Contractions and More! A Tips from a Tutor Two-Fer

This round of blogs is a series aimed at students who engage in academic writing. In all, the series will constitute a kind of primer on academic writing for students. Each post will tackle a problem I’ve seen in papers from my classmates, my students, and myself.

If you are having trouble writing strong papers for your classes, then read on in this Tips from a Tutor Two-Fer!

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The second topic I’ve selected won’t surprise you if you’ve read many pap’r’s.

Contractions!

Contractions are shortened forms of a word or a group of words with the omitted letter typically replaced with an apostrophe. So, you get “I’ve” from “I have,” “won’t” from “will not,” “you’ve” from “you have,” and “pap’r’s” from “trying to be funny.”

We all use contractions in everyday conversation. Many of us utilize contractions even in professional settings. When speaking out loud, they are often, though not always, appropriate.

However, this blog is written for the student working on an academic assignment. For you, contractions are anathema. Steer clear of them! They are informal, and seem sloppy. Instead, write your contractions out while making sure to avoid the passive voice. (For the post on passive voice, stay tuned!)

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If you still struggle to avoid contractions (or the 1st and 2nd person), this can be caught through careful editing. Ding ding! Our second topic of the post.

I cannot emphasize enough how important editing is to turning in a good paper. Whether you have someone else do it or you learn how to do it yourself, you have to get your papers edited before you turn them in.

Would you want to live in a house where the architect took one shot at the blueprints? Where nobody checked over that work, so the construction crews built it exactly to the design? I seriously doubt that you would. Then why would you want to earn a grade based on a paper that had not been picked through carefully?

When editing your paper, work backwards from the end, paragraph by paragraph. Try not to take your words or sentences for granted. In this way, you will pick up on your mistakes of spelling, grammar, etc. And then you edit it again! Never give a paper only one pass at editing. You will miss something, whether that is a misspelled word or a hole in your argument, so multiple passes are highly preferable.

That’s all I have to say about that for now, though I may revisit the topic of editing in the future. Come back next week for more Tips from a Tutor!

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