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Guidelines for Written Assignments
Original â€œGuidelines for Term Papersâ€ By Dallas Brozik (2006)
Adapted by Christopher M. Cassidy (2007, 2011, 2019)
Written assignments are a necessary evil of college life. They exist to give the student an
opportunity to practice writing the types of reports that will be required by employers. The student
should make every effort to do a respectable job on any assignment, if for no other reason than the
skills acquired will be useful in later life. Those who cannot write will need to master other job skills,
like flipping burgers and cleaning toilets. What is common with many collegiate written assignments,
unfortunately, is the poor quality of the writing. While there is certainly room for the creative
expression of ideas, many students have not yet mastered the basics of written English. Sometimes it
is impossible to determine what a student is trying to say simply because the writing is so poor. While
the quality of writing may be due in part to lack of skill or procrastination, there is also reason to blame
the lack of practice across the entire collegiate curriculum. For this reason, practice is a legitimate
reason for college writing.
At the upper division and graduate levels of college coursework, there is absolutely no excuse
for poor writing. It makes no difference where you come from or what you have done; these
rudimentary communications skills should have been mastered before graduating from high school. It
is expected that you can write correctly, and part of your grade on assignments will be determined by
your writing ability. In short, you will write correctly and effectively or you will lose points on the
No attempt is being made to dictate the fine points of writing. Feel free to express yourself in
any appropriate manner. But while there are many acceptable styles of written communication, there
are some major errors that are never allowable. These are the types of errors that will count against
your grade. Listed below are the cardinal sins and major errors that will be counted against you on
your assignments. Read this list well and understand it. Consult it frequently while writing. If you do
not understand something, ask your instructor for clarification.
This is the one and only warning you will get, and if you ignore it you will suffer the consequences.
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THE CARDINAL SINS
At the minimum, cardinal sins will earn you a zero for the assignment.
Cheating and Plagiarism – Plagiarism is not allowed under any circumstances or in any form. Should
you plagiarize and be caught at it, you will suffer severe consequences. Since all written assignments
are filtered through plagiarism detection software, you will be caught if you plagiarize. Plagiarism is
not confined to copying exactly from another source. It is not sufficient to change merely a word or
two in a sentence. For the purposes of this class, if you use ideas taken from an uncited source you are
guilty of plagiarism. Ideas found in other sources must be referenced. For the purposes of this class, if
you have a string of seven words lifted directly from an uncited source you are guilty of plagiarism. If
you are incapable of writing creatively, you must at least learn to paraphrase. All material borrowed
from other sources must be properly referenced with a brief in-text citation referencing the source and
a complete reference listed at the end of your paper. Quotations must be properly punctuated and
referenced in an appropriate style. Unless you have a favorite, use the APA 6e style guide.
Late Papers – Papers are due on time. Since all assignment descriptions and deadlines are provided on
the first day of class and you literally have weeks or months to complete most assignments, there is no
excuse for late work. If you know that you will be absent the day an assignment is due, plan ahead and
complete the assignment in advance. You have plenty of warning. No excuses for late papers will be
accepted. I do not care if your dog eats your iPad or your hard drive crashes on the morning the
assignment is due, if I do not have it by the deadline, you will get a zero.
All assignments must be submitted to earn a passing grade. The truly unfair thing about late
papers and earning a zero is you still have to complete and submit the work or you will fail the course.
In my opinion, it is better to do the work on time and get credit than to have to do the work and earn
Identify yourself and the assignment – Provide the names of all authors/contributors, the course
number, the course section, the due date, the assignment description, and a title in your assignment.
Do not depend on Blackboard to annotate your assignment with your author information. I routinely
print assignments from Blackboard. If you do not include your identifying information in the
document, you force me to play detective. If I have to play detective to figure out who submitted a
paper or what assignment the paper was intended to fulfill, I will assume you do not really want the
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These errors count 2% each. Five fatal errors will lower your grade one full letter. You are cautioned
to read and understand this list well. The average number of major errors for the average student on an
eight to ten page paper seems to be around twelve. That is enough to turn an “A” into a “C” or a “C”
into an “F”. If you are going to be better than average, you will have to work harder than average.
General Appearance â€“ A paper that contains inconsistent formatting, looks sloppy, or otherwise
distracts the reader, will interfere with your intended message. Ensure your paper looks consistent
throughout. As a rule of thumb, set all defaults prior to writing your paper and check them again when
the assignment is complete. Formatting issues include: consistent margins, spacing, tabs, etc. Provide
1.25 inch margins on the left and right. The MS Word default margins are preferred because they
provide plenty of marginal space. Except for identifying information in the header, references, long
quotes, lists, tables, and figures, double space the text throughout. Include page numbers for
assignments with three or more pages. If the assignment consists of more than one sheet of paper,
staple the pages together. Do not submit a formal writing assignment unstapled, with the corner
crimped, or bound with a paper clip. Unless I provide them to you, do not use report covers. Do not
exceed maximum length restrictions. Do not stretch an assignment to reach the maximum length
unless you have something substantive to say. The fluff and filler used by some students to reach
maximum length restrictions will generally detract from an otherwise good paper. Each occurrence
that detracts from the general appearance counts as a separate error.
Misspelling – This includes improper hyphenation, misuse of homophones, and the use of archaic
forms of words. It is best to have a good dictionary by your side at all times. Turn on the spell check
function of your word processor using the most restrictive settings. Even if you use a word processor
with a spelling checker, you will still have to check your work. Homophones are words that look or
sound alike but are used differently. Because homophones are similar, they are commonly
interchanged or misused. For example, the computer will recognize the homophones “to”, “too”, and
“two” as proper spellings no matter where they appear in the text. Another frequent mistake is
substitution of the words â€œthere,â€ â€œtheirâ€, and â€œtheyâ€™re.â€ When people lose their jobs, it is sometimes
called a â€œlayoffâ€ (noun, one word). The managers who make the decision choose to â€œlay offâ€ (verb,
two words) the workers. Make sure you know the difference between other commonly confused words
such as personal and personnel, affect and effect, capital and capitol, and principle and principal. If
you use a grammar checker, you still will have to be careful; even grammar checkers can make
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mistakes and miss errors. The writer bears the final responsibility for spelling. Each occurrence of a
misspelling counts as a separate error.
Typographical Errors – These are regarded as misspellings. Check your work carefully.
Contractions, Abbreviations, and Acronyms – Contractions do not belong in formal reports. Do not
use contractions unless they are part of a direct quote. Any abbreviation or acronym must be properly
spelled out on its first usage. If your paper includes more than 10 different abbreviations or acronyms,
provide an exhibit at the end of your paper that defines all of them in one place.
Run-on Sentences – If you are going to use a compound sentence structure, the independent clauses
must be separated by proper punctuation and a coordinating conjunction if required.
Sentence Fragments – Sentences require both a subject and verb. Some forms of creative writing
might relax this requirement, but this is not creative writing; this is formal business writing. You will
tend to make this error if you use a lot of compound sentences.
In general, a sentence should convey only one idea. If you are trying to convey more than one idea,
you will tend to write long complex sentences. Sometimes the careless writer will make the second
independent clause a sentence fragment. If you tend to commit this error, err on the side of safety and
reduce the complexity of your sentences.
Paragraphs That Run an Entire Page – Keep paragraphs reasonably short. A paragraph is meant to
convey several ideas that complete one thought. A typical paragraph will be four to eight sentences
long. This means that there will be between two and four paragraphs on a page. Be careful of overly
long sentences and paragraphs. Avoid paragraphs with 10 or more sentences.
Single Sentence Paragraphs – A paragraph that is one sentence long either tries to do too much in one
sentence or should be part of another paragraph. This type of paragraph is often a very long run-on
Subject Verb Agreement – This refers to mistakes such as “They is…” and “She are…”. This type of
error is offensive to the eye and the ear. You are most likely to make this kind of error if you are
writing a complex sentence with a number of subordinate clauses. For example, “The director of one
of the country’s largest corporations that specializes in the manufacture of consumer specialty goods
is…” has a singular subject (“director”) and requires a singular verb (“is” instead of “are”) even though
“…goods is…” looks and sounds funny. Complex sentences can get you into trouble, so be careful.
You need to use them to give your writing a little life, but they are dangerous to the careless writer.
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Incorrect or Unclear Antecedents – When you use a pronoun, it refers to another noun somewhere
else in the text. This relationship must be unambiguous and correctly stated. Consider the following
“Bankers, state and local government officials, and members of the general public are all
working together in an effort to prevent the possible failure of a number of savings and loan
institutions from damaging the financial infrastructure of this nation. They feel that some of
their current work may actually hasten these failures.”
Exactly who is the “they” and “their” in the second sentence? The relationship is not at all clear. This
makes it impossible to tell who is doing what to whom. This type of error can be avoided by avoiding
pronouns or using them sparingly. Every time you use a “he”, “she”, “it”, or “theyâ€ you must be sure
that there is absolutely no doubt to whom or what the pronoun refers. You should refer to a company
or an organization as “it”. Companies are singular and never referred to as â€œheâ€ or â€œsheâ€. Do not start
a paragraph with a sentence whose subject is a pronoun.
Tone: Formal business communications should be written in the third person and past tense. Do not
use any first person pronouns (“I”, “we”, “me”, “us”, “our”) or second person pronouns (“you”, “your”)
except in quotations.
Exhibits including Appendices, Figures, Pictures, Tables, etc. â€“ You are expected to provide data
and evidence to support your analysis and arguments. Such data must be presented sequentially and
logically. In research papers, you are required to provide that supporting evidence in exhibits placed
either at the end of the paper or embedded within the text. Introduce exhibits in the text in sequential
order. If you find that your exhibits are not in the same order as they are introduced, fix the order. If
the exhibit is not needed, discussed, and explained in the text, it doesnâ€™t belong in your paper. Your
analysis or argument should be complete prior to the conclusions and recommendations section of your
paper. No new information or exhibits may be introduced in the final section of the paper where
recommendations are made or you draw your conclusions. All exhibits must support your analysis,
and the recommendation section must stand by itself.
Be sure to mention any assumptions that are relevant to the exhibits either in the text, in the
exhibit, or in both locations. Be sure every exhibit is followed by an appropriate citation and is listed
in the reference section. You may include the exhibits before or after the references but should arrange
them in the order specified by the style guide you select.
One comment on photographs is worth mentioning. The clichÃ© that a picture is worth a
thousand words may be true of art but is rarely true in formal reports. Include pictures only when their
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inclusion enhances understanding by the reader. For instance, a picture of an airplane on the cover of a
report about an aircraft producer is of questionable or minimal value. Most readers can recognize an
aircraft so a photo does not provide anything new for the reader. On the other hand, photos of
manufacturing assembly lines, design schematics, or unique forms of marketing that are necessary for
the reader to understand the discussion or your analysis might be both valuable and essential.
Repetitive or Weak Structures – Some writers seem to start every sentence the same way. That is
one sure way to put the reader to sleep. Many people tend to start sentences with â€œAlthoughâ€¦â€ or
â€œAlso,â€¦â€ or some other indirect form. This is a very weak style and makes for dull reading. Try to
start sentences (at least those which begin paragraphs) with subjects. Under this error type, the
following specific items will count as 2% errors.
1. Beginning a sentence with an adverb followed by a comma is forbidden, such as
â€œRecently,â€¦â€. This error includes forms like “However, …” and “Therefore, …”.
2. Use of the word â€œalsoâ€ is forbidden. â€œAlso” is a very fine four letter word, but students tend
to over use it.
Parallel Construction â€“ There are times when repetitive structures are useful. When you compose
compound sentences, or are making comparisons across different sentences or paragraphs, use parallel
construction. Parallel construction clarifies the communication of complex ideas and helps the reader
follow your thoughts more easily. But be sure to balance the use of parallel construction used to
enhance understanding with repetition that would otherwise put a reader to sleep. When balancing the
competing needs for repetition and clarity, write for clarity.
Ambiguous Time References â€“ It is essential to be precise with time references. Research papers and
consultant reports are typically retained and reread many months or years after being published.
Substitute the use of time references such as, â€œcurrentlyâ€, â€œlast yearâ€, â€œin the next quarterâ€ with
references to specific dates, such as â€œOn 1 January 2020,â€¦â€. This ensures that future readers will
understand time references and not have to conduct research and compute your intended dates.
Inappropriate Phrases and Poor Word Choice – This is a catchall for poor wording. Business
communications use formal English exclusive of slang, regional dialects, and modern colloquialisms.
There are some phrases that are never appropriate in report writing. For example, no person or
company is ever â€œlooking toâ€ do anything. Do not use rhetorical questions: they insult the intelligence
of the reader and waste space. The only question marks in a formal report (if any) should be in direct
quotations. Under this error type, the following items will count as 2% errors.
1. Use of ordinal adverbs is forbidden. This means words like “firstly”, “secondly”, …. , and
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“lastly” are proscribed.
2. Use of any form of the verb “to look” is forbidden unless it pertains to the use of the eyes. It
is incorrect to write that â€œPeople are looking to accomplish their goals.â€
3. Use of any form of the word “current” is forbidden, unless you are writing about the flow of
water or electric current. This means that the word “currently” is proscribed.
4. Use of the word “obvious” is forbidden. The truth of the matter is that nothing is ever
obvious. There is always something that you do not know. When you start describing
things as obvious, you are guilty of hubris. You will not do that in your writing.
5. The word “impact” is a noun, not a verb. Only over aged yuppies would use the word as a
verb, and you will not do so.
6. Be careful when describing measurement concepts. A “number” of things can be counted,
like the number of books of a shelf. An “amount” of things can be measured, like the
amount of knowledge in those books. You do not have a “number of water in a glass” nor
do you have an “amount of dollars in your wallet”. Consider which is appropriate with
commodities like rice, which cannot in practice be counted but which can be measured in
pounds. This means you will treat â€œriceâ€ differently from â€œpounds of rice.â€ Be especially
careful when measuring people or capital. Be careful to use measurement concepts
correctly and precisely.
Should other forbidden phrases be noticed, you will be informed of them in class.
There are many fine points of writing that are open to interpretation. In these cases, you will
receive the benefit of the doubt, but you could lose points if you become unreasonable.
1. Be careful about the use of commas. There are several rules for comma use and several
areas open to interpretation. In those areas where you have discretion, it is easy to get
carried away. When in doubt use the guidelines provided by the Business Communications
faculty in BUAD 3335.
2. Avoid the use of endnotes to clarify facts or analysis that should have been included in the
text of your paper (footnotes are forbidden).
3. Unless you have a strong desire to use another format, use the APA 6e citation format for
your bibliography and in-text citations.
4. Margins and fonts must be reasonable, too. This typically means either the MS Word
defaults or 1.25″ margins all around. Do not adapt the margins to influence paper length!
The exception to this requirement is that I would prefer everyone to compose papers that do
not unnecessarily waste paper. If you can save a sheet of paper by eliminating unnecessary
blank spaces, please do so. (Letâ€™s try to save the planet everywhere we can.)
5. The font should be either a standard serif (Times Roman) or sans serif (Arial or Courier)
variety. Do not get cute with all those neat little fonts you find on the computer. Your
intent is clarity of communication, not entertainment.
6. Assignment length: I typically do not provide an assignment length. The length should be
determined the amount of writing needed to make your argument, convey the information, or
complete the analysis. Determining the optimal length, determining what should be included
and what should be excluded, is part of the assignment and is the responsibility of the author. I
expect you to thoroughly cover any assigned topic but be succinct. I do not grade on weight! I
realize that this may be new for you so I will provide guidance on how to determine a
reasonable length if asked in class. If I do provide a recommended assignment length, do not
stretch an assignment to meet an upper limit! See my comments on fluff.
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HOW TO WRITE A BETTER PAPER
At this point you might be considering either changing your major or slitting your wrists.
Neither action is career enhancing, so accept the fact that you will have to work on your writing. Do
not think that you can put a few scribbles down on a piece of paper and let some typist figure it out for
you; that technique never works. Good typists are very expensive, too. You will do a better job if you
do it yourself.
Before actually writing your paper, prepare an outline. By organizing your thoughts, the
writing will be easier and you will make fewer mistakes. The outline is neither required nor expected
to be turned in with the paper. It is strictly for your benefit. If you think that you are good enough to
write with the outline “in your head”, you are very, very wrong. There are no professional writers who
can write without an outline. The authors of this guide used an outline when writing it.
Structure your paper logically. In this class you will be making complex arguments involving
several logical steps, ambiguous causality, and unspoken assumptions. If certain facts are needed to
draw a conclusion, those facts must be introduced before the conclusion. While this statement seems
both trivial and obvious, it is frequently violated in papers especially when a logical argument is
complex, causality is presumed, and assumptions are taken for granted. As you construct your outline
pay particular attention to logical order in which you introduce facts, information, theories, and
models. Include facts prior to conclusions. Consider carefully any dubious assertions about causality.
If you believe that one event causes another or that one fact logically leads to another, consider all
possible challenges. If you consider and counter those challenges in your paper, as opposed to being
challenged after the fact, it will establish that you thoughtfully considered alternatives and it will
strengthen your paper. State any assumptions that underlay your argument. By stating your
assumptions you define the conditions by which you will be assessed and reduce the challenges to your
The use of a thesis statement, topic sentences for each section, and topic sentences for each
paragraph, will greatly enhance the readability and logic of your paper. Topic and concluding
sentences are like street signs for your readers; they help the reader find their way through your
analysis without getting lost, confused, or frustrated. Concluding sentences and statements will signal
to your readers when you are finished with one idea or section and segue them to your next idea. It is
extremely helpful to organize your paper with section and subsection headings.
When you complete and are ready to proofread your paper, you are advised to go into a room,
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close the door, and read the paper aloud. At times you will be unable to understand what you wrote.
Many written sins become obvious when they are spoken aloud. It is much better for you (and your
grade) if you find and correct these mistakes before the evaluator does.
Another variation of reading aloud is to read your paper to a friend or family member. If the
listener cannot understand what you are trying to say in the paper, the paper is probably poorly written.
Remember that you are writing for an audience that will only know what you present in the paper. If
you intend to be understood, your writing must be clear and concise. There are some restrictions to
using an audience for correcting your paper. If you are writing an assignment that is supposed to
represent individual work, say as part of a take-home test, you may not use another member of that
class as your audience and your audience cannot make content corrections. Consult with your
evaluator if you have any question on this issue.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE YOUR IDEAS BETTER
The preceding comments should help you construct a better paper. The following suggestions
are intended to help you improve the content of what you are trying to say. While the content of
written assignments really should be the subject of a specific assignment guide, a few general
comments can be made.
Avoid vague descriptions and generalities in your writing. Like the other comments in this
guide, this may seem obvious and trivial. It is also violated so frequently that it has to be reiterated to
every group of writers. Consider the issue of vague and general writing in the context of
organizational performance. You should immediately recognize that statements like â€œThe XYZ
company is performing greatâ€ or â€œThe XYZ company is performing better than expectedâ€ are vague to
the point of meaninglessness. Neither example is quantifiable, yet any graduating senior in a business
program should know that performance is inherently measurable even if only ordinally measurable.
The reason for this is that all performance including organizational performance is relative to some
fixed or variable standard. Instead of saying that the company is performing well, assess its
performance using objective measures of performance or compare the companyâ€™s performance to the
performance of its rivals or its industry. Carefully evaluate and critique the content and precision of
your writing. If you did not find the above statements related to organizational performance obviously
vague, consider what other assumptions you may have unconsciously adopted as truisms. Consider
what other written comments your instructor might find vague.
When comparing performance measures be sure you are making valid comparisons. In order to
compare the performance of two companies or to compare company to its industry average you need
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comparable numbers. Revenues and profits are not valid measures for comparing different
organizations because bigger companies produce more profit for size reasons not efficiency reasons.
In order to make profit comparable you need to divide profit by some factor that is proportionate to
size. Examples of proportionate measures include profit as a percentage of employees, revenues,
assets, equity, market value, etc.
You should avoid exaggerations and unwarranted superlatives. Examples include: â€œAll
politicians are corruptâ€, â€œThis company is the bestâ€, â€œNo CEO could have made a better decisionâ€,
â€œMonopolists can charge any price they wantâ€, and â€œThis company is poised to earn unlimited profits
because of its superior position.â€ Exaggerations and unwarranted superlatives weaken your analysis
because a reader can usually find one or more examples where the statement can be proven wrong or
false. False statements undermine your credibility as an author and analyst. It is difficult to believe
the analysis of an author who is factually wrong or draws false conclusions from data. This is true
even when the remaining analysis, exclusive of the exaggeration, is sound and valid. Specifically, you
should purge the following dangerous superlatives from your vocabulary: all, always, best, every,
everyone, limitless, never, perfect, and unlimited.
Instead of making a general claim about the superiority of a company, describe the specific
superior capabilities of the company and the source of those capabilities. Instead of saying â€œThis
company is poised for unbelievable growthâ€, give a realistic forecast of how much internal growth the
company might experience over a given period of time given its past internal growth controlling for
growth from mergers, increased investment, and leveraged growth.
You must think, reason, and write logically. Logical errors seem common in the press and
other forms of non-academic writing so you may have seen and been influenced by many logical
fallacies. You may even have committed these logical errors in your previous writing. Logical errors
and fallacies of logic (Labossiere, 1995) have no place in academic or business writing. Write
logically because, even if I agree with your conclusions, you wonâ€™t get away with logical errors in this
Sometimes you will need to evaluate the accuracy or veracity of claims made by others.
Accuracy refers to whether the information provided is accurate or distorted. Veracity refers to the
intention of the claimant. If management is making what appear to be unrealistic performance claims,
point it out. Find a way to independently verify the data you are analyzing. If analysts are repeating
biased data from another source, point it out. Then try to figure out why such claims are being made or
propagated. Why would these people be distorting information? Is it irrational exuberance, lack of
knowledge, or is their motivation self-interested deception?
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When you are done writing, reread your own writing with skepticism. Ask yourself as a reader
if you as the author have been convincing. If reporting information conveyed by companies and other
individuals, evaluate the reliability and veracity of that information. Many companies use their public
documents as an extension of their marketing and put out comments that are trite and vague, and
comments that would sound good to potential customers and stockholders without really providing
useful information for analysis.
You are strongly urged to take advantage of the Writing Center. They will help you become a
better writer, but you must be careful. You are responsible for applying course content correctly,
adhering to course policies, and with complying with the rules presented in this document. If you
should receive recommendations from someone in the Writing Center that are contrary to these
Guidelines and you follow them, you could lose points on your paper. Counselors from the writing
center will ask you to bring in a complete and polished paper at least a week before the due date in
order to help you improve your paper. Do not waste their time or your own with short notice requests
or incomplete drafts. If they provide good advice, use it to improve the quality of your paper through a
careful revision that preserves the hard work you have put in.
If you know you need help or your skills need a refresher, obtain and use a writing style guide.
Many writing guides are available in hard copy (Strunk & White, 2000; University of Chicago Press,
2003) or on the internet (Starbuck, 2006).
By taking a little time and care, you can produce a good quality paper. A good paper is the
only way you will be able to get a good grade. A good paper is something you can be proud of, so
make the effort to do a good job.
Brozik, D. (2006). Guidlines for Term Papers. Retrieved 5 Jan, 2006, from
Labossiere, M. C. (1995). Fallacy Tutorial. Retrieved 5 Jan, 2006, from
Starbuck, W. (2006, Spring 1999). Fussy Professor Starbuck’s Cookbook of Handy-Dandy
Prescriptions for Ambitious Academic Authors or Why I Hate Passive Verbs and Love My
Word Processor. Retrieved 5 Jan, 2006, from
Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (2000). The Elements of Style (4 ed.): Longman.
University of Chicago Press, S. (2003). The Chicago Manual of Style (15 ed.): University Of Chicago
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Appendix 1: Submission Checklist
I strongly urge you to use a writing checklist before submitting written assignments. The
following is an example of a Submission Checklist that would work for this assignment.
Identification: Name(s) of author(s)
include each Course
if applicable Section
Title, assignment description, draft number
Date and term
Pages numbers (for all assignments with more than 3 pages)
Grammar & Run Spelling and Grammar checker in word processing software.
Mechanics Manual check of spelling including homophones.
Punctuation used correctly and consistently:
Question marks, commas, apostrophes, colons and semi-colons.
All abbreviations must be spelled out on first use.
No contractions (spell out all contractions).
No double negatives.
No endnotes or footnotes.
No blank pages or large blank sections.
No orphaned lines. No orphaned headings.
No rhetorical questions (except in quotations).
Use number and amount words correctly. Spell out numbers 1-10.
Use precise time references: avoid vague time references
Verify correct subject â€“ verb agreement.
Correct use of prepositions. Do not end sentences with propositions.
Use appropriate discipline specific terminology.
Avoid pronouns unless the subject is unambiguous.
Use parallel construction to enhance readability.
Minimize the use of passive voice.
Sentences with dependent and independent clauses must use conjunctions correctly
No factually inaccurate or illogical statements
Write in 3rd person, past tense (except in quotes).
Consistent formatting: font, font size, margins, line spacing, tabs, italics,
Thesis statement included at beginning of writing.
Organized consistent with Strategic Management Process.
Use headings, subheadings, and topic sentences to organize writing.
Word Usage Verify word usage is precise.
No prohibited expressions or words.
No slang, clichÃ©s, jargon, or colloquialisms.
No imprecise metaphors, analogies, and similes.
No vague, ambiguous, or meaningless statements
Exaggerations and superlatives must be supported with data.
Judgements and conclusions must be supported with data or evidence.
References All data in paper cited where used.
& Citations All citations listed in references.
Data used to support all assertions and generalizations.
All exhibits cited and discussed in the text of paper.
If quotes are used, they must be accurate, relevant to the analysis, flow with the
authors writing, and be cited using appropriate format.
References complete with sufficient information for retrieval.
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Appendix 2: Style Suggestions
When you entered SHSU, it was assumed you were proficient in the use of formal written English.
I expect you to have used your time at SHSU to improve on those basic skills. I expect your writing
for this class to reflect that improvement. I am not an English teacher and require an excessive amount
of time to read and score poorly written papers. In the past, I have spent as much as an hour to
interpret and score a single assignment. Consider the impact of ten or more poorly written
assignments. It is entirely unfair to your classmates to submit a poorly written paper because it
unnecessarily delays the return of the well-written assignments to students who did the assigned work
The first rule for any form of writing is you must manually proofread your paper. Then, use your
word processorâ€™s spell check and grammar check using the most stringent â€œFormal Business Englishâ€
settings. Even if you use spell check, I strongly recommend you invest in a good dictionary and keep
it close when you are reading and writing. If I detect errors in a quantity that it appears you did not
proof-read your writing in an effective way (exceeding 3-4 errors per page), I will stop scoring and
give you 48 hours to revise the errors in the assignment for 50% credit. If I have difficulty
understanding your essay, I will return the paper to you for rewriting. In either case, I will require you
to provide documentation that you visited the SHSU Writing Center to get help with all future writing
Formatting and Essay Structure
This is a technical writing, research paper. The first goal of technical writing, enlightenment, is to
successfully communicate your thesis to the reader (a second desirable goal is entertainment). Always
include a thesis statement in all business and technical writing. A thesis describes the purpose of the
writing, essentially telling the reader what they are about to read. An example of a thesis statement in
technical writing might be â€œThis is a strategic analysis of â€œCompany Xâ€ and is intended to provide
actionable recommendations to management for improved company performance.â€
Include section and subsection headings to divide the parts of your analysis. Each section and
paragraph should include an introductory or topic sentence. Use appropriate segues between
paragraphs and sections.
Ensure consistent formatting throughout. The reader must be able to distinguish between
paragraphs through the authorâ€™s use of indents or spacing. Eliminate unneeded blank pages. Eliminate
inconsistencies in the use of fonts, headings, subheading, and margins.
Use normal sentences and paragraphs. A standard sentence contains both a subject and a predicate,
which together express a single idea. A paragraph contains a number of sentences (ideas) that express
one complete thought. A normal essay will generally contain 4-6 sentences per paragraph and 2-3
paragraphs per page. Anything that deviates from this general pattern will draw attention and scrutiny.
A single sentence paragraph or a paragraph that approaches the length of a full page will attract a lot of
unwanted and undesirable attention.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. It is the authorâ€™s responsibility to communicate his or
her ideas in the most efficient way possible. Several sentences that are short and concise are always
better (easier to write, easier to understand) than one longer or more complex sentence that says the
same thing. Two sentences with simple structure are usually better than a compound sentence, unless
you are dealing with statements of causality or ideas that possess complex dependencies. Edit
sentences that are wordy or overly verbose to effectively communicate your ideas.
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Making a sentence longer by adding unnecessary filler words will confuse a reader. There are
numerous expressions we use in our informal speaking that reduce the clarity of formal writing. In
conversation, we filter out these extra, filler, words. When writing, avoid filler words and expressions.
Examples of filler words and expressions include: â€œAs already statedâ€¦â€; â€œWith this being saidâ€¦â€;
â€œAs is obviousâ€¦â€; â€œClearly,â€¦â€; and â€œObviously,â€¦â€. Negative statements are almost never as
effective as positive statements; for instance compare the following sentences:
1. â€œWal-Mart worries about NOT selling products at low pricesâ€
2. â€œWalmart worries about selling products at high pricesâ€.
Which is easier to understand? As a general rule, if you can shorten a sentence, eliminate words,
or delete an expression from a sentence without changing its meaning, do it!
Avoid weak and â€œpassive voiceâ€ verb forms. There are always more precise verbs than â€œhaveâ€ and
â€œisâ€. Avoid sentences where your reader must infer your intended subject. The passive voice
expression, â€œThe report was writtenâ€, is weaker compared to the more active expression, â€œShe wrote
Provide the reader with facts, theory, models, and an explanation for the implications and
conclusions you can derive from them. It is perfectly okay to make reasonable assumptions related to
data that is unavailable and to use those assumptions throughout your analysis. To use assumptions,
you must state them explicitly and use them consistently. Absurd, illogical, or obviously wrong
assumptions will be treated pejoratively.
Basic Rules of Formal Business English for technical writing assignments
1. Identify yourself and your writing (name, date, title, assignment, version, etc.)
2. Include page numbers for essays that exceed three pages.
3. Format your paper consistently: margins, font style and size, headings and subheadings, spacing,
indents, headers and footers.
4. Standardize your format for in-text citations and end of paper references. Use APA 6e unless you
strongly prefer to use another style. You can find most reference formats in the OWL:
5. Write in 3rd person and past tense (except in direct quotations).
6. Avoid, grammar, spelling, and word choice errors.
7. Do not end sentences with prepositions.
8. Do not use double negatives.
9. Do not use slang, colloquialisms, or common jargon.
10. Define acronyms on first use. Spell out all contractions.
11. Use punctuation correctly (commas, colons, semi-colons, and apostrophes).
12. Use number and amount words correctly.
13. Avoid passive verbs. Select verbs that are precise and avoid verbs that are vague.
14. Avoid pronouns. If you use pronouns, make sure they unambiguously refer to a noun in the same
or preceding sentence.
15. The tone of your paper should be professional, accurate, precise, and objective. Use business
terminology where appropriate.
16. Do not use exaggerations, unnecessary superlatives, imprecise metaphors, inaccurate statements,
and judgmental or biased language. Anticipate reasonable objections or exceptions to what you
write and attempt to resolve those objections. Avoid asking rhetorical questions
17. Avoid words like all, always, every, everyone, impossible, never, no one etc., unless you are
absolutely certain such absolute concepts apply in every possible relevant situation.
18. Unless you justify their use through data, analysis, and persuasive logic, avoid exaggerations and
unjustified superlatives such as: awesome, endless, exceptional, fantastic, giant, huge, infinite,
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invaluable, massive, outstanding, revolutionary, unprecedented, etc. Do not use them unless you
are absolutely sure they apply. Use more objective ways to convey your intended idea.
19. Avoid imprecise terminology, truisms, and meaningless statements. Examples of statements that
fail to convey meaningful strategic information include:
a. â€œThis company is truly one of a kind.â€
b. â€œThis company is poised for limitless expansion.â€
c. â€œThis company is well respected.â€
20. Do not use vague, judgmental, or biased language. Instead provide objective data that would allow
the reader to draw their own conclusions about such judgements. Strive to use precise quantitative
language over qualitative language, and precise qualitative language over vague and imprecise
statements. Examples of vague statement that require more precision include:
a. â€œRevenue dropped by a significant amountâ€ â€“ List the amount revenue dropped by and
at least the initial or final revenue. Even better would be financial statements or a
partial table summarizing the companyâ€™s financial position over time that show how all
expenses and revenues affected company profits over several years.
b. â€œLast yearâ€¦,â€ is an especially vague date/time reference. Instead state the exact
date/time. E.g. â€œOn 23 January 2017â€¦,â€ The vagueness comes into focus when you
consider that your report may be read several years in the future by someone in the
organization unfamiliar with the event. Vague date/time references may be
undecipherable to people in the future.
21. Prohibited Expressions.
a. The word â€œcurrentâ€, in all its forms, may only apply to the flow of electricity or fluid.
Do not use it in its colloquial form to mean â€œthe present timeâ€. See the comment above
about vague time references.
b. The word â€œlookâ€, in all its forms, must only involve seeing with the eyes. Do not use it
in its colloquial verb form as a substitute for â€œto doâ€.
c. The verb forms â€œto beâ€ and â€œto haveâ€ are two of the weakest in the English language.
Please consider eliminating them (or at least reducing them) from your written
vocabulary. Never use either as nouns by starting a clause with â€œHavingâ€¦â€ or
d. The verb â€œto tryâ€ is a weak substitute for more precise verbs.
e. Avoid other colloquial and more â€œcreativeâ€ uses of language that can have multiple
22. When you proofread, delete all words and expressions that do not add meaning to your writing. If
you find yourself using filler expressions, delete them. Examples of filler expressions include:
a. â€œLike stated earlierâ€¦â€,
b. â€œAs said beforeâ€¦â€,
c. â€œAs stated previouslyâ€¦â€,
d. â€œWith that being saidâ€¦â€
e. â€œâ€¦without a doubtâ€¦â€
f. â€œAs is obvious,â€¦â€
A strategic analysis will necessarily require you to draw non-obvious conclusions from existing
data, information, and theory. To do this you need to structure an argument for your reader. How you
structure your data and logic is critical to the success of your argument. Arguments are structured in
steps which, if presented in the proper order, will lead your reader to the conclusion you desire
conclusion. A generic example using deductive logic might resemble the following:
1. Given a known relationship that if â€œAâ€ occurs, then it will cause â€œBâ€
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2. And given the that â€œAâ€ occurred
3. We can conclude that â€œBâ€ will occur
The persuasiveness of an argument is undermined or negated if the author fails to present the
evidence in step 1 and step 2 in the argument, before jumping to the conclusion in step 3. Building
logical arguments can also help the author determine if there is sufficient evidence (information and
theory) to make logical inferences.
Common Typos and homophones
I see a lot of typographic errors that automated grammar checkers will NOT catch, but that normal
proofreading will catch. I expect you to find and correct these errors
Examples of common Homophones
Four for fore
There Theyâ€™re Their
Two To Too
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