Writing With Substance: You Can Haz it! SRSLY!

Knowing "Teh Rulz" (insofar as there are any)

Why does that say "teh"? Shouldn't that say "the," since "teh" isn't actually a word? 

"Teh" is now a word because the internet and countless instances of typing without auto-correct has made it so. The "rules" change with time. And guess what else? There aren't actually all that many rules in academic writing that apply across all disciplines. 

ORLY, you say? Well, almost RLY. 

In addition to reminding you of the golden rule ("don't take credit for ideas or written material that somebody else produced/published"), I'll give you some basic guidelines for behaviors you should avoid or embrace that will be useful for most of your academic career as an undergraduate writer. You should, of course, always read the instructions provided for any specific writing assignment and discuss matters of form, style, and content with your professors before you submit written work in fulfillment of it.  

Below, I've written some very basic things you should try to avoid and other things you should aim to do. You'll forget them when you write, and I will probably write some of these same remarks in the margins of your essay (electronically) to remind you. 

We may add to these lists over the course of the semester. Strive to adhere to the items and defy them if you want.  

Try not to:
--use "things" or "a lot," especially if you can be more specific 
--generalize about people or situations
--use Passive constructions (often or at all)
--simply drop quotations in without incorporating them into your own prose
--forget citations or provide bad citations
--use repetitive diction, or, for that matter, repetitive structure/phrasing
--betray facile understanding or reveal poor research by using flawed logic or bad evidence
--make (many or any) common grammatical errors
--use slang, informal or colloquial diction, or contractions in formal academic prose
--rely on rhetorical or logical fallacies to make an argument
--to persuade your reader you are right by making overt appeals that you are correct or something is obvious or clear. I know this seems contrary to everything you've been told, but being "right" isn't really the goal of a college education. Instead, aim for being learned. Learned people are often right when they make arguments, but they didn't get there simply by adopting positions that are right. 

Try to:
--craft smooth transitions to move readers from point to point and to show that you've presented your material and ideas in a cohesive, coherent manner;
--provide your readers with a sense of what you intend to discuss and why it matters;
--use scholarly sources to support your claims with solid evidence
--think critically about non-scholarly sources and your use of them
--own your ideas and claims (which means using "I" in many cases)

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