regurgitate a bunch of facts from the internet or your class notes. So how do you turn the general idea of “Holden Caulfield is alienated from his community” into something original? Something that hasn’t been written about hundreds of times already?

Read on Macduff…

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Know your audience – presentation skills

Presentation skills culture varies widely from industry to industry, organization to organization. In the absence of specific guidelines or expectations use our concrete guidelines to design and give great presentations. If possible, review examples of previous presentations given at your organization and adjust accordingly.

A Poster Child for Persuasive Speech: Pharrell Showcasing Rhetoric on The Voice

A recent episode of NBC's The Voice, featuring Pharrell and Xtina battling for a contestant, showcased rhetoric in a compelling and relevant way. After 16-year-old Koryn Hawthorne killed her audition, Pharrell and Xtina went back and forth, trying to win her to their...

Adjusting Expectations: Excessive Elaboration

Longer is not always better! Limit your sentences to a few clauses, and alternate long sentences and short sentences. Academic writing in English tends to have long, sophisticated noun phrases, but it is not a requirement to include complex sentence structure and long strings of joined clauses.


Few things do more to distinguish skilled writers from amateurs than the way in which they use adverbs (words that modify verbs and usually end with -ly). The following examples demonstrate why: Example 1: Jane ran quickly past the guard, jumped high over the counter,...

ANALYZE Evidence to Support Your Thesis

Actionable tips and examples to help you move deeper into the evidence you’ve already got.

Analyzing Audience to Maximize Your Impact (and Grades)

Understanding how most teachers view student attitudes and approaches to work can help you succeed.

Analyzing Your Audience – the First Rule of Effective Writing

The first step to effective communication? Understanding your audience – including TEACHERS. Specific help for writing for the teacher audience.

Analyzing Your Business Audience

In an early scene from the film Limitless, down-on-his-luck novelist Eddie Morra is getting screamed at by his landlady for not paying the rent. But as she relentlessly berates him for being a shiftless loser, a wonder-drug he’s swallowed just...

APA Paper Formatting with Sample & Comments

Summary of APA document formatting basics with a sample paper you can download from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue. The sample includes annotations explaining the various rules (PDF).


It’s sometimes difficult to know with an apostrophe where its proper place is. The answer is that you put an apostrophe in a word to show that letters have been left out. We call these words “contractions” and we use them a lot in daily speech. If you have trouble...

Article Use (a, an, the…)

Using articles appropriately is one of the most difficult grammatical points in English to master. It is not necessarily essential in speech, but it’s something that should be checked for when writing.

Assignment Expectations: Excessive Adherence to Inappropriate Structures

It may be confusing, even annoying, but some of the structures you may have learned in test prep classes and English language classes, such as the five-paragraph essay, may not be appropriate for use in other classes. Be careful to follow assignment instructions.

Assignment Expectations: Reflection Writing

Reflection writing assignments are common in many classes, especially as a response to reading assignments. It is distinctive from other types of academic writing because it encourages the writer to write in the first person, but usually it has the same expectations as other academic writing assignments in other ways.

Audience, Purpose, and Tone: Hedging – good and bad

Hedging is a way of using language to make an argument more effective by softening or strengthening it. An idea expressed without appropriate hedging may seem too general, too confident, or too extreme. Specific vocabulary and writing strategies can be learned and used to hedge appropriately.

Audience, Purpose, and Tone: Objectivity

Attempt to cultivate objectivity. Objectivity is an overall goal in academic writing, even if the goal is to convince the reader of something. It demonstrates that the emphasis is on the object – your writing, your research – not on you yourself.

Avoid ‘Just’ Opinions

While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, facts are independent of anyone’s beliefs, feelings, or perspectives. When writing persuasively, try to avoid opinion statements as these can weaken your argument, particularly when it comes to thesis statements. The...

Avoid a VAGUE Thesis

The more specific your writing, the more successful you will be at convincing others and communicating your ideas. Set yourself up for success in academic writing by crafting a specific thesis. Not a vague one. What is a vague thesis? Assume the general subject is...

Avoid Logical GOOFS (Logical Fallacies)

Fallacies are statements that sound logical but, if you stop and think, really aren’t. Avoid in your own writing and critique in others’.

Awkward Construction

Sometimes a sentence sounds awkward or is difficult to understand because it contains multiple grammatical or punctuation errors or it might be that the idea you were trying to convey was too complicated to fit into a single sentence. It can sometimes be difficult for...

Balancing Repetition and Variety

As you learn to write in English, you will learn how to balance repetition and variety, to ensure cohesion. One strategy to accomplish this purpose is to vary the way you refer to people and things. After the first reference to a noun form, you can refer to it with pronouns and demonstratives until the topic changes.


The word “bibliography” literally means: a writing of books. In academic writing it is a list of works that were referenced or quoted in the text and it usually appears at the end of the text. Depending on what topic you are writing about, you might need to use a...

Blasting Through Writers’ Block

Think you’re the only one who stares at the blank screen with feat/anxiety/anger/boredom? Nope. Every writer who ever lived has felt the same way. This resource will walk you through the most common and suggest some ways to deal. There’s always cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes – if you REALLY want to avoid writing.

Block Quotes

When quoting material from sources in your writing, you should generally try to trim down the quotes as much as possible. Sometimes though, for one reason or another, you may need to quote a long (generally a hundred words or more) passage from something. In these...

Brainstorm a Topic and Finish a First Draft

When you sit down to write, do you immediately think of 23 other things you’d rather be doing? Does your hand itch to grab your phone and start texting, or does Facebook suddenly seem more alluring than ever? Does your mind just seem filled with clouds instead of thoughts and words you can use?

Can Patrick Swayze Help Students Write More Effectively?

Need some ideas for writing assignments that help learners “dig down” into a subject and think about it in complex ways? Try asking students to write about Hollywood ‘reboots’ of 80s and 90s entertainment – like ’21 Jump Street’ and ‘Red Dawn.’


Capitalizing the first letters of words is a tradition in English that comes from German. In traditional German, all nouns are capitalized. The Idea behind capitalizing Letters is that it makes the important Things in a Sentence stand out, but some Nouns, we have...

Choosing the Right Words

Choosing the right word is often more complicated than translating, which often leads to issues of appropriacy. Translating without a clear understanding of vocabulary can lead to the use of words that are rare, obsolete, or belong to an inappropriate genre or register.


You should try to avoid clichés in your writing like the plague. If your writing is thick as thieves with clichés that are as old as the hills, it will sound unoriginal and mark you as an inexperienced writer. But if you happen to find yourself doing the same old song...

CLOSELY Read ‘The Text’ to Squeeze Out All Its Meaning

In any high school or college class where you’re reading texts and writing about them, your writing will be more effective if you know how to perform what teachers call a “close reading.” Similarly, if you’re writing a business report or proposal, you’ll be much more likely to reach your goals if the document reflects a close, careful reading of your primary sources.


A writer can get by in most circumstances with only the most basic punctuation. Periods need to follow declarative sentences, question marks follow questions, exclamation points follow excited or shouted sentences, and quotation marks go around quotes and dialogue....

Comparatives and Superlatives

Comparatives are words that are used to (as the name suggests) compare things. Words like: bigger, longer, taller, faster, slower, shorter, and smaller are comparatives. Superlatives are those things that you find in high school yearbooks where students vote for the...