January 15, 2017
Sitting at your desk and can’t seem to get started on an essay that is due in a couple of days? One of the problems you could be having is probably right in your syllabus. You know, that piece of paper that you get when you get to your first class of the semester?
New college students may not be used to these papers, but any most that have been through the hoops can tell you that, if you are having trouble in an English class with an essay that you don’t understand, begin with the syllabus, the directions, and your notes.
Following the Professors lead
As your class develops, many English professors are giving you hints along the way of what they love about the papers they assign. If there are notes on the board, these are notes they have written repeatedly for years, and you can almost count on these notes being a part of what they want from your paper. So, take notes.
Look around you in class. Anyone that is not taking notes is not going to do well on a paper. Unless they have one of those pens that record everything. Warning, if you use one of these ask your professor first if it is okay to record them. It is unethical to record anyone without their approval.
Professors are Human too
They may seem like they are from out of space by knowing so much information without looking in a book, but professors are just as human as the rest of us. When writing essays, they are looking for originality of thought from their students. They sit and read hundreds of papers a semester, give them something that puts a smile on their face.
Give them something to think about that they have not thought of. It can get redundant reading the same thing repeatedly that comes from just looking stuff up on Wikipedia. Many professors will not accept anything from Wiki, so be prepared for low grades if you are in the habit of doing so.
Be mindful of the following when writing your papers:
- Did your professor indicate they want numbered pages? You need to put them anyway, and it will be good to put your name at the heading of each page in case pages get separated.
- Did your professor indicate a certain font? Depending on the class that the paper is for you may be able to get cute with your font, but for many literature classes they will indicate what they prefer. Stick to the suggestion, professors can get anal about formatting.
When you want your professor to love your essays, give them good grammar to read. This has got to be the most important of all ways to get good grades on your papers. Try this. Type in Google or your favorite search engine “worst grammar mistakes” and you will see why grammar errors are a professor’s pet peeve.
The one thing about grammar errors is that you can prevent them by reading over your material after you are done. I read over mine twice and still come up with errors. One or two errors can be overlooked, although marked with the dreaded red pen, but tons of errors are just a pain in the, well you know.
Buy the suggested grammar books and do not sell them back when the semesters are over. You will need them the rest of your academic career. As a matter of fact, you will need them in your secular life also.
The most common errors are the following:
- Comma placement (I am a total comma clown. I put them everywhere in the wrong places. Be careful with commas they are sneaky little buggers.)
- Run on sentences are a big problem when writing essays. There was a time that I would have joined these two sentences, wrong!
- Subject-verb agreement can drive you crazy. In college I often had trouble with this aspect of grammar. Just remember, if it is a singular subject, it must be a singular verb. Keep the same thing in mind for them if they are plural. They must always agree.
- Commas missing when introducing text. A comma after an introduction gives your reader time to pause so they can understand what you are saying.
If you truly want to get an A on your papers, concentrate on structure, the directions that were given, and take notes each class. If you find that you are having trouble after trying these suggestions, make an appointment with your professor. The more you meet with him/her before the paper is due, the better the paper will be.