Darryl A. Phillips

16 Format and Style Tips for College Papers

December 15, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

It is the end of the semester, but never too late to cover a few more basics.  I’ve long intended to put together a basic format and style guide for papers, but until now had never done so.  Please add other suggestions!  Here are my top 16 items:

1.  Staple the paper at the top left and include a blank sheet of paper at the back.

2.  Check the print quality before you hand in the paper.  Use fresh paper whenever you turn in an assignment for a grade.

3.  Use standard 1-inch margins, double-space the body of the paper, and use 12-pt font.

4.  Number your pages.

5.  Proof read your paper. 

6.  For quotations that run more than three lines, indent the text, use single-spacing, and do not use quotation marks.

7.  Never begin or end a quotation with ellipsis (…).   Quotation marks (“”) indicate that you have cut the text, thus making ellipsis redundant.

8.  If you quote a text directly, make sure that you have a good reason for doing so.  Generally, primary sources are quoted directly more often than secondary sources – primary sources are your evidence.  Quote directly from a secondary source if the actual wording used by the author is important to your argument.  If the wording is not important, then put the idea into your own words and include a note to credit the author. 

 9.  Introduce and analyze quotations.  Do not assume that the quote speaks for itself.  Tell your reader why the quotation is significant.

 10.  Credit the sources of information.  Include a reference to the specific page where the information was found.

 11.  Avoid contractions in formal writing.

 12.  Avoid overly casual and trite statements.  We all know that the Greeks had a wonderful civilization.  We all feel that Virgil is a totally excellent writer.  These statements do not belong in your paper.

 13.  Avoid overly labored language.  Sophisticated writers know that complex ideas are best expressed clearly.  Use your thesaurus sparingly.

 14.  Use terminology that is appropriate for the discipline and the topic of your paper. 

 15.  For your bibliography, place items in alphabetical order.  Make use of this valuable gift from the Greeks!

 16.  Proof read your paper again!


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