Chapter 6-5-1: Basic and Essential “Do’s and Don’ts”


When writing an academic paper, take note of the following peculiarities:

  • You must provide a title, without being asked. At this stage of the game, you are just expected to know that this is an essential part of any paper. What is more, your title must be informative—not artistic. A title such as "The Death of a Sentence" is a wonderfully artistic title, but it doesn't inform readers what the essay will be about. Instead, something such as "Death Sentences Fail to Dissuade People from Committing Murder" makes for a clear and informative title. Next, the title should resemble the thesis statement for the paper. Finally, English has special capitalization rules for titles that you should be aware of.

  • Contractions are not permitted: don’t do not use contractions in an academic essay.


Write a worthy introduction. It has a purpose. Use it to impart “real” information to your reader. Do not use the following overused, empty “filler” phrases (or anything that resembles them) anywhere in the introduction. What follows are examples of poor introductory sentences. The blank line represents your topic:

  • _______________ now occupies an increasingly important place in our everyday life.

  • _______________ is a hotly-debated topic. /// _______________ is now a subject of debate.

  • _______________ has been discussed a lot in the news recently.

  • _______________ has been making the headlines recently.

  • _______________ has come a long way (and it is not going to stop anytime soon).

  • _______________ is a controversial subject.

  • Within the topic of _______________, a lot of controversy exists.

  • A lot of controversy surrounds the notion of _______________

  • In our modern society, _______________

  • This debate is ongoing and there are arguments from both sides.

  • Nowadays, blah blah blah... /// These days, blah blah blah… /// Ever since ancient times, blah blah blah... /// Ever since the dawn of time, blah blah blah... /// Since early days, blah blah blah...

Things to Avoid

"This proves that..."
Avoid using the "this proves that" method for your clarification. Telling your readers that you've just "proved that" your proof supports your mini-claim does not help your reader understand how it supports it if they didn't understand it in the first place! A writer that uses this method demonstrates that they do not understand the true purpose of the clarification. Remember, your clarification is intended to help the "intelligent yet ignorant reader" have a second chance at understanding why your mini-claim makes sense.

"Obviously, ..."
Avoid telling readers that something is "obvious." Remember that the purpose of your paper is to educate, to instruct. If something is obvious, you should not be using up precious word count to tell your reader something they already know. Besides which, if your reader didn't understand your proof, you may be insulting them by telling them that it's "obvious." Things are not obvious to your intelligent-yet-uninformed reader.

"As stated earlier, ..."
Once again, word count is precious. Only tell your reader something once. Do not ever repeat yourself unless you're writing an extremely long essay or are summarizing in something like a conclusion.

"So-and-so says that..."
If you are quoting, citing, paraphrasing, or summarizing someone, avoid using the verb “to say” unless the person physically spoke. Instead, use words such as “According to X,” “As X observes,” “As X states,” “X agrees that…” “X argues that…” “X asserts that…” “X claims that…” “X comments that…” “X concludes that…” “X contends that…” “X maintains that…” “X notes that” “X proposes…” “X reports…” “X states that…”

Speculative language
Avoid speculative and tentative statements in argumentative/persuasive presentations, also known as hedges. Authors should present ideas with a certain degree of solidity in these types of texts. Regarding claims and mini-claims (assertions), writers should word their texts strongly. In the case of support such as details, proof, substantiation or clarification, authors should avoid hedging. Instead, they should provide tangible information.

Depending on the context, some keywords that suggest speculation is occurring in a presentation are: may, might, could, would, should, suggest, indicate, speculate, believe, assume, appear, seem, infer, deduce, likely, probable, possible, probably, possibly, perhaps, generally, possibility, and suggestion.

Maintaining this website requires alerts and feedback from the students that use it when they see a problem or have a suggestion.

Attribution information for this page: Jamie BridgePageID: eslid79430Page keywords: