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Academic Writing Style – APA and MLA Set the Standards

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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)

You can access a summary of the APA Rules at this page:
http://www.writinghelp-central.com/apa-format-rules.html

The MLA Rules are summarized on this page:
http://www.writinghelp-central.com/mla-format-rules.html

Each of the above pages contains links to actual sample pages of the formats being discussed.

 

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12 Essay-Writing Hacks from a Professional Editor

Essay-Writing Hacks

Essay-Writing HacksAs a professional editor, I’ve edited all kinds of documents, not the least of which are essays. I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Look, it’s easy to write a bad essay when it’s due in less than 24 hours (we’ve all been there), but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to write a good essay. To write a good essay, you just have to know what to look for to make weak writing stronger.

Simply looking is the number one job of a professional editor (outside of drinking coffee) because looking leads to discovering—and once you find your errors, improvement is just around the corner.

After editing over a million words, I’ve come to understand what makes a good essay and what makes a bad essay, and I have a few practical tips—essay hacks, if you will—for improving your own essay-writing skills.

1. Befriend your argument.

Make sure you know everything there is to know about your argument. That means you should understand exactly what it is you’re arguing and why. If your argument was an elevator pitch and you had to explain it to someone in just a minute or two, could you? If the answer is “No,” revisit the main point of your essay. Do more research to make sure you know the topic inside and out.

The reason you need to be prepared is that, if there’s any proof that can shoot your argument down, you not only need to shield those bullets but also to ricochet them back. Don’t just know your argument—befriend it. Find out its strengths and its weaknesses.

2. Challenge every idea.

If you have any questions about your topic, subject, or field, ask them as soon as you can. Hitting a snag later can stall progress on your essay, so if you can hit all the major weak points early on, you can avoid finding major flaws in your argument later.

Challenge anything that causes questions to sprout and play the devil’s advocate for your own argument. If you’ve identified these weaknesses before, now is the time to investigate further and begin to clarify anything that might still be fuzzy.

3. Select your sources carefully.

When selecting your sources, be picky. Don’t resort to using online sources just because they’re easily accessible. Try to use all kinds of different sources, but only if they’re current. Don’t pick a dusty old book from the library just to have a print source in your references list.

Choose current and relevant sources from trustworthy or notable scholars in the field. If your proof is questionable, your whole argument will fall apart, so choose your sources like you would an all-star team if you want to knock your essay out of the park.

4. Start writing early.

This is important: make sure you start writing early. Don’t put your essay off until the last minute. Do you know what’s waiting for you at the last minute? Regret and sadness.

Kickstart yourself now so you don’t kick yourself later. If you need to set an early deadline for yourself or split the essay writing into manageable chunks, do it. Just make sure you start early so you have time to solve any problems you run into later.

5. Organize for clarity.

The structure of your essay is every bit as important as the argument itself. If you have a flimsy structure, there’s no firm foundation to build the essay on; if there’s no firm foundation, your essay could collapse at any moment.

Focus on structuring your essay before you start writing. How will you arrange your argument and provide evidence in a cohesive and logical way? It’s better to answer that question earlier rather than later. Use transitions to ensure your argument flows logically from one point to the next.

6. Watch your tense and voice.

First, use the active voice when you write your essay (unless otherwise instructed). Second, avoid personal pronouns to maintain objectivity if need be (e.g., in scientific and other formal writing).

Third, you should write in the literary present, meaning that all actions performed in the text should be explained in the present tense rather than the past.

Finally, avoid using clichés. Since you want to present original thoughts, overused phrases need to be cut.

7. Explain everything clearly.

Any time you make a point, explain it clearly—even if you think it’s obvious. Your argument will be obvious to you (since you’ve befriended it), but it’s brand new to the reader. Your argument is meeting your reader for the first time, and like any new friends, they need introducing. If you fail to introduce them properly, things will get very confusing and awkward.

8. Be succinct.

Sentences should be straightforward, communicating one point at a time; cut all unnecessary words. You’ll also want to eliminate any repetition. It’s easy to say the same things over and over again in an essay, but doing so won’t strengthen your argument.

Cut unnecessary phrases and anything wordy or redundant, including phrases that don’t add information, such as “it should be pointed out that” or “due to the fact that.” Similarly, don’t ramble on about the same topic or go off on a tangent in the middle of your essay.

9. Avoid academese at all costs.

Try to keep things simple. While you shouldn’t talk down to your audience or explain every technical term, you should always be concise. Most importantly, don’t ever use words or phrases that you think will make you sound smarter.

It’s always best to be straightforward, so use the right vocabulary to say exactly what you want to say. It’s embarrassing if you try to use a fancy word only to find it doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.

10. Be aware of your word count.

Don’t go over your word count. Most markers will stop marking at the last word within the word count, so it’s crucial that you stay within it if you want to do well.

However, you also don’t want to stay severely lower than the word count provided. While you shouldn’t pad the essay by adding information that isn’t necessary to your argument or relevant to the topic at hand, you should get as close to the word count as possible by thoroughly exploring your topic and elaborating on your argument.

11. Carefully cite everything.

Unless you want to face a failing grade, academic probation, or even expulsion, you need to cite all of your sources. There are many types of plagiarism, but as long as you take good notes during your research and credit your sources, it’s easy to avoid plagiarism.

Your academic integrity is at stake here, so ensure that you are overly cautious in recording the necessary material. Be vigilant in confirming that you’ve documented everything fully and correctly.

12. Revise extensively.

Every good essay has been revised at least once, which means you, too, should tighten your writing. Comb through and ensure that everything is clear, consistent, and flows well. Once you’re happy with the content of your essay, you can sweat the small stuff, like grammar and spelling errors.

Even brilliant essays receive lower grades if simple mistakes are left in the document, so consider getting a second opinion and having an expert look over your writing for both form and content. At the very least, run a spell and grammar check. You’ll be so happy you did.

Conclusion

Essay writing doesn’t have to be hard. Anyone can write a good essay with the proper tools. These essay hacks are part of your toolkit, which you can use to improve your essay writing. Go from good to great by considering these tips and implementing them when writing your next essay.

If you would prefer a step-by-step guide for essay writing and want to improve your skills once and for all, you might want to think about taking a course to organize and write good essays every time.

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

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How to Master the Cornell Note-Taking System

Cornell Note-Taking Method

Cornell Note-Taking SystemThink ahead a few months: exam season has started, and you’re thankful that you’ve attended class faithfully and taken clear, well-organized notes—or so you thought.

The incoherent jumble of words and phrases stares up at you from the page like so much tangled spaghetti, defying you to remember exactly what the professor meant or how these ideas connect. How can you study effectively when faced with such a note-taking disaster?

The solution is easy: learn the Cornell Note-Taking System and start using it before exams start.

Created by Dr. Walter Pauk from Cornell University, this note-taking system is both an efficient way to record information and an effective way to absorb it. Aside from saving you the time and angst spent cramming, Cornell notes can actually improve the quality of your learning experience, helping you make connections and get more out of each lesson.

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn the five Rs of the Cornell note-taking system, and you’ll never end up with the nightmarish problem of not understanding your own notes.

Before You Begin

The Cornell Note-Taking System organizes ideas spatially, so it’s great for visual learners. The idea is to give yourself space for copying down information (class notes), for identifying key points (study cues), and for summing up the main ideas of the lesson (summary). Remember to also record the course name, the class topic, and the date of the lesson to keep your notes orderly.

Before class, use a marker or a different color of ink to divide the page into two main columns, with a bit of space at the top and a larger section at the bottom. Notice that the thick lines make a lopsided “I” shape.

Cornell Note Template

You might want to prepare several pages in advance, or you can use a template (you can find them online or use Microsoft Word to create a digital version). Lefties can switch the cue column to the right-hand side to make things easier. The idea is to make the process as easy as possible.

Step 1: Record

This is where the fun begins. Fill the largest section with your class notes, recording relevant terminology, names, dates, formulas, statistics, and other information. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Write neatly (or at least legibly).
  • Leave a space between each line in case you need to add more information later.
  • Use shorthand, such as the ampersand (&) instead of “and,” or acronyms instead of full terms, but make sure you know what they mean.
  • Don’t use complete sentences.

If you learn better by doodling/drawing or if you make connections through tactile learning (such as something you saw, smelled, or felt during an experiment), feel free to write these down. This will help you study later.

Step 2: Reduce

Class is over, but hold it! Effective note-taking continues outside of class. It might seem like a drag, but taking a few minutes to go over your notes (and clear up any illegible handwriting) while the information is still fresh in your mind will spare you hours of pulling out your hair while cramming for an exam.

After class, take a few moments to summarize the key points inside the left-hand column (study cues), and make sure they line up with the corresponding information. One way to reduce the lecture is to put it in your own words, looking for meaning and the relationships between ideas.

When study time comes, you can find information quickly by scanning the cue column, and you’ll already have a firm grasp on what you’ll need to know for the test.

Step 3: Recite

For the oral learners out there who remember best by hearing, take a few moments to verbalize the key points in the study cues. Without looking at the detailed notes from the class, see if you can remember what you learned by looking at the cues. You can always “cheat” a little to check if you got the right answer (it’s not the real test yet!).

Spoken information—especially if it’s in your own words—can help you understand the material in a way that simply memorizing something can’t.

Step 4: Reflect/Summarize

Ask yourself: How would I explain the lesson to someone who’s never learned it before? Not only do teaching and learning go hand in hand, but reflecting on what you’ve learned is the best way to retain information.

When you write your summary section, don’t think of it as a mere repetition. Treat it as a chance to engage with the material, including your thoughts, your questions, your interpretation, and your own personal reflections. You can even relate the material to the textbook or other study materials, to your previous experiences, or to knowledge from other courses; the more connections you can make, the better.

Step 5: Review

This step can actually be done throughout the semester as a way to aid comprehension and alleviate the pressure of studying for exams. Believe it or not, taking the time to review your notes for 10 minutes each week can spare you the 10 hours of fruitless studying where you’re straining to remember what was once fresh in your mind.

Conclusion

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If that’s true, then a systematic approach to college or university note-taking is worth the effort. Don’t make your studies any more stressful than they need to be: become a master of Cornell notes instead.

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Where Do Canadians Study? [Infographic]

Where Do Canadians Study?

September is quickly approaching, and that means students around the world are preparing to go back to school. But where, exactly, are they going? This infographic explains where undergraduate and graduate students attend university in Canada and how many adventure-seekers travel abroad to receive their education.

Are you attending college or university this fall? How to Write an Essay, an online course by Inklyo, will help you prepare for another year of learning.

Where Do Canadians Study?

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20 English Idioms with Surprising Origins

English Idioms

Raining Cats and Dogs: English Idioms with Surprising Origins

Idioms are figures of speech that become fixed in a language. Usually, an idiom is figurative in modern contexts but once had a literal meaning. These literal meanings, or idiom origins, can help a learner of English to understand where a phrase originated.

Ever wondered what it means to “turn a blind eye” or “pull out all the stops”? Wonder no more!

Because the English language is full of idioms, we wanted to compile a list of English idioms and their origins to help make better sense of how these idioms work in modern contexts.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Straight from the horse’s mouth

Meaning: getting information directly from the most reliable source

Origin: This one is said to come from the 1900s, when buyers could determine a horse’s age by examining its teeth. It’s also why you shouldn’t “look a gift horse in the mouth,” as inspecting a gift is considered bad etiquette.

2. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: to mistakenly reveal a secret

Origin: Up to and including in the 1700s, a common street fraud included replacing valuable pigs with less valuable cats and selling them in bags. When a cat was let out of a bag, the jig was up.

3. Butter someone up

Meaning: to praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor

Origin: A customary religious act in ancient India included throwing butter balls at the statues of gods to seek good fortune and their favor.

4. Pulling someone’s leg

Meaning: teasing someone, usually by lying in a joking manner

Origin: Although pulling someone’s leg is all in good fun nowadays, it originally described the way in which thieves tripped their victims to rob them.

5. Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Meaning: someone who is pretending to be something they are not, usually to the detriment of others

Origin: This one’s attributed to the Bible (Matthew 7:15). The Bible also gave us “rise and shine” (Isaiah 60:1), “seeing eye to eye” (Isaiah 62:8), and a “broken heart” (Psalm 69:20).

6. Hands downHands Down

Meaning: without a lot of effort; by far

Origin: Winning “hands down” once referred to 19th-century horseracing, when a jockey could remove his hands from the reins and still win the race because he was so far ahead.

7. Riding shotgun

Meaning: riding in the front seat of a vehicle next to the driver

Origin: In the Wild West, the person who sat next to the driver was often equipped with a shotgun to kill any robbers that might happen upon the coach.

8. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: pursuing a misguided course of action

Origin: Likely referring to hunting, this saying explains when a dog would literally bark at the bottom of the wrong tree after the prey in question moved to the next branch.

9. Flying off the handleFlying Off the Handle

Meaning: suddenly becoming enraged

Origin: This one is said to come from poorly made axes of the 1800s that would literally detach from the handle. Yikes!

10. Cost an arm and a leg

Meaning: extremely expensive

Origin: The story goes that this phrase originated from 18th-century paintings, as famous people like George Washington would have their portraits done without certain limbs showing. Having limbs showing is said to have cost more.

11. Sleep tight

Meaning: used to tell someone to sleep well

Origin: One possible origin of this phrase dates back to when mattresses were supported by ropes; sleeping tight meant sleeping with the ropes pulled tight, which would provide a well-sprung bed.

12. Bite the bullet

Meaning: to perform a painful task or endure an unpleasant situation

Origin: In the 1800s, patients would literally bite on a bullet to cope with the pain of having surgery before anesthesia was common.

13. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Meaning: look for avoidable errors so you don’t remove something good with the bad

Origin: This idiom allegedly comes from a time when the household bathed in the same water; first, the lord would bathe, then the men, the lady, the women, the children, and the babies last. The bath water is said to have been so dirty that there was a risk of throwing the baby out with the water once everyone was done bathing!

14. Jump the sharkJump the Shark

Meaning: the moment when a form of entertainment reaches a decline in quality by including gimmicks to maintain interest.

Origin: In the show Happy Days, the character Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing; afterward, radio personality Jon Hein popularized the phrase “jump the shark” to describe the decline of the show.

15. Minding your Ps and Qs

Meaning: being on your best behavior

Origin: There are many origin stories for this one, but perhaps the one that is most fun is that bartenders would keep track of the pints and quarts consumed by their patrons with the letters “P” and “Q.”

16. Turn a blind eye

Meaning: to consciously ignore unwanted information

Origin: The phrase “to turn a blind eye” is said to originate with Admiral Horatio Nelson, who allegedly looked through his telescope using his blind eye to avoid signals from his superior telling him to withdraw from battle.

17. Armed to the teeth

Meaning: to be extremely well equipped

Origin: The idea behind being “armed to the teeth” is that the weapon wielder would carry the maximum number of weapons, so many that he or she would be forced to carry some between his or her teeth.

18. Get one’s goatGet One's Goat

Meaning: to irritate or annoy someone

Origin: This one also comes from horseracing. Jockeys placed goats in the stables with their horses as this was said to relax the horses. However, competitors would remove the goats of their rivals to spook their competitors’ horses, hoping they would consequently lose the race.

19. Pull out all the stops

Meaning: to do everything you can to make something successful

Origin: Alluding to the piano-like instrument the organ, this phrase refers to when the stops are pulled out to turn on all the sounds in an organ, allowing the organ to play all the sounds at once and, therefore, be as loud as possible.

20. Dish fit for the gods

Meaning: a very scrumptious or delectable meal

Origin: We can thank Shakespeare for this expression (found in Julius Caesar), but we can also thank him for “foaming at the mouth” (Julius Caesar), “hot blooded” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), “in stitches” (Twelfth Night), “green-eyed monster” (Othello), “wearing your heart on your sleeve” (Othello), and “one fell swoop” (Macbeth).

Conclusion

Did any of these idiom origins surprise you? Do you know of any other English idioms with surprising origin stories? Alternatively, do you know of any other idioms in other languages that you think are interesting or funny? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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What to Do after Graduation

What to Do After Graduation

What to do after graduation The final notes of Pomp and Circumstance fade into the background. The last graduate cap hits the ground with an anticlimactic thud. The final whoops and hollers diminish as you shuffle from the auditorium and into the Real World.

After the celebrations and the partying (oh, the partying), you’re left with a hollow question ringing in your mind: “Now what?” This question is the bane of all recent graduates as relatives, friends, and possibly coworkers sound off all around, echoing back the same question as if it hasn’t already been running through your mind ceaselessly.

Now what? Maybe the options feel too numerous; perhaps the world is too big but feels too small. However, the possibilities for which direction you should now take are endless. After so many years of school and for the first time ever, you finally get to decide what it is you want to do on your own.

No pressure, right? So, what is it you want to do? How can you possibly decide when there are so many different criteria to consider? By looking at your options and goals and carefully considering the decisions that need to be made in advance, the choice about what to do after graduation can be a happy one.

Option 1: Go Back to School

What? But I just emphasized how free you finally are! You were stuck in school for so many years, and you just finished! Why on earth would you ever want to go back?

Going back to school is a good option if you’ve already been struggling in the job market. If you’ve found that no positions are available in your field or that you don’t have enough schooling to land your target job, then you should consider packing your backpack again. Chances are you should give another career path a try or get more schooling (like your Ph.D.).

However, you should consider your financial situation. You probably have a ton of student debt to pay off as it is, so considering your financial situation is important before you sharpen your pencils again. If you can’t afford to go back to school, it’s probably a good idea to work outside your field or even in a job you feel overqualified for so you can earn some extra cash. You could also look into getting help through loans or scholarships.

Option 2: Enter the Workforce

You don’t want to go back to school. You’ve been there and done that so you could get the job you’ve always wanted. Let’s look at another possibility.

Entering the workforce is a good option if you’re looking to take the next step in your career. To work in your field, you probably went to school to take the appropriate program and earn the necessary qualifications. Now that you have them, you can finally get to work! Plus, you’ll be making that hard-earned money, which means you’ll be able to support yourself and work toward other goals.

However, you should consider your qualifications. Are you qualified enough to work in your field, or is more schooling necessary? You might not want to go back to school, but sometimes there’s no other choice. You should also consider your mental state. Are you totally worn down from school? If you’re burnt out and need a break, you probably won’t last long in the professional world, so it’s important to consider how you’re feeling before you dive into the next big thing.

Option 3: See the WorldNew York

You don’t have classes to work around anymore. You don’t have a job yet that you need to schedule time off from. You’re free—so free, you can travel the world!

Seeing the world is a good option if you’re looking to make the most of your freedom while you still have it. Because you have nobody to answer to but yourself now that you’ve graduated, you might want to travel somewhere you’ve never been, visit family or friends in another place, or revisit a spot you love. Now’s your chance to book that flight!

However, you should consider your financial situation once again. Do you have the extra money to go gallivanting around the world? Look at cheap destinations, find flight deals, and ask about staying with people you know. If you don’t have the money, you can work a temporary job before taking off for your vacation.

Option 4: Move Back Home

Maybe you’re tired. You just want to relax now that you’re finally done and take a mental break from study notes, teaching assistants, and exam questions. A familiar face is just what you need.

Moving back home is a good option if you’re looking to turn your brain off for a while and build some much-needed stamina. If you’re able to take a break and have a staycation, you’ll be able to breathe for a while and figure out exactly what direction you’ll take after your break. You can also save money by living at home.

However, you should consider your goals. Once you’ve put on the brakes, it’s easy to stay parked and not move again. Have an exit strategy for when you’re ready to leave. You’ll want to give yourself a time frame, and your parents will likely want you to have one, too. When do you want to be out on your own? You’ll have to have a game plan once you get there. Why exactly did you go to school? What’s next? Answering these questions will ensure that you stay motivated after your break.

Option 5: Help Someone Else

You didn’t pursue higher education to party in another country or to laze around at home! You went to school so you could better yourself. With a little work, you could help to better the world, too.

Volunteering is a good option if you want to give back. You can volunteer locally to give back to your community or volunteer abroad to better the world one step at a time. Helping other people is rewarding, and it’s always a good idea to volunteer if you can. You’ll also be able to add to any qualifications you need for job hunting with the appropriate volunteer work, so say hello to an improved resume.

However, you should consider your financial situation. While it’s nice to volunteer, it’s not always possible if you’re broke. You might want to consider working part-time while you volunteer so you can support yourself. If all else fails, living at home might help you to pursue your goal of volunteering, so say thank you to your accommodators and continue improving the lives of those around you!

Option 6: Pursue a Dream

You’ve got an idea in the back of your mind, a dream you’ve had for a long time but have never had the time to pursue. There’s nothing stopping you now!

Pursuing a dream is a good option if you want to cross a goal off your list. Now’s the perfect time for you to chase that dream you’ve always had. Whether you’ve always wanted to write a novel, be in a movie, get in shape, learn how to sword fight, or bowl a perfect 300, now is your chance! You have the time and the freedom to follow that dream of yours, and you’ll love yourself for using that time and freedom so wisely.

However, you should consider your financial situation. If you can’t afford to buy sword-fighting equipment or spend all your time at the bowling alley, your dream may have to wait until you can advance your professional career. The good news is that you can always pursue a dream after work hours, so don’t give up just yet!

Conclusion

Deciding what to do after graduation is a lot of pressure, but it should be exciting. After all, you’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and you’ve finally done it. Now that the celebrating’s over, it’s time to remember why you did it.

Image source: Juan Ramos/Unsplash.com, Steve Richey/Unsplash.com 

How to Write a Resume

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How to Get a Scholarship Using Facebook

How to Get a Scholarship

Scholarship Aid College Education Loan Money ConceptYou’ve been accepted to university. You’ve already envisioned the posters you’ll hang up in your dorm room; your iPod is stocked with a mix of Dave Matthews Band and EDM tunes; you’ve cleaned Costco out of its entire supply of Red Bull and ramen noodles—and then the tuition bill comes. Cue the flood of questions about how to get a scholarship.

Your guidance counselor hands you a stack of scholarship application forms, and you groan. With so many people applying for the same treasure troves of shining financial aid, what chance do you have?

What can you do to give your application that extra advantage, so you can breeze into university with enough change in your pocket to order your first 3 a.m. pad thai?

The answer is right in front of you. In fact, you’ve been clicking over to it while reading this very article (for shame!). You’ve got carpal tunnel from frantically “liking” your friends’ posts left and right. Oh yes, you’ve got it. The answer is Facebook.

The truth is that scholarship reviewers are now going beyond applications and transcripts to determine who is best suited for financial assistance. Facebook is an easy and effective way to get an inside view of the applicant’s public image and whether he or she displays the values and qualities desired by a particular fund or institution.

Think of it as your first interview; your Facebook profile is your chance to show your reviewer a bit about who you are as a person, what you’re passionate about, and how well you fit what the reviewer is looking for. Follow these three steps to transform your Facebook account into a scholarship magnet.

Step 1: Purge.

We’ve all heard the cautionary tales—restaurant servers being fired for posting pictures of customers and commenting profanely on their rude behavior; teachers being dismissed for photos (even private ones!) that depict them drinking; a nun was even kicked out of a convent for spending too much time on Facebook! As a general rule, inappropriate material, such as party photos, insensitive comments, offensive language, and even just a generally negative attitude, won’t look good to a potential scholarship evaluation team.

Don’t forget that, even if your recent posts and photos are the picture of wholesomeness, viewers can access your shared content from years ago with just one click.

The solution? Delete. You may look incredible in that keg-stand photo (doubtful), and that rant about your teacher may have some of the cleverest wording ever known to the literary world, but get rid of them. They’re not worth missing out on that scholarship.

What might seem harmless could also taint someone’s idea of you:

  • Applying to a liberal organization but your favorite book is The Fountainhead? Something doesn’t quite add up.
  • Trying for a prestigious scholarship but all your “liked” movies are of the Jackass variety? You’ll need more luck than Johnny Knoxville did when he faced that charging bull while blindfolded.

In all your posts, strive to present a consistent, positive, and professional public image, and you can’t go wrong!

Step 2: Streamline.

Research what personal qualities and experiences are asked for in this scholarship. Use Facebook’s extra features to your advantage: “like” relevant pages or even books and movies that show up in the left bar.

Are you applying for a scholarship from a particular institution or organization? Find their Facebook page and “like” it.

Upload photos or other proof of your activities that reflect the kind of extracurriculars or skills that the scholarship looks for.

Step 3: Engage in positive activity.

Now that you’ve removed all negative content and have updated your page to reflect the kind of person that scholarship committees are seeking, it’s time to establish a positive online presence. Your reviewers will want to see that you’re active in your community and have a continued presence in your fields of interest. Regularly post positive content that lets your personality sparkle.

This is your chance to make yourself memorable, so use it!

Rather than trying to hide your Facebook account (like these students who adopted names like Samwise Gams, FunkMaster Floikes, and Lizzie McGuire on their social media accounts), let it work for you. It might just be what your scholarship application needs to stand out from the stack.

The final thing you must be aware of when using Facebook to help you get a scholarship is the quality of your posts. If grammar and spelling are not your forte, it might not be a bad idea to have a friend or a proofreading company look over your social media posts before you send them. This will give reviewers extra assurance that you care about details and how you are perceived.

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The Best Software for Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing Software

Collaborative Writing SoftwareWorking on a team is necessary for success in virtually any professional scenario. You might be a business professional collaborating on a project with your colleagues. Or perhaps you’re an academic writer who is working on an article with your peers, hoping to submit it to a field-specific journal. In these scenarios, you need the ability to communicate effectively with your team to ensure the project goals are met on time.

Easier said than done, right? A team’s ability to accommodate conflicting schedules and differing perspectives is an art form, a tenuous balancing act.

To further complicate things, members of the team might be working from separate locations, whether that means different cities or different continents. This certainly complicates what can be an already convoluted process. It is difficult enough to ensure that group members communicate effectively. But when the members of the team are working from remote locations, it is even more crucial to implement systems and methods to improve the lines of communication and optimize interaction within the group.

Many professionals and academics work remotely on collaborative writing projects. Here’s the thing: there is nothing more confusing than sending out multiple versions of a document via email with revisions from each team member. Keeping track of a document’s version history is bound to hit a snag with this editing/revision process.

Collaborative writing software to the rescue! Software for collaborative writing allows multiple individuals to engage in the virtual, real-time writing and editing of a document. Many types of collaborative writing software are out there, each providing unique features, pricing options, layouts, and degrees of complexity. Of course, the ideal collaborative writing software depends on the specific project, as well as the price and complexity required by the user.

Collaborative Writing Software: The Best of the Best

1) Google Docs

When you hear “software for collaborative writing,” does Google Docs come to mind first? If so, it’s easy to see why. Google Docs is the prevailing software solution for this task. Multiple collaborators can simultaneously compose and edit a document. The keyword here is simultaneously: those who have access to a document on Google Docs are able to work at the same time and view the changes that other collaborators are making. What’s more, Google Docs is free to use, and any changes made to a document are saved automatically.

Prior to opening a file on Google Docs, users can either select a blank document or use one of several templates (essay, letter, lesson plan, report, etc.). Contributors can provide comments that are linked to specific portions of the text, and other collaborators may respond to the issues/concerns raised in these comments. Google Docs also sends emails to contributors when a file is shared with them. In addition, files can be exported in .pdf, .doc/.docx, or .odt format.

While Google Docs is one of the major contenders among collaborative writing software, it is not open source. Furthermore, the ability to track a document’s version history is limited, and documents tend to lag and become less responsive when many individuals are writing/editing at once.

2) Etherpad

In contrast to Google Docs, Etherpad is an open-source software for collaborative writing that allows multiple users to compose and edit documents. Etherpad is available for Windows and Mac/Linux systems, and it is ideal for recording collaborative minutes or brainstorming with colleagues. Etherpad color-codes the contributions made by different authors, and the changes that have been made to a document over time can be recorded and played back for review. Therefore, the ability to track versions of a document is more robust in Etherpad than in Google Docs.

Once the document is complete, the color-coded changes are integrated into the text to produce a more appealing, professional format. Etherpad is ideal for those who do not want to dish out an outrageous monthly payment. This resource is free, though donations are encouraged. The main downside to Etherpad is that users may be limited in their ability to include footnotes, figures, or images with their text.

3) Draft

Draft is a type of collaborative writing software that enables several collaborators to work with and edit a single document. The changes are not immediately integrated into the text, however. Instead, a new version of the document is produced every time a contributor’s changes are accepted.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside, as only the original author of the document can accept or reject other contributors’ changes.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside: only the original author of the document can accept or reject these changes. The original document is updated only when these changes are accepted.

Users must create an online account prior to using this software. Draft is unique in that it prepares analytics of an individual’s writing habits, such as the number of words produced by a writer per week. And, as with Etherpad, Draft is free.

4) Quip

Quip is a writing software suite that encourages teams to collaborate more efficiently. Members of a project team can work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets, and checklists.

Quip Logo New

Quip provides a comment thread to facilitate interactions between collaborators as they work on a file. Users receive notifications of any changes that other collaborators have made to the document. What’s notable about Quip are the multiple platforms on which the software is supported (Mac, Windows, Android, iPhones, iPads, or online). Quip is also designed to be ideal for a mobile environment. While the business version of Quip requires regular payments (a free trial of Quip Business is available), a free version also exists.

5) Dropbox Paper

Though Dropbox has always been a great tool for sharing Word documents and file folders with multiple users, it has recently improved its capabilities for collaborative writing by introducing Dropbox Paper, a cloud-based software for editing.

This application can only be accessed online through a Dropbox account. In order to access Dropbox Paper (which is still in beta), users must first join a waitlist to receive an invitation to use the application. Project members can work together on a single document, with contributions from different users marked by colored cursors. Yet Dropbox Paper offers only three fonts and basic formatting options (underline, bold, strikethrough, and italics), which certainly limits your editing capabilities.

Dropbox Paper is ideal for managing a project because users can create to-do lists and notify team members of a task that requires completion.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—the best software for collaborative writing. For those in academic or professional environments, working with group members from different locations is a reality. And though virtual group interactions can be complicated, these tools will help you avoid the cumbersome, hopelessly frustrating, sending-edits-via-email form of collaboration once and for all!

Image source: DesignCue/Stocksnap.io

Effective Business Communication

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27 Presentation Tips: How to Create and Give an Engaging Presentation

Presentation Tips

Everyone has had the experience of sitting through a bad presentation. Those are the presentations where the lights go down, the audience is faced with slides filled with text, the speaker begins by reading each slide, and the room fills with the sounds of snoring. No one sets out to give a bad presentation, but you can set out to give a good one. If you follow these 27 presentation tips, the sounds that you hear at your next presentation are sure to be clapping, not snoring!

Here are 27 presentation tips that will help take your presentation from bad to good.

How to Structure Your Presentation

1. Create an appealing cover slide.

The opening cover slide is often overlooked, but it plays an important role in setting the tone and style for your whole presentation. Use a captivating graphic on your cover slide to catch your audience’s attention.

2. Keep it short and sweet.

If you keep your presentation short, it will be easier for the audience to remember the important information. Bombarding people with information just confuses them. Besides, no one has ever complained a presentation was too short!

3. Follow the “Rule of Three.”

Steve Jobs was a master communicator and presenter. One of the things that made him so effective was that he followed the rule of three in his presentations. To follow the rule of three, make sure that your presentation touches on three major ideas. You can then use stories, graphics, examples, and analogies to elaborate on these three ideas.

4. Use a maximum of ten slides.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule is that a maximum of 10 slides should be given in 20 minutes, and the size of the text on each slide should be no less than 30 point. Following Kawasaki’s rule forces you to make sure that the information provided on each slide is necessary; it also forces you to explain your slides.

5. Use slides to clarify points.

Slides are there to reinforce your message. Do not let them carry the entire message. You should also avoid reading the slides directly or using them as a crutch.

6. Design your own template.

Consider designing your own template by following some of the steps given on various websites, or purchase a template. This will allow you to create the theme that is best suited to your presentation. Audiences have seen the common PowerPoint templates time and time again, so give them something different to look at. The extra effort that you take in creating something unique will pay off in helping to maintain audience attention.

7. Make sure that your content is correct.

Edit and proofread your slides to make sure that the spelling and grammar is perfect. No one wants to look at a slide that has a spelling mistake on it, and no one will trust the opinion of someone whose presentation is riddled with errors.

8. Make sure that your presentation flows from one slide to the next.

Smooth transitions can help your presentation to flow easily from one idea to the next and from one slide to the next. You do not necessarily have to use fancy style transitions, but you can use verbal clues to tell your audience what is coming up on the next slide—and why they need to know!

9. Summarize.

There is an old public speaking tip that says to tell the audience what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Presentations should follow this same format. Prepare your audience for what is coming, and then use the body of your presentation to tell them your three major points (refer to tip #3). Use your last slide to summarize your presentation and remind the audience about key points they might have already forgotten.

10. Consider using other types of presentations.

Instead of PowerPoint, consider alternatives such as Prezi, Easel.ly, or SlideRocket, which are available on the Internet. Using a different type of presentation may not only inspire you to stretch your creativity, but it may also inspire your audience.

How to Make Your Slides Aesthetically Pleasing

11. Don’t put too much information on one slide.

Try to keep your slides clutter-free and full of blank space. Don’t include too much text. A good rule of thumb is 30–40 words per slide.

12. Be concise.

According to a 2015 study by Microsoft Canada, the average human attention span is eight seconds, which is less than the attention span of a goldfish (nine seconds)! You need to be clear and get your point across quickly before your audience zones out. Don’t use clichés—even though you should “think outside the box,” for instance, your audience has heard that tired cliché hundreds of times before. Make sure that the text on your slides is meaningful to your presentation.

13. Use appropriate fonts and sizes.

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman and Garamond, are easy to read at smaller sizes, but the serifs are often lost on a large screen. Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial and Franklin Gothic, work well for presentations. Consider using unusual fonts (within reason) to keep the audience’s interest. You can download fonts from DaFont, 1001 Free Fonts, and other font downloading sites. Just be sure that the font does not make your text difficult to read. Remember tip #4: Use nothing smaller than a 30-point font size. Keep in mind that, if you use a smaller font and the audience can see your slide, you will quickly be out of sync with them because they can read faster than you can talk.

14. Use color.Font and Color Examples

Different colors evoke different emotions. For example, red is associated with passion and urgency, blue is calming and evokes tranquility, orange conveys energy and warmth, and green is associated with nature and the environment, while black is heavy and formal. Warm colors, such as red and orange, can be used to highlight, while cooler colors can be used in the background. You should also make sure that the colors complement each other.

For the audience to be able to see the text, it must contrast with the background color. For example, use a dark green background with white text or a light blue background with black text. Accent colors are used for emphasis and should be used sparingly. No matter what color combination you choose for your presentation, make sure that you use it consistently.

15. Use high-quality graphics.

Do not use blurry pictures, overly familiar clip art, or eye-roll-inducing stock photos. Try to use images the audience may not have seen before by searching for fresh new photos on such sites as Unsplash and Pixabay. Remember that using no photo or graphic is better than using a bad one.

How to Make Your Presentation Memorable

16. Be passionate about your topic.

Whether you are giving a presentation on the different types of sandpaper or the truth factor in urban myths, you should be able to speak passionately about your topic. If you speak about what you love and know well, your passion will encourage the audience to tune into your presentation.

17. Know your audience.

When you know the background of your audience—in other words, what they know and what they need to know—you can structure your presentation to meet these needs. In turn, the audience will be more interested in what you have to say.

18. Involve the audience.

The easiest way to involve your audience is to ask questions. However, no one wants to ask a question and have no one raise their hand to answer. Try asking general questions, such as “How many people watch videos on YouTube?” Involving the audience helps you connect with them.

19. Include stories.

Stories are easy for the audience to remember; listeners tend to experience the story as it is being told. A good story will also elicit an emotional response in listeners and motivate them to act. Make sure that the story fits the context of your presentation (i.e., has a purpose) and is relevant to the audience.

How to Present and Keep Your Nerves in Check

20. Practice, practice, practice.

If you know your material, you are less likely to read slides and more likely to look at the audience. You will also feel more confident.

21. Transform your nerves into enthusiasm.

Everyone enjoys listening to an enthusiastic speaker. If you speak animatedly, your audience will be inclined to pay attention to you.

22. Take some calming breaths.

Take a deep breath before you begin presenting. This may help calm your nerves.

23. Smile and maintain eye contact.

Never turn your back on your audience. Another good hint is to stand to the left of the screen. In this way, your audience can look at you and sweep their eyes over the screen.

24. Make sure to show your personality.

Steve Jobs was a great presenter because he let his personality shine through. Don’t feel that, just because you’re giving a formal presentation, you must stifle everything that makes you unique. Your personality is what makes you interesting, engaging, and relatable; infuse that into your presentation.

25. Put your game face on.

Athletes and performers know that the key to a great performance is to pump themselves up during the pre-game or pre-show warm-up. You need to pump yourself up too. You can run in place, do some stretches, or practice one more time—do what you have to do to get ready. And then, as Nike™ always says: Just do it!

26. Have fun!

It may be counterintuitive, but if you know that you have prepared well and have a great-looking presentation, you should realize that you have done your best. Use that knowledge to relax and enjoy the experience. You can also use humor to joke with the audience and make it fun for everyone.

27. Thank the audience for listening.

To conclude your presentation and to cue your audience that your presentation is finished, you can thank them for listening and participating. People appreciate being appreciated. Remember that you can also include a final slide that thanks the audience and provides your contact information.

Conclusion

There is no magic formula that you can apply to a presentation to make it great, but if you follow these 27 tips, you should be able to present a memorable, stress-free presentation.

Image source: Davide Ragusa/Unsplash.com

GrammarCamp

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6 Things to Learn Outside the Classroom During University

University Life

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: most of what you learn in university you’ll learn outside the classroom.

Sure, the research professor you’ve spoken to twice is going to fill a great spot on your reference list. And, okay, I guess it is kind of nice to have a degree so you can do the thing you want to do for the rest of your life.

But the lessons learned about Anglo-Saxon coins in your Old English class will pale in comparison to the moment when you realize that your Old English professor is actually cooler than anybody else in the class. (Thanks for the pub night, M.J.)

In the end, the things you remember about university life will almost always occur outside of the classroom. Here’s a list of things to learn outside of the classroom during your university career.

1. Who to go to when you need help

So, you had a terrible day. It’s inevitable. You failed your midterm, you missed the bus, or you got splashed by a car on the way home. Maybe it’s even worse, like the guy you were seeing won’t answer your texts, your brother is in the hospital, or you feel desperately homesick. You need to vent.

Christmas CatBut your roommate is busy complaining about a ten-page research paper that’s due in the morning. Your parents aren’t answering your calls. (Why doesn’t Mom ever charge her phone?) Even the cat that used to visit your house is nowhere to be seen (just because you tried to dress him up like Santa for Christmas that one time . . .).

Where do you go?

It’s important to learn who to go to when you need help. Go to your friend who will always listen, not the one that’s always too busy to hang out. If that’s not enough, there are endless resources that nobody talks about. Most schools have student health services, and most will be happy to book an appointment for you. Even if there’s a waiting list, they should be able to provide you with a helpline or a group class.

Use every resource you can get your hands on. Book a yoga class. Try meditating at home. Keep a journal. Just know that you are never alone and that somebody, somewhere, will be able to help you.

2. What to do when you don’t know what to do

“Oh no, I should have taken biology. Why the heck am I a double major in vocals and political science?” This battle cry of confused students can be heard in schools everywhere. This is bigger than academics—this is your entire life! What do you do when you don’t know what to do? How do you decide?

Flip a coin. (No, I’m joking. Sort of.)

Make a list of everything you like to do. Make a list of everything you’re good at. Cross out anything that won’t support you financially.

Do you not have a list anymore? Welcome to adulthood.

Again, I’m joking!

Here’s the real secret: very few of us actually know what we’re doing. Anybody with a plan is really just hoping that plan will actually work out. Most people with a career path had a simple passion and chose a related field.

Nobody gets through four years of vocals and political science without some sort of desire to do so. Maybe you love something in there. Maybe you’re good at something in one of those fields. Maybe you thought you’d make a fortune being the world’s first operatic lawyer.

If not, then it’s time to regroup. Pick something you love, that you’re good at, or that will make you financially stable. If your choice happens to fit more than one of those categories, then great!

In the end, you might choose a path that you’re not totally certain about. Could it hurt you in the future? Might you regret your choice? Sure, of course. Eventually, though, you’ll just have to flip a coin. If all else fails, at least you tried something, and you won’t know you don’t like it unless you try it first.

Aha! Your mother was right all along. So maybe you will like broccoli when you get older. You just have to give it a chance.

3. When you’ve reached your limit

It might be drinking an entire mini-keg yourself on St. Patty’s Day. Or it might be taking on five classes, four clubs, three roommates, two part-time jobs, and the meanest professor in the world (in other words, the worst version of The 12 Days of Christmas ever). Either way, you’re going to wake up regretting biting off more than you can chew.

Recognizing your limit is the sign of being a grown-up. If you don’t think you can handle four clubs and two part-time jobs on top of all of your classes, drop something. Drop three things. Do whatever you need to do to stay happy and healthy. You are not Superman (and you don’t need that whole bottle of wine to yourself).

4. Where to get anything and everything cheaper

Surprise! It will often feel like your school wants to take all of your money. (I know, don’t fall over in shock.) Sometimes, the bursar’s office can feel like that bully on the school ground that shakes you by your shoes even though you only have three dollars. Just take my three dollars, and leave me alone, right?!

Used BooksWrong! Those are your three dollars. Yours. Spend them like they are magic beans.

Plant one in your local used bookstore and find your course books cheaper than a box of Ramen. The owner has probably already set up a bookshelf containing everything on your syllabus because he or she is expecting your arrival. Plant one in an off-campus clinic to get a discount on medication prices for students (and beauty products that are cheaper than the ones on campus). Plant one in a shared Netflix account with your roommates. Sure, you could just give them your password, but if you all split it, you’ll only pay a fraction, and you’ll get more magic beans in return to spend elsewhere.

See? Now you’re working the system. Time to climb that beanstalk!

5. Why your ridiculous roommate does the things he/she does

Maybe your roommate showers ten times a day. Or uses an entire roll of toilet paper every time he goes to the bathroom. Or refuses to share his frying pan with you and only speaks on the phone at three in the morning. Maybe she’s never held a broom, takes a cab everywhere she goes, and, you swear, only slams the cupboard doors to make you angry.

It’s so annoying that you can barely focus on anything else. You tell your mom about her antics every day. You and your roommates are going absolutely mad, and nobody knows what to do. She does all these terrible things!

But do you know why?

One of my past roommates was from a place where cleanliness was very important. She could only make phone calls late at night because of time zone differences. She cabbed everywhere because, back at home, it wasn’t safe to walk at night.

Okay, there’s no need to use an entire roll of toilet paper or scream so loudly on the phone. Still, understanding why somebody can be so frustrating is the first step to forgiveness. (Closing the cupboard doors more gently wouldn’t hurt anybody, though. Just talk to her about it!)

6. How to thrive looking less-than-cool

You’ll never have more fun than the time you wear a light-up Rudolph nose out to the bar for Christmas or the time that you and your roommates dress up as giant birthday bags for Halloween (even when the costumes melt off in the rain). Looking like an absolute fool is the first step to having an excellent time all throughout university, guaranteed.

People will stare at you. People will talk about you and roll their eyes and make faces. Guess what? It’s because they’re mad that they’re not having as much fun as you are. Ask them if they want to join you! If not, just keep doing you. That Rudolph nose your roommate bought you at the dollar store is going to be carefully stored with your other prized possessions, and nothing anybody says can ever destroy the fun you had that night.

So go to everything you can, and try to be the most ridiculous person there.

The guy who gives out Mardi Gras beads at the bar, the Stormtrooper riding a unicycle on the busiest street in the city, and the girl with the giant horse painted on her face at the big football game? Those people are always the ones that have the most fun.

Conclusion

Truly taking care of yourself during this wild time in your life is important. In the end, only you know what it is that will help you. If dressing up your roommate’s cat as Santa will bring you Christmas cheer, then it’s just going to have to deal with the jingle bells.

What’s important is that your university life be a series of ridiculous moments that you remember for the rest of your life.

Don’t focus only on classes, or you won’t notice when a life lesson speeds by you on a unicycle.

Image source: thelester/Pixabay.com, Henry Lorenzatto/Stocksnap.io, Freddie Marriage/Stocksnap.io

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps