› Avoid them! Always aim for active sentences.
› A percentage of more than 25% is
unacceptable. Percentages of less than 10%
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level
› The grade level of your pieces should be at least
10 and, preferably, 12.
Flesh Reading Ease Scale
› The higher the number, in combination with the
appropriate grade level score, the better.
› Italicize titles. See Hacker, beginning page
384 for more information.
› Do not begin a quote with an ellipsis. Begin
at the required point.
› Do not end a quote with an ellipsis. End at
the required point.
› See Hacker, page 363 for more information.
Semi-colons have only two purposes:
› To separate items in a list
e.g. “In Seminar, students will learn to: evaluate
texts; participate in an interdisciplinary
discussion; and write at a graduate level.”
› To combine two complete supporting sentences
into one sentence
e.g. “W.E.B. Du Bois explored the concept of the
Veil; Edward Said focused on the notion of
› See Hacker, beginning page 273.
Maintain the same number between
subject and verb and between subject
If you begin with “an intellectual,”
everything that follows must be singular.
If you begin with “intellectuals,”
everything that follows must be plural.
Don’t mix and match!
Maintain your tense!
› Literary works exist in the present. For that
reason, you can write things like, “Said
› Historical events occurred in the past. For
them, you must write things like, “Du Bois
helped to found the NAACP.”
› Only use the “had + past-tense verb”
construction to indicate that something
happened BEFORE a past-tense verb in the
same sentence or paragraph.
Avoid the 2nd person!!
When speaking with or writing for an
audience, include yourself by using “we”
Alternatively, go with the generic third
2nd person tends to divide audience and
writer/speaker, which can weaken your
Use commas to separate parts of your
› Test your use of commas by reading your paper
out loud. Everywhere you stop to take a breath,
you should see a comma or an end punctuation
mark (period, question mark, exclamation point).
Use paragraphs to separate parts of your
› Test your paragraphs by reading your paper out
loud. Every time you hear a new idea, you
should see a new paragraph.
Say exactly what you intend to say.
Don’t soft pedal your idea by using
words like “may,” “seems,” or “think.”
It’s far more powerful to write, “Said
values the amateur intellectual above all
other types” than to write, “Said seems
to value the amateur intellectual above
all other types.”
Explain your purpose in writing.
Offer a clear and concise
With each new paragraph, offer new
support for your thesis.
Reiterate your thesis as appropriate.
When necessary, explain how an opposing
viewpoint is invalidated by your
› Lead into the quote so that it makes sense; lead
out of the quote so that its significance is clear.
› See Hacker, beginning on page 362 for more
Read your essay out loud, to
yourself, before giving it to another
Your ear will hear problems that your eye
That gives you the chance to fill in any
gaps, correct any grammatical
mistakes, and clarify your point.
Anything underlined in green is likely to be
Anything underlined in red is likely to be
Anything underlined in blue is likely to be a
questionable word choice.
Although some of the words you use will be
unrecognized by the spell check dictionary,
many will not. Check another source
before telling the spell checker to “add
word to dictionary.”