As a college freshman, you’ll receive a jumble of advice that you’ll need to decipher fact from fable in order to navigate your way successfully through this foreign environment. Writing in college is part of that mythology. Here is a list of the 10 writing myths and the reality behind them.
1. More words are better than less.
Reality: People who will be reading your paper will appreciate you getting to the point. Avoid using ornate language and wordy sentences. While there may be times when you need to use topic-specific terms, you shouldn’t be spending your time looking up fancy words in the thesaurus.
2. Don’t start writing until you know exactly what you want to say.
Reality: By all means have an outline, but editing and revising are a natural part of the writing process. Getting your words down on paper before they’re perfect is a healthy way of honing your writing. Waiting until your ideas are perfect before you start will only create writer’s block and anxiety as your deadline looms closer while you stare at a blank page.
3. Don’t change your writing style.
Reality: While it is important to be authentic and bring your own views to your writing, you can vary your style to match your audience. If you’ve been told that this is “selling out”, it isn’t. Your paper will be graded based upon your ability to communicate. How you communicate will change based upon various characteristics of your readers. You do this in your daily life; writing in college is the same.
4. You can use the word “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun.
Reality: When writing in college, “he” is not considered correct usage to denote both genders.
5. Writing is a solitary act.
Reality: At the end of the day, you do need to write your own paper. However, writing involves other people along the way. Since writing is ultimately a social interaction, it is best if you talk over your ideas with others as you write, re-write, and revise, so you can get feedback about your ability to communicate your point of view effectively.
6. Good writers are born, not made.
Reality: There’s a saying in the writing community: “A writer writes.” While some people may have a certain pre-disposition to writing in college, you will acquire and sharpen your writing skills much like an athlete would, with practice.
7. The word limit set by professors is just a minimum.
Reality: No. The suggested word limit is just that. Do not exceed it. Most professors will mark your paper down if it exceeds their limit.
8. I shouldn’t let anyone proof my work.
Reality: Remember, Myth #5 above? It is always good to have someone else review your work. Just don’t get carried away and have three or four people involved. This will only result in a confusion of opinions.
9. You can’t end a sentence with a preposition.
Reality: Yes, you can. This myth is based on the inability of the Latin language to follow the construct. However, modern English has its own rules, so feel free to end a sentence with a preposition.
10. Following the proper citation format isn’t critical.
Reality: When you refer to works by other authors, it’s important that you cite them accurately so your reader can validate the references. The citation style will vary based upon the writing format given to you by your professor, whether APA, MLA, or another. To ensure that you don’t lose points for not following the proper guidelines, you can use formatting software for accuracy. Plus, using formatting software can save you time during the editing process so you can focus your attention on what matters most, the quality of the content of your college essay.
David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com
Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).