As second language learners are aware, it is difficult to not only learn a language, but one must also learn the grammar and the culture around the language. By way of assistance, today I share with you, as a part-time professor, my Academic Writing Checklist. I have put this list together based on more than 20 years of university experience. These points are universal, although I state they are academic, if writing for any profession, they are well worth remembering. This includes:
1. Use correct MLA/APA/etc. style within body of text and on works cited page.
2. Beware of sentence fragments: “Not to mention the people watching the tube.”
3. A dash, used for a pause or separation, is two hyphens: - - becomes – when hit consecutively, an “em” dash - - - three dashes hit consecutively looks like this when typed properly—this is used for emphasizing a point.
4. Do not use contractions in academic prose unless within a quote.
5. Keep prose parallel in both tense and number. Not: “That kind of pressure on a child makes them nervous.” Not: “My family drove to the beach and love the sights they see.”
6. Use semicolons and colons correctly. No semicolons in titles.
7. Do not begin a sentence with “also, therefore, insomuch, thus, but, and.”
8. Spacing: single space between all forms of punctuation.
9. Eliminate comma splices.
10. Eliminate fused sentences or non-parallel sentences.
11. Beware of repetitive phrases or words, especially in the same sentence or paragraph.
12. Cite every quote, paraphrase, or summarization with parenthetical documentation.
13. Capitalize titles according to the rules of capitalization.
14. Set off long quotes (four lines or more) with two left-side tabs. Do not use quotation marks when setting off long quotes.
15. Beware of making universal statements that can be contradicted by one exception.
16. Remember your title, thesis, and topic sentences as you write.
17. Possessive “its” does not use an apostrophe. “It’s” for “it is” does use an apostrophe.
18. Singular possessive: “My doctor’s office.” Plural: My doctors’ office.”
19. Remember the difference between “to” and “too.”
20. MLA is double-spaced throughout the paper–title, text, works cited, etc.
21. No comma between author’s name and a page number in parenthetical citation.
22. Ellipses have a space between each dot: “The author . . . is brilliant.” If words from more than one sentence are edited out, use four dots: “The author. . . . returned to her roots in this story.” At the end of a sentence, use four dots before going into another sentence: “Sarah is the
author. . . .returned to her roots.”
23. For American punctuation, the punctuation mark goes inside the quotation mark: “Did September 11 seem like the end of the world?”
24. Numbers should be spelled out up until one hundred, then you can use the numbers themselves. The only exception is when using dates, then use numbers.
25. Do not use an acronym in a title unless it is well known. When using a less known acronym in the body of a paper, write the full title out the first time with the acronym in parenthesis.
26. Remember logical consistency.
27. Use spell check and grammar check. Remember that spell check does not catch all words - whole/hole, etc.
28. Edit out awkward or wordy phrases.
29. Perform a final edit for general structure, word choice, punctuation, concision, coherence, grammar, etc. It is always helpful to have someone else read your paper.
30. Keep pronoun use minimal and make sure your reader knows who is being discussed.
31. Keep tenses consistent - worked, works, working, said, says, saying.
32. Use feel, think, and believe properly.
33. That, which, affect, effect - use properly.