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.

Text of Academic writing II: Grammar, Style, Editing, Proofreading

  • 1.Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian, National University of Ireland Maynooth

2. Grammar Style Editing Proofreading 3. Voice active versus passive Verbs Adverbs Adjectives Tense Adjectives 4. Active Voice Subject + verb + object or just subject + verb The Library introduced self-service borrowing at the start of the academic year 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 yearPassive 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. 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. Write with Verbs Use Strong Verbs Use verbs rather than their noun equivalent The author makes the suggestion that... The author suggests that...Dont 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. 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. 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. Adverb describes or modifies a verb expresses manner or quality Very Easily Terribly Slowly Quickly 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. 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. 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. 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. Semicolon Colon Comma Apostrophe Dash Hyphen Quotations marks Parentheses 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. 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. 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. List The committee now includes the following people: librarian undergraduate student postgraduate student mature student Part-time student 20. Use for items in a list, except the penultimate one She ordered three books, a journal, a thesis and an articleWhere 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 townIntroductory phrases However, borrowing increased during the period 21. Use for a missing letter in a word The Library isnt open today Wheres the journal kept?Use to denote possessive The students books The Librarys stock (one library) The Libraries stock (means the stock of more than one Library) You dont need to add the possessive s when the name ends in s unless it is common usage: Mary Jones book/St. Jamess hospital 22. Use for time phrases when the time modifies a noun The Library will open in one days time Six months ban on borrowingDont use apostrophe for possessive pronouns or for plurals of words or for dates The book isnt hers; the departments stock, 1970s 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. Use to connect compound wordsIts a little-know fact that the book dated from the earlyEighteenth CenturyUse for figures written out and when you use figures as adjectives Twenty-four; a three-year old book; a 20-minute presentationUse for titles Vice-PresidentUse for prefixes pre-Christian, post-natal 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Sentences Paragraphs Headings and subheadings Transitions 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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/ForgotUse concise language A majority of/most Due to the fact that/because Gave rise to/caused 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. All writing is rewriting Draft and redraft Number, date and save drafts Read aloud WordinessDelete unnecessary adjectives Cut unnecessary words and phrases; delete repetitive words Helpful tips, terrible tragedyDelete