We have reached the last day of courses for the spring semester, which also means we have reached the last day that the Baylor University Writing Center will be open. We’ll pause here to give you a minute to ugly cry.
Thank you for your deep emotional investment. Now dash away those tears, because we can still help you even if we aren’t open for appointments! Below you will find a list of 5 resources and tips to help you navigate your final papers with such ease, you’ll think one of our consultants was sitting on your shoulder whispering sweet suggestions in your ear. You’ve got this; you possess all the tools needed to write those papers and submit them with confidence!
- Citations and formatting: One of the most stressful elements of writing a paper can be figuring out how to comply with the formatting and citation guidelines prescribed by your professor, especially if it’s a new style guide to you. STEM majors are always perplexed by ENG 1310’s MLA guidelines, just like Humanities majors want to cry when their PSYC 101 professor requires APA formatting. Style guides remind us that we’re all human, y’all. But don’t worry! Here is a link to Purdue Online Writing Lab’s (affectionately known as Purdue OWL) guides to the three most common styles. They have really helpful resources. We recommend looking at sample papers of each style, as just reading instructions doesn’t always make visualization easy.
- MLA: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html
- APA: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
- Chicago/Turabian: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/chicago_manual_of_style_17th_edition.html
- Grammar and spelling: While the UWC’s main purpose is to help you develop higher order skills when it comes to your writing (such as awareness of audience, thesis statements, logical structure, etc), we recognize that concerns about grammar and spelling remain close to students’ hearts when it comes to feeling confident in their writing. To this end, many students find tools like Grammarly helpful, but even Microsoft Word’s spell and grammar check is a great start! See those red and blue squiggle lines on your essay? Right click on one to figure out if it’s an error you need to address, or just that Microsoft Word refuses to recognize that “fantabulous” is a real word in your dictionary.
- Read your paper aloud: If you have ever been to the UWC, you know that we always ask you to read your work aloud. And if you’ve ever been to the UWC, you know that this may be the most valuable editing tool. Our eyes are trained to skim and skip (think how quickly you scroll through your Insta feed…); in fact, you’re probably skimming this article right now! Skimming is a great tool, but not when you’re editing a paper. Slow down, read aloud, and force yourself to pay attention to each word. Odds are you’ll catch both spelling and grammar errors, identify repetition (when you realize you’ve said the same thing aloud 5 times, maybe it’s time to cut or consult a thesaurus), pick up on awkward wording, and realize abrupt paragraph transition. Do yourself a favor: read that paper aloud!
- Underline topic sentences: You know how everyone online has been posting thirst traps about their new knitting habit or their exhorbitant scrapbooking endeavors? Now it’s your turn! Pull out those highlighters and sticky tabs and start marking your topic sentences! Why do this? Well, you may find that some paragraphs have no topic sentences at all, some have multiple topic sentences, and others have a topic sentence but one that comes at the end of the paragraph instead of the beginning. Get crafty with those papers!
- Reverse outlining: This is one of our most popular strategies at the UWC. Reverse outlining is where you read through each paragraph and try to condense it down to one condensed sentence. If you can’t, you clearly need to split the paragraph up so that each point can have it’s own real estate. Once you’ve done this with each paragraph, read each condensed sentence in order. Is there a logic to the progression? Should your points be rearranged? Is there a gap in your reasoning? These are all things that add up to big points on an essay grade, so go ahead and take the time to get cozy with your content.
We could go on and on, but we know you’d stop reading. Do you have any tried and true editing techniques? Share them below, we’d love to hear about them! Regardless, know that we are thinking of you all as you wrap up this weird semester and all that that entails. Good luck on your final projects, best wishes on your summer, and to our wonderful graduating seniors, our prayers and hopes go with you!
From everyone at Baylor UWC, we bid you a fond farewell and look forward to serving you again in the fall! (PSA: we will have limited summer hours for online appointments, so if you are taking summer classes, we will still be around to help J)