As we all know, school (at any level) is a place where the ability to write reasonably well is very important if one is to succeed. This would explain why thousands of visitors to this site are seeking information and templates to help them with their academic writing projects such as book reports, term papers, essays, and research papers.
Once one reaches the college or university level, it is not good enough to write a paper in just any old format that one chooses. At that level, students are almost always required to use certain accepted international standards for formatting and referencing sources in a paper. Even at the high school level, many teachers now require the use of one of the well-known writing style standards.
At universities and colleges in most Western countries, one of two major international writing style standards are used as follows:
1. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association The APA’s Publication Manual covers all aspects of the writing and publishing process including organizing, writing, formatting, keying, and submitting a manuscript for publication. It provides detailed guidance on editorial style as well as on the appropriate standards for publishing research in accordance with ethical principles of scientific publishing.
2. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers The MLA documentation style covers all aspects of scholarly writing, beginning with the mechanics of writing and publishing, through the basics of writing style, to guidelines for the preparation of theses and dissertations. Although the MLA guidelines cover all aspects of writing and publishing a paper, MLA documentation style places special emphasis on the proper citing of sources of information in one’s written work, and how to properly and consistently cite them throughout a paper or manuscript.
Both of these style documents are lengthy technical manuals designed to cover every possible situation that one could encounter when writing a paper. To assist those who would rather not wade through hundreds of pages that may not be relevant to them, I have broken down and summarized the APA and MLA Rules for the Preparation of Manuscripts into three distinct sections as follows:
1. Overall Paper Format Rules (APA and MLA) 2. Rules For In-Text Citation of Sources (APA and MLA) 3. Compiling and Formatting the Reference List (APA and MLA)
A common weakness we see almost everywhere in day-to-day writing is poor logical flow from one idea or point to the next. This usually takes the form of a bunch of seemingly unrelated phrases thrown together with little or no sense of sequence, continuity, logic, or relativity. Not only can you see this problem in articles and blogs all over the Web, reporters for your local newspaper and TV outlets are often guilty of this same transgression.
We see letters, articles and reports in which each phrase seems to be independent of the one before and the one after; when in reality there is an actual sequential and/or logical flow. When we read these, we often find ourselves asking obvious questions that don’t get answered, such as: “So why did they do that?”, or “What happened next…?”, or “How does that relate to…?”
Consider the following three sentence example:
1. The entire building had to be searched.
2. They started the search on the third floor.
3. It took three hours to complete the search.
Notice that the three separate statements are all valid sentences. They convey the bare essential facts of a situation or event, but nothing more. In fact, they raise almost more questions than they answer. For example:
– Why was the building being searched? – What building was it? – Was it a serious incident? – Had it ever happened before? – Why did they start on the third floor? – What about the first two floors? – Is three hours a long time for that? – How long does it usually take?
Now, let’s transform these three statements, using transition or bridge words and phrases, as follows:
“UNLIKE a minor incident at the Customs Headquarters last October, this time the entire building had to be searched for trapped occupants. BECAUSE the fire was still smoking on the first two floors, they started on the third, working upwards to the tenth, covering the first two floors last. CONSEQUENTLY, it took them a full three hours before they finally completed the typical one-hour job.”
Notice the use of the transition words: UNLIKE, BECAUSE, and CONSEQUENTLY. Using these three words has allowed us to easily connect the three independent sentences and give them a sense of chronological order and logical flow. They also allow us to answer ALL of the obvious questions, either with the transition word itself, or by adding a couple more words.
In short, transition words/phrases have turned three dry independent phrases into a little story that makes sense to the reader.
These types of words/phrases are ideal for allowing one to easily connect thoughts, and create logical sequences between sentences and paragraphs. They are usually inserted at the beginning of a sentence and normally refer directly back to the previous sentence and/or paragraph without repeating the specific subject.
The following paragraphs list some of the more common transition words and phrases that will help make your text more understandable and interesting to the reader. For each one, I have included a typical example of how the word/phrase might be used in a typical sentence. (Note that we have capitalized the transition words/phrases for emphasis and easy identification).
CAUSE AND EFFECT… THEN, he moved on to the next work station. AS A RESULT, the team lost the game. FOR THIS REASON, she always went home for the weekend. THE RESULT WAS always predictable. WHAT FOLLOWED was as painful as it was inevitable. IN RESPONSE, he quickly upped the ante. THEREFORE, the aircraft overshot the runway. THUS, it was just a matter of time. BECAUSE OF THIS, the results were always the same. CONSEQUENTLY, he was no longer friends with Frank. THE REACTION to this event was swift and decisive.
IN CONTRAST TO… UNLIKE last year, this one was highly profitable. DIFFERENT from this, was our approach to manufacturing. IN SPITE OF the dot com bust, the company prospered. ON THE OTHER HAND, earnings per share have increased. ON THE CONTRARY, the impact was less than expected. OPPOSING that idea was the move to new technologies. HOWEVER, that approach may actually prove better. CONTRARY to his findings, the revenue picture is good. NEVERTHELESS, something still appears to be missing.
SEQUENCE AND RELATIVITY… THEN, each one followed in numerical sequence. IN ADDITION, a fourth material was added to the mix. TO ENUMERATE, first was the car, second was the boat, third… NEXT in line for cuts was the marketing division. NEXT IN THE SERIES was the “outrigger” brand line. BESIDES THAT, there were two other possible sources. SUBSEQUENTLY they moved on to the next polling station. FOLLOWING the concert, there was a reception in the atrium.
SIMILARITY AND COMPARISON… LIKE always, he took the company on a risky course. SAME as before, he managed to meet all of the requirements. SIMILAR things were known to happen at certain times. CLOSE to that was the result of the second round of voting. LIKEWISE, they made similar changes in the factory. ALSO, there were the worker’s families to consider. NEAR that one, was where we found the faulty component.
EXPLANATION AND EXAMPLE… FOR EXAMPLE, last year’s model was under-powered. ONE SUCH occurrence was last week’s power outage. FOR INSTANCE, earnings this year are higher than last. TO ILLUSTRATE, he went to Chicago just to make his point. ALSO, there is a new approach to sheet-metal molding. THAT TOO, just goes to make my point even stronger. TO DEMONSTRATE, I will use the new model throughout.
Bottom line: Smooth, orderly and logical transitions from one thought to the other, one sentence to the next, and one paragraph to another, are key to creating clear meaning and flow in any document. Appropriate use of transition words and phrases will achieve this for you.
Running a business is both a challenging and rewarding endeavor. With so many facets and angles to worry about, the importance of hiring exceptional—not just qualified—employees gets overlooked. If you own and operate a small business, a dedicated HR department might not be in your company’s budget. Whether you have a dedicated hiring team or not, here are some helpful tips on how to hire new employees and what you should be looking for as a business owner.
Ask the Right Questions
Interviews are all about learning everything you possibly can about your potential employees. You can’t get an accurate overview of a candidate’s experience and qualifications if you aren’t asking the right questions. Some of these questions might sound obvious, but they are important to ask nonetheless.
Tell me about your greatest achievement at work.
An applicant’s answer will reveal a lot about their values as an employee and what they consider to be important.
What kind of work environment and culture are you looking for?
Finding out what an employee wants out of their work environment is important. You want your employees to desire the same climate and energy that your company provides. This is one of the best ways to make sure your new employee is a going to be a good fit.
Where do you see yourself in 2 years? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
As an employer, you want to make sure that you’re hiring someone who wants to stick with your company. An applicant may not always answer this question honestly, but it’s still an important question to ask as it will reveal some of their short and long-term goals.
What skills do you bring to the table and what can you contribute to the company?
This is an interesting question because it will force the applicant to ponder on their skills and qualifications. You need skilled laborers and employees; while a resume can reveal what kind of experience they have, it may not indicate the skills they picked up along the way.
How do you stay current on your knowledge and skills in the field?
If an applicant stumbles over their answer for this one, you know they probably aren’t taking steps to keep their knowledge and skills sharp. Your business needs someone who is determined to be the absolute best at what they do. A qualified employee stays motivated outside the workplace in the development of their craft.
Conduct a Thorough Background Check
Every employer is required to do a background check, but it’s important to consider your timeline, especially if you desperately need to place someone in an open position. So how long does a pre-employment background check take? Traditional checks can sometimes take up to a week, so you are going to want to make sure that you have enough time for the check to come through before you give your new employee a start date. Online screening services can expedite the process, so shop around and find a convenient (and trustworthy!) screening solution that will give you the information you need. Obviously, you want to avoid hiring anyone with a criminal record. A background check can give you the details you need to decide if their past will disqualify them from the position.
Depending on what jurisdiction you live in, there can be some strict rules and regulations regarding credit checks. Before conducting a credit check on a potential employee, make sure you are in compliance with your local laws. You may be required to get consent from the interviewee before you can obtain their credit history. A credit report is a great way to see what kind of debt and credit your new employee might have.
Call the interviewee’s references before the interview if you can. A former boss or manager is going to know more about their former employee’s work ethic and qualifications than anyone else. Far too often employers completely skip over this process. You might be surprised as to how many fake references someone will put on their resume. Taking the time for this important step can save you the trouble of hiring a dishonest employee and cut the number of interviews you will have to conduct.
When it comes to hiring new employees, trust your instincts and use these tips and tricks to streamline the process, saving you time and money.
One of the key pieces of advice I include in all of my letter writing kits is that you should always try hard to keep a letter on a single page.
Regardless of the subject of your letter, you should be able to make your key point(s) on one page. That doesn’t mean that you won’t sometimes have supporting documents as attachments. However, even in cases where attachments are necessary, you should always try to make the covering letter a one-pager.
I’m sure you’ve received letters that overflow onto a second page for the sake of a few words or a sentence or two. Such letters tends to look very tacky and unprofessional, and they’re very wasteful to boot. So try to avoid doing that when you are writing your own letters – especially business letters.
Nowadays it’s easy to do this. With standard word processing software there are a number of handy little tricks that you can use to help squeeze your letter (or other document) onto a single page.
So, here are some page squeeze tips:
Move both the left and right margins out about 1/4 in. closer to the edge of the page. No more than that, however, as it will look too obvious.
Move the top and bottom margins out about 1/4 in. closer to the edge of the page. Again, no more than 1/4 in.
Take a good look at your draft letter and see if there are any paragraphs that have an ending sentence that overflows onto an additional line for the sake of one or two words. If so, make a minor edit or two in the paragraph to shorten it a little so that it will no longer overflow onto the following line. Don’t forget to reread to make sure it still makes sense!
Another thing you can do is, try reducing the size of the font size by 1 point, say from 12 to 11 points. Note: your font size should never be smaller than 10 points.
If your letter still doesn’t fit, but it is close, there’s one final thing you can try if you are the author of the letter. Go back and edit it one more time. Look for redundant thoughts and phrases, or those that can be combined into one sentence rather than two. Is every word and phrase absolutely essential to your message? You’ll be amazed at the space savings that this final edit process can result in.
Try the above methods in sequence, one-at-a-time, checking each time to see if your latest change has done the trick for you.
Making sure that you have a well written resume (or curriculum vitae) is always important. If you don’t take the time and trouble required to craft a good resume you will be sabotaging yourself. In fact, your resume or CV is likely to be one of the most important documents of your life; whether you write it yourself, or you have it written for you by a professional. Even in these days of the internet, social media, smart phones, etc., at some point you will still need a traditional resume or CV as you look for a job.
Almost every time we have read “draft” or “old” resumes, we have found the following problems:
Common Resume (or CV) Problems:
It is almost always too long
It doesn’t focus on what you can do for the new employer today in the job at hand
It tends to give equal weight to ancient history with not enough emphasis on recent experience
Insufficient focus on actual results achieved in the various job experiences described
It does not state clearly up-front what the applicant is looking for job-wise and career-wise
If you spend time searching around online you will find hundreds if not thousands of resume and CV formats you can follow which are promoted by numerous self-proclaimed experts. Of course, it is always good to have a resume format that is pleasing to the eye. However, if you do not address the above five points while creating the content of your resume, the format won’t matter much.
What’s the best way to address these problems? Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. They’ve advertised for a job and they’ve received 300 resumes.
Do you think they’re going to read each one of them word for word? No, they don’t have time. They’re going to skim. So if yours is short, punchy, and has key points bolded, that’s what will catch their eye
Your key points should be about what you can do for them, and how you can solve their problem
Your most recent experience should be first – i.e., your work history should be in reverse chronological order
You should talk about results and accomplishments that helped your last employer
You should be clear about what you’re looking for in your career trajectory, so they have an idea of what they might do with you long term
With these points in mind, go look at your current resume? Does it need an update?
Did you know that the ability to write for practical purposes can be a very important and powerful ability? Really! Becoming proficient at letter writing, for both business and personal purposes, can help you advance in many different aspects of your life.
As evidence of this, the following paragraphs describe a real-life example from my recent past.
I own (and live) in a unit in a multi-unit condominium building. As with most condo buildings, mine is managed by an elected committee of co-owners. About two and one-half years ago, I was asked by members of our condo board if I would be interested in running for election to the committee at the annual general meeting. Having never done that before, I thought I would give it a try, so I agreed to run and I was elected. I ended up staying in that position for two years before I decided to resign and move on to other things; about six months ago.
What does this have to do with writing, you might be asking right about now? Everything actually! Early into my two-year term as a member of the condo management board, I realized that writing letters and support documents was one of the most important activities for the efficient day-to-day functioning of our building. These documents include such things as numerous letters and notices to residents, instruction lists and checklists for janitorial staff, as well as letters to contractors and government bodies.
So, after I resigned from the board I compiled a group of the most common types of condo-management letters and notices and turned them into generic examples so that I could post them online. I believe that such “real-life examples will help a lot of people who are involved in the management and administration of their building; whether it’s a condo building, a co-operative, or a rental building.
Even if you aren’t directly involved in such activities, I suggest you take a look at some of the examples I have posted so that you can get a clear idea as to how important practical writing skills can be, and why you should continue to develop yours.
Remember, this is just one example of how strong practical writing skills can be important in your day-to-day life.
On a daily basis, we see improper preposition usage. In fact, it drives us crazy when we hear supposedly well-educated people on national radio and TV misuse common prepositions in their reporting of the news and current events.
Just to be clear as to what we’re talking about here: a “preposition” is a word that is placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase by modifying another word in the sentence. The dictionary defines a preposition as: “…a word governing a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element…” In less technical terms, prepositions are those little connector words that join words and/or phrases to other words and/or phrases.
Examples of common prepositions are: about, above, after, as, at, before, behind, between, beyond, but, by, down, during, in, into, of, off, on, under, until, up, upon, with, within, to name a few. These words almost always function as an adjective or adverb. Below are about a dozen typical preposition phrases misused in the news media and on popular TV shows.
agree (on), agree (to), agree (with) We now agree on the terms of the contract. I intend to agree to his proposal after the modifications. His observations agree with my findings.
answer (for), answer (to) He will have to answer for what he did last night. She will have to answer to her boss on that matter.
begin (by), begin (from), begin (with) I will begin by taking the oath of allegiance. The race will begin from the parking lot behind the car dealership. The project will begin with an environmental assessment.
bored (by), bored (with); NOT “bored of” She was really bored by last night’s concert. Over time, I became bored with the whole thing.
capable (of); NOT “capable to” I knew that they were capable of much more. The coach told me I was capable of playing at a much higher level. correspond (to), correspond (with) Once it is repainted it will correspond to mine. While away on course I made it a habit to correspond with my parents by e-mail.
impressed (by), impressed (with); NOT “impressed of” Jason was impressed by their new approach to the issue. Julia was quite impressed with Susan’s behavior.
graduate (from), graduate (to); NOT “graduated college” When do you expect to graduate from college? After the initial phase you will graduate to the next level.
invest (in), invest (with) Once I receive the funds I will invest in a mix of stocks and bonds. He decided to invest his savings with the bank.
live (off), live (on) Once they move to the farm they plan to live off the land. When I turn 65 I will start to live on a pension.
proceed (to), proceed (with) After that is done, I will proceed to the next step. Please proceed with what you were doing when we arrived.
report (on), report (to) After his assessment he will report on the situation. He will report to the recruitment center next Monday.
suited (to), suited (for) They seem very suited to each other. Brad is well suited for that accounting position.
The above are just a few examples of proper preposition usage in some of the more common preposition phrases. So, here’s a word of warning: if you are trying to improve your English by watching television or listening to the radio, don’t assume that everything you hear is correct. Often it isn’t. Really! So, if you read or hear something that doesn’t seem quite right, look it up.
Writing is one area of life where you can continuously improve. There’s always some little tweak you can make to create an even better piece. However, when you’re strapped for time, how can you find a way to improve your writing? Rather than proofreading the same piece over and over, there are some amazingly handy apps that can take the hard work and time out of getting your content creation just right.
In this article, we take a look at seven of the best apps currently on the market for finessing your work. Through downloading and using a few of the following, you’ll become the best writer you can be.
If grammar isn’t your strongest point, you can use ProWritingAid to check everything you write. It provides 25 different reports on spelling and grammar mistakes, style issues, and readabilty issues. It does cost you money though but there are often special offers that enable you to save dollars while making your writing impeccable.
The Hemingway app identifies any sentences that may be difficult to read while also providing simple alternatives. If you have an issue with passive writing or using too many adverbs, the app flags these up too. Using Hemingway, you also get an idea of the reading level of your work. It gauges the lowest education needed to understand your piece.
Flowstate is for you if you constantly get distracted as you write. You set a font and timer and go for it. If you stop to daydream, your work will be lost!
Draft is a free web app that enables you to control features in word processors such as Google Docs. It’s therefore excellent in terms of collaborative writing. Additionally, its “Ask a Professional” feature lets you get advice and input from others on your writing. You can also keep abreast of any revisions you’ve made to your piece to assess how it’s changed as you’ve rewritten or tweaked it.
Scrivener is a tool with robust features that take time to get to grips with. However, this is a crucial app for many writers and is known as a complete writing studio. The app provides you with one single place to store all your writing and ideas. It’s perfect for you if you want to keep everything in the one place in terms of writing and organization
An oldie but still a goodie, Microsoft Word is still a very valid and valuable tool for any writer. You can do almost everything in Word with its app-specific keyboard shortcuts, formatting options, collaboration, draft versions, customizable toolbars and more.
If you tend to come up with random ideas and find these difficult to organize, Inspiration Maps could be the app you’re looking for. You can simply utilize a template to collate your thoughts, images and ideas. You can then even convert these into a Word document.
There are hundreds of writing software apps on the market today. Not all will appeal to everyone. However, this list of seven will help get you started. Good luck!
Jen Starr is part of the community team at Next Day PC. Jen enjoys staying on top of the latest tech trends and sharing how new tech can positively impact people’s lives.
“Start writing, no matter what,” novelist Louis L’Amour once said. “The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” And while no one would argue with L’Amour, who wrote more than 100 well-known books, there’s nothing wrong with creating a little method to the madness. Or better yet, you should develop one.
Don’t worry. Pondering strategy won’t hamper your creativity. Here’s a few questions you can consider before getting started:
Why is this book important to you?
Yes, you have a “why.” Every great author starts with the why. Really think about this question. Dig deep, without fear, to unveil your inspiration and drive. It’s equivalent to a company’s mission and values statement. How honestly you answer this question will roadmap and guide you through your writing journey. It will affect the type of book you will write, publishing plans, and even how’ll market and create buzz.
For example, it’s common for people to write books with the sole purpose of generating new prospects and leads for their business. Take Hubspot, for example. It is well-known for releasing comprehensive books on marketing best practices. However, their end goal is to eventually snag the reader as a new customer. If content marketing is your goal, you may even choose to go for a non-traditional form of publishing, such as releasing the book as a downloadable PDF.
Some aspiring authors want sustainable income through book advances and royalties. This goal also could heavily influence your publishing process. You’ll probably spend a great amount of time soliciting the assistance of an agent, and certainly aim to work with an established publisher.
And others are inspired by the story that’s burning inside of them.
Find out your why and clearly outline your motivations. Then, as you embark on this journey, you can refer to your underlying motivation to help you make decisions along the way.
What is your book’s structure?
Many authors, especially first-timers, jump straight into the writing process, expecting their free-flow of ideas to float them to the finish line. But structuring and formatting will play a major role in your finished work, whether you like it or not. And if it’s not prioritized in your writing process, it certainly will be tackled by your editor in preparation for publishing.
Get in front of it. Think about your book’s structure and any major content you know up front will be included in it. You don’t need to try to outline the book’s flow, just broad parameters to give your writing process a bit of definition. Is it a collection of short pieces, such as recipes or essays? Are you the sole author or will you be collecting stories from others? What other forms of media do you want included, like photos or illustrations? Just think about it.
Who is your ideal reader?
Keeping the reader’s experience in mind is also a debatable point among artists. Do you write for your audience, or do you write for your narrative’s sake? It truly depends on the goal of your book. However, it can’t hurt to know your reader so you can truly spark their interest, connect with them, meet their needs and provoke their emotions. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” advised Robert Frost. “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
Of course, your emotional connection to your story is unshakeable — especially if you’ve dreamt of writing your book for years. But your book is not about you. It’s about your story. It’s about your readers.
Tell a story they want to hear. Share facts and advice that they’re searching for. Make them feel or think what they want to feel and think. Unless you’re already Kardashian-level famous, no one will read your book because of you.
To do this well, create a profile for your reader. Imagine what their life looks like. What motivates them? How long will it take them to finish your book? What are their hobbies and interests? What challenges are your readers trying to solve?
Keep this profile in mind as you jot your outline. This will affect your voice and tone, your structure, and how you communicate your story.
What’s your budget?
Your budget will depend on your answers to the previous three questions. For example, every author needs an editor and proofreader. However, depending on your motivation for writing and the book’s structure, you might also need an illustrator, a fact checker, even an attorney. Whether you have an agent or you’re going it alone, plan out your costs and begin building your budget so you don’t panic at the amount of money spent at the end of your writing process.
Do you have competition?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. In the modern era of Amazon, savvy authors know they need to research their niche to confirm that the story they want to write hasn’t been written already.
Competitor research can be easy. Browse Amazon or head to a local bookstore. Check out the top titles in your genre or field. Look at what other best sellers are positioned near them. Check out the authors of these top books and scan their bio to see what else they’ve written. Scan Amazon reviews to see readers’ praise or criticism of these top books.
Be prepared. You might find that what you want to write has already been extensively covered. If so, pivot. Think of a new approach to the topic. Often times, competitive research can be inspirational in and of itself, broadening your approach to a topic beyond the boundaries of your own ideas. And if that doesn’t work, think of a new topic.
How will you prove your book’s value?
Never judge a book by its cover. But that’s literally what all of us do when deciding what book to buy from the store or borrow from a friend. The title could attract us, or the endorsements, or the quirky descriptions on the inside of the book jacket. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and come up with a plan to visually convey your book’s value.
What’s your deadline (realistically)?
Even if this is simply a passion project, you need to have a clear timeline to hold yourself accountable. Don’t be that author who takes their manuscript to their grave. The world wants your story. The readers need your passion. So, set a timeline and stick with it.
What tools will you need?
Every author is different, but writers have often identified several key tools that have helped them to be successful at the craft:
A physical notebook: Jot down quick ideas and inspiration on the go.
A smart word processing tool or app: Get one that’s specifically for writers. This saves you time, headache, and helps you write more efficiently. If you’re writing on a Mac, Mellel may be just what you need.
A printer: In this digital age, more and more people, opt out of buying a printer. But it’s one of the best ways to proofread your work.
These 8 steps are only the beginning, but they certainly set you in the right direction towards contributing your masterpiece to the world of ideas.
Amber Massey is a wordsmith and communications enthusiast with over 10 years of experience. Editing is her passion. New media is her medium. She is currently the CEO of Mellel, a powerful app redefining word processing for Mac.