By the time you begin college, your professors will expect you to know the basics of sentence structure, grammar and paper organization. While you’ll have to follow basic rules of good writing, there’s no standard college-level essay. Your essays in college will range from argumentative essays, which require you to clearly argue a point, to narrative essays which require you to tell a story. When you write essays, follow your professor’s instructions and then pay close attention to the basics of good college-level writing.
Grammar and Spelling
By the time you begin college, you should know the basic rules of English grammar and avoid making spelling mistakes. Your sentences should follow the familiar structure of noun-verb-object. Avoid common errors such as confusing your and you’re, as your professor will likely deduct points for these errors. If you’re unclear on the basic rules of grammar, pick up a grammar guide or take a class in remedial writing or college grammar.
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Your paper should have a clear structure and flow logically from one idea to the next. At the end of your introductory paragraph, write a thesis statement that outlines the main ideas or arguments of your paper. Each following paragraph should be dedicated to a sub-point in this thesis. Make sure that your sub-points clearly and convincingly argue on behalf of your thesis, then add a concluding paragraph summing your arguments or suggesting future research or action.
Use formal language in your essays and avoid colloquialisms, slang and first-person pot of view. Unless you’re told otherwise by your professor, don’t begin sentences with “I think….” Instead, simply outline your argument without referring back to yourself. In narrative essays, less formal language can be appropriate, particularly when you’re quoting others, but your essay should not read like a text message to a friend. Read your essay aloud to ensure that each sentence makes sense and is written in clear prose.
If you use sources and don’t cite them, you’re committing plagiarism. Not only must you credit each source, you also must use the citation style your professor requests. Common styles include Chicago, Modern Language Association and American Psychological Association. You’ll need to provide in-text citations for direct quotes and should clearly separate your ideas from a source’s ideas.