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Dos and Don'ts of formal writing and MLA

Review of common errors made in formal writing and MLA errors

Bryna McCall

on 14 November 2012

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Transcript of Dos and Don'ts of formal writing and MLA

Formal Writing &
MLA Common Errors Works Cited Sheet McCall adds, "Many college students return to share that they have been more than prepared for college thanks to that term paper."
*No page number or name since the name is mentioned in the signal phrase and it is a source without page numbers (web pages/databases.) Reverse Indentation
Double-Space the Entire Page
Include MLA Header with New Page Number MLA Citation Quotes need to have a signal phrase that introduces the speaker.

The first time, you must give the speaker validity if it is a researcher.

Bryna McCall, author of article "Teaching the Term Paper Blues," Writes, "The term paper is a challenge for most students, but they will be very grateful that we have asked them to endure this torture" (15). Web sources do not have page numbers.

Citation should follow with a page number unless it is a web source - sometimes there will not be a citation.

The first time that you introduce any character, author, or researcher, you must include a full name and descriptor. After, you may use the last name (or the character name alone). Incorporating Part of a Quote Partial Sentence Quotation:
Use only as much of the quotation as you need. This example is based on the following quotation from William Faulkner's short story
"A Rose for Emily":

"Alive, she was a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).

•Correct: Miss Emily Grierson was "a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237). Signal Phrases Full Sentence Quotation: A quotation that is a full sentence in length is set off either with a signal phrase or with an introductory sentence.

Example: John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Example: As John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Elipses Ellipsis: If you need to omit material from the middle of a quotation, use an ellipsis,
which is indicated by three spaced dots (. . . ). The plural of “ellipsis” is “ellipses."

With few exceptions, you should not use ellipses at the beginning and end of a quotation.
According to the Chicago Manual of Style , ellipses are typically
not used at the beginning or end of a quotation
unless the quotation begins "with a capitalized word (such as a proper name)
that did not appear at the beginning of a sentence in the original."

• Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson
was “ . . . a hereditary obligation on the town . . .” (Faulkner 237).

• Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson
was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237). Dropped Quotes:
A BIG "No-No!" Although Tan's characters are very weak at times, ultimately they have an inner strength that helps them to survive. "Tan's women have a history of oppression, in the end they often find an inner strength to fight for their daughters' future life as independent women" (Smith 23).
*Quotes cannot begin and end the sentence - some sort of signal phrase or explanatory information is needed in the same sentence. Italicizing vs. Quoting Shorter pieces of works are quoted (article titles, chapters) but longer/larger works are italicized (anthology titles, books, databases). Be sure to proofread for this in resource information and throughout your paper.

Article title: "The use of Allegory in George Orwell's Animal Farm"
*Italicize the novel title.

Quotes within quotes: "The Importance of Imagery in George Orwell's Essay 'Shooting an Elephant'" What Makes a Reliable Resource? Is the person (or organization) a specialist or professional in his or her field? Has the source been reviewed by others in the field who recognize it as reliable material (published)? Avoid SparkNotes, Schmoop.com, Wiki, work completed for a class, etc. Experience is Key! Final Copy Standard
and Other "No-Nos" of Formal Writing If it's not a personal essay, then avoid "I" and "me." You may only use "us" and "we" when discussing "us" and "we" as a society, not the reader. Avoid contractions
or abbreviations of any kind such as "can't," "don't," dates, and "etc." "YOU"
is the Enemy.
Who the heck is "you"? Periods and commas go inside closing quotes UNLESS it's at the end of a sentence and there is a citation.

There were several uses of the word "you," but I corrected them.
My favorite number is "ten."
The narrator describes, "Jane slowly opened the letter since she was afraid that the news would change her life forever" (Austen 67). Avoid "would," "could," and "should" if possible!
Avoid the "ing" tense (progressive tense) Use the Simple
Present Tense
When Discussing LIterature! How can you say what you need to say more directly and in fewer words?

Use Stronger vocabulary!
Avoid cliche's, slang, and casual language.
For example, instead of "puts up with," use"tolerates" or "endures." Be Concise! *The key is to avoid writing the way that you speak to a friend or in casual conversation.
Choose your words carefully. Do not use parentheses in formal writing. If it's important enough to include in the sentence, then incorporate it into the actual sentence. Avoid Parentheses! Always Remember Your Reader! Don't assume that we have read the book or know the example.
Help us to follow you when you move from one point to the next - use strong transitional words and phrases. Fairy Tales: Quoted or Italicized?

The simple aswer is this: If the version that you read is part of a collection of stories in one book, then quote it. If the story is the actual book, then italicize it. *Stories found out of an actual hard copy source or are not in e-book form should be quoted. Use of Brackets When a quote is out of context and it is not clear to what a certain pronoun is referring, then clarify it for the reader by placing the specific information in brackets. Smith elaborates, "They [the animals] dring it [milk]
only to keep up their stength so that they can pursue
the welfare of all" (Owell 122).
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