Academic writing II: Grammar, Style, Editing, Proofreading

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This is a presentation from an ANLTC Workshop on Academic Writing, hosted by the Library at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Participants have already participated in an introductory workshop.

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  • Tense contributes to tone. You need to choose the tense in which you are principally going to write in. You can move backward and forward provided it fits the style of what you are writing. The American Psychological Association ( APA) suggest using the past tense to describe results and action or a condition that occurred at a specific, definite time in the past;the present tense to discuss implications of results, to present conclusions and to express a past action or condition that did not occur at a specific, definite time or to describe an action beginning in the past and continuing to the present. (APA, p. 78 ) 
  • Place the subject towards the beginning of the sentenceAllows reader to see what issue needs to be at the forefront of their mind in reading the sentence; helps to ensure grammatical accuracy 
  • If a paragraph contains more than one main topic divide it
  • Your eyes may not tell you if the grammar is correct but your ears probably will
  • Academic writing II: Grammar, Style, Editing, Proofreading

    1. 1. Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian, National University of Ireland Maynooth Helen.b.fallon@nuim.ie
    2. 2.  Grammar  Style  Editing  Proofreading
    3. 3. Voice – active versus passive  Verbs  Adverbs  Adjectives  Tense  Adjectives 
    4. 4.  Active Voice ◦ Subject + verb + object or just subject + verb ◦ The Library introduced self-service borrowing at the start of the academic year
    5. 5.  Object + verb + subject or object + verb e.g. mistakes were made ◦ Self-service borrowing was introduced by the Library at the start of the academic year  Passive verb is a form of the verb ―to be‖ and the past participle of the main verb. The main verb must be a transitive verb (take an object)
    6. 6.  To turn the passive voice to the active voice: Ask: ―Who does what to whom?‖ ◦ Increased seat occupancy was observed in the months leading up to the examinations ◦ We observed increased seat occupancy ◦ A recommendation was made by the Library Committee that a survey be carried out ◦ The Library committee recommended that a survey be carried out
    7. 7.    Write with Verbs Use Strong Verbs Use verbs rather than their noun equivalent ◦ The author makes the suggestion that... ◦ The author suggests that...  Don‘t bury the main verb ◦ Keep the subject and main verb (predicate) close together at the start of the sentence.  Use ―to be‖ verbs purposefully and sparingly – is are was were be been am
    8. 8.  Minimise use of There are/There is ◦ There are many ways in which we can arrange the collections ◦ We can arrange the collections in many ways ◦ There are many librarians who like to write ◦ Many librarians like to write ◦ The data confirm that there is a link between library usage and exam results ◦ The data confirm a link between library usage and exam results
    9. 9. The following verbs are frequently used, particularly in abstracts: addresses, asks, argues, concludes, covers, critiq ues, demonstrates, describes, discusses, elucidat es, examines, evaluates, expands, explains, expl ores, identifies, maps, outlines, presents, propos es, promotes, reports, reveals, reviews, shows, su ggests, summarises.
    10. 10. Adverb – describes or modifies a verb  expresses manner or quality  ◦ Very ◦ Easily ◦ Terribly ◦ Slowly ◦ Quickly
    11. 11.   Describes or modifies a noun long/new/old/difficult/late/terrible Compound adjective When you join two or more words to describe an object e.g. An up-to-date collection
    12. 12.  Tense Contributes to tone ― Forceful writing results from writing concisely, actively and positively. The present tense is usually more active and therefore more forceful than the past tense.‖ (Henson, p. 48)
    13. 13. The American Psychological Association ( APA) suggest: using past tense to describe results and action or a condition that occurred at a specific, definite time in the past;the present tense to discuss implications of results, to present conclusions and to express a past action or condition that did not occur at a specific, definite time or to describe an action beginning in the past and continuing to the present.
    14. 14. Use punctuation to vary sentence structure and support meaning  Punctuation marks contribute to continuity (flow) by showing relationships between ideas  Punctuation should mirror speech 
    15. 15. Semicolon  Colon  Comma  Apostrophe  Dash  Hyphen  Quotations marks  Parentheses 
    16. 16. The semicolon connects two independent clauses It was the best of times; it was the worst of times She knew a lot about the Library; she had worked there for twenty years The book on academic writing is very useful; it is full of interesting ideas
    17. 17.  The semicolon is also used to separate items in lists that have internal punctuation ◦ The number of books issued has reduced dramatically: in 2008 25,000 books were borrowed; in 2009, 19,000; by 2010, when the new library was built, only 15,000 items were issued
    18. 18. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a quote, a list, an explanation or conclusion Quote Formal quotations are introduced by a colon and enclosed in quotation marks The Library policy states: ―Journals may not be borrowed by undergraduates.‖
    19. 19. List The committee now includes the following people: librarian undergraduate student postgraduate student mature student Part-time student
    20. 20.  Use for items in a list, except the penultimate one ◦ She ordered three books, a journal, a thesis and an article  Where you have inserted a clause to provide extra information ◦ She liked the Library, where she had worked for some time, but left to take up a post in a different town  Introductory phrases ◦ However, borrowing increased during the period
    21. 21.  Use for a missing letter in a word ◦ The Library isn‘t open today ◦ Where‘s the journal kept?  Use to denote possessive ◦ The student‘s books ◦ The Library‘s stock (one library) ◦ The Libraries‘ stock (means the stock of more than one Library) You don‘t need to add the possessive ―s‖ when the name ends in ―s‖ – unless it is common usage: Mary Jones‘ book/St. James‘s hospital
    22. 22.  Use for time phrases when the time modifies a noun ◦ The Library will open in one day‘s time ◦ Six months‘ ban on borrowing  Don‘t use apostrophe for possessive pronouns or for plurals of words or for dates ◦ The book isn‘t hers; the departments stock, 1970s
    23. 23. ―A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses. Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate.‖—Strunk and White    to add emphasis to insert a definition or description almost anywhere in the sentence to announce a long explanation or summary
    24. 24.   Use to connect compound words It‘s a little-know fact that the book dated from the earlyEighteenth Century Use for figures written out and when you use figures as adjectives ◦ Twenty-four; a three-year old book; a 20-minute presentation ◦  Use for titles ◦ Vice-President  Use for prefixes pre-Christian, post-natal
    25. 25.  Generally double quotation marks for direct speech and single ones for speech within speech. ◦ He said: ―I meant to say ‗The Library will close in one hour‘.‖  Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if the whole sentence is a quotation  He said: ―The Library was closed when I arrived.‖  Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if the punctuation refers only to the words quoted  ―I was forced to steal the book,‖ he said
    26. 26.  Use parentheses to insert an afterthought or explanation (a word, phrase or sentence) into a passage that is grammatically complete without it. If you remove the material within the parentheses, the main point of the sentence should not change. ◦ She travelled to Nigeria in 1964 (having completed a science degree in UCC) and remained there for over thirty years.
    27. 27.    shows a relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence – to/on/over/up/through/among/between/ with/for/in/over/besides Omit needless prepositions ―that‖ and ―on‖ are often superfluous ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ The meeting happened on Monday The meeting happened Monday They agreed that it was true They agreed it was true
    28. 28.       Affect and effect Affect = Verb; effect = noun Will the financial cuts affect service? What was the effect of the financial cuts on service? Practice (noun) practise (verb) Precede (go before), proceed (continue) Stationary (adjective – still), Stationery (noun) Dependent (adjective) She is dependent..., dependant (noun)
    29. 29.         Writing as storytelling Beginning, middle and end (not necessarily in that order) What makes a story interesting? A story has a theme A story has movement A story has a flow Something happens/changes Perhaps try to write your piece from start to finish before beginning editing
    30. 30.      There are different ways to structure articles Study the structure of articles in your target journal Model articles on other articles that work well (template) Different structures can achieve the same results ways Be aware of your audience
    31. 31. Sentences  Paragraphs  Headings and subheadings  Transitions 
    32. 32. There needs to be a unity of thought in a sentence. This may be achieved with one main clause; generally there is only one subsidiary clause  Place the subject towards the beginning of the sentence 
    33. 33.     New paragraph signals a move from one clear idea to another or change of direction Should relate logically to the previous paragraph and relate to the overall theme of the text The first sentence or two usually present the topic or theme and the following sentences expand on this Short paragraphs, surrounded by white space, can be very effective in keeping attention and creating a visually attractive manuscript
    34. 34.       Act as signposts Break up text Make the structure clearer Allow the reader see at a glance the main themes of the paper Help organise ideas Help readers anticipate key points and track the development of the article
    35. 35.    Create connections between the different parts of the paper Can make a manuscript visually more attractive Endings of sections that hark back to what has gone before or opening sections that indicate what is to come act as unofficial signposts
    36. 36.  Transitional words ◦ help maintain flow of thought time links (then, next, after, while, since) ◦ cause-effect links (therefore, consequently, as a result) ◦ addition links (in addition, moreover, furthermore, similarly) ◦ contrast links (but, conversely, nevertheless, however, although) ◦ Provide signposts for readers
    37. 37.  Use positive rather than negative constructions ◦ The nursing team did not believe the drug was harmful ◦ The nursing team believed the drug was safe ◦ Not important/Unimportant ◦ Did not remember/Forgot  Use concise language ◦ A majority of/most ◦ Due to the fact that/because ◦ Gave rise to/caused
    38. 38.        All writing is rewriting Draft and redraft Number, date and save drafts Refer back to your abstract Ask a critical colleague to read Revise title, abstract & article Check references against journal guidelines
    39. 39.  All writing is rewriting Draft and redraft Number, date and save drafts Read aloud Wordiness  Delete unnecessary adjectives     ◦ Cut unnecessary words and phrases; delete repetitive words ◦ Helpful tips, terrible tragedy  Delete unnecessary adverbs ◦ very, really, quite, basically, generally
    40. 40.  Verbs ◦ Underline the main verb in each sentence. Watch for: (1) lacklustre verbs (2) passive verbs (3) buried verbs  Does each paragraph contain one main theme? ◦ It can be helpful to write down the main topic of the paragraph in the margin or at the top of the paragraph ◦ If the paragraph contains more than one main idea, divide it
    41. 41.  Prepositions ◦ Omit unnecessary prepositions – that, on  Delete unnecessary adjectives ◦ Helpful tips, terrible tragedy  Delete unnecessary adverbs ◦ very, really, quite, basically, generally  Does your writing have movement, coherence, clarity?
    42. 42.      This requires concentration; proofread when you are alert Try to allow some time between writing the piece and proofreading it If possible have a colleague proofread it first Take breaks Consider using ―track changes‖ function in Word
    43. 43.     If correcting manually make changes in the body of the text and on the margin Use a red pen to make your corrections stand out Mark each page that has to be changed After proofreading and making changes save version with a new date
    44. 44.          Read aloud slowly Read each word Watch out for widows and orphans Check hierarchy of headings Check paired items such as brackets and speech marks Check type font is consistent Check grammar and use of English Check punctuation is consistent Check abbreviations
    45. 45.      When finished put aside for a period then reread Spell check Date and File preprint Let go If you have already sent a query e-mail to the editor refer to that in your submission
    46. 46. Kenneth T. Henson, Writing for Publication: Road to Academic Advancement, 2005, Boston: Pearson Strunk and White‘s Elements of Style http://www.bartleby.com/141/

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