Success in Academic Writing - Trevor Day 2018
Reviewing and editing your work
Presentation matters. Even if the content of your text is superb, if your work is carelessly laid out, with inconsistent use of fonts, bold, italics, spacing and other features, this will create a poor impression. It will lead your assessor to assume that if your presentation is poor, other features of your work will be wanting. Consistency is important, and in many cases you will be required to present your work in a typewritten, word-processed form, perhaps with many presentational features defined by your assessor. Such features can include:
✵Whether the assignment is to be submitted as a hard copy (printed out), as an electronic file of a specified type (e.g. .rtf or .docx), or both.
✵Title page (with a specified layout and with key information, e.g. student’s name and number).
✵Page size (in the UK usually A4).
✵Font type (sans serif, e.g. Arial, or serif, e.g. Times New Roman).
✵Font size (e.g. body text, 11 pt; title, headings and subheadings, 12 pt).
✵Page margins of specified width (top, bottom, right and left margins may be of the same width, or not).
✵Text justification (whether the right hand edge of text should be aligned or ragged).
✵Line spacing (whether single or 1.5 line spaced).
✵Headers or footers (whether one or other should be used, e.g. to show page numbers).
Using word-processing software such as Microsoft Word, styles can greatly help you create an attractive layout presented consistently. In an essay it is quite common to use six to ten different styles (Essay title, Normal text, Section heading, Page number, Quotation, Reference style, and so on). In a report containing tables and graphs, using 10-20 styles is not uncommon.
As with many aspects of academic writing, leave yourself enough time to ensure that your presentation matches or surpasses the quality of the rest of your work. Reviewing and editing the
presentational features of an essay or short report may take much less than an hour, but for a dissertation could take several hours.
Figure 10.1 can serve as a checklist to ensure that you have completed all stages of reviewing and editing appropriately.
Key points in the chapter
1Reviewing and editing normally proceeds in stages, from large scale to small, from developmental editing through copy-editing to proofreading.
2Paragraphs have recognisable structures, and transitional words and phrases help connect them in developing a coherent narrative.
3Sentences have a subject and at least one finite verb. Engaging prose contains sentences of variable length.
4Clearly written sentences, which are not overlong, may employ devices such as introducing the sentence’s subject early on, keeping subject and finite verb close together, the sparing use of present participles, and replacing pronouns with nouns.
5Knowing the terminology for words with different functions can be useful in discussing writing.
6Common grammatical errors include: lack of subject-verb agreement, inappropriate use of articles, and inconsistent use of tenses.
7Punctuation marks are used to group or separate words and letters to convey particular meanings.
8Most good spellers employ a visual spelling strategy.
9Checking your work before submission involves checking for completeness, consistency and correctness. Effective visual presentation is important, as this is the first impression the assessor has of your work.
Betteridge, A. (2011). Chambers Adult Learners’ Guide to Spelling. 2nd edn. London: Hodder Education.
Copus, J. (2009). Brilliant Writing Tips for Students. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Day, T. (2008). Oceans. Revised edition. New York: Facts On File.
Dilts, R. and DeLozier, J. (2000). ’Spelling Strategy’, pp. 1285-1290. Encyclopedia of Systemic NLP and NLP New Coding. Scotts Valley: NLP University Press. Available from: http://nlpuniversitypress.com/html3/SoSto31.html. [accessed 14 August 2017].
Peck, J. and Coyle, M. (2012a). The Student’s Guide to Writing: Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling. 3rd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Peck, J. and Coyle, M. (2012b). Write it Right: The Secrets of Effective Writing. 2nd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Greetham, B. (2018). How to Write Better Essays. 4th edn. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Morley, J. (2017). The Academic Phrasebank. Manchester: University of Manchester. Available from: www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/ [accessed 29 August 2017].
Sayce, K. (2010). What Not to Write. Revised edition. Singapore: Talisman.
Truss, L. (2009). Eats, Shoots and Leaves. London: Fourth Estate.
Answers for Chapter 10
Activity 10.1: Paragraph structure
Two sentences introduce the topic of the paragraph: ’As discussed earlier, as a result of excessive prescribing of penicillins, Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria have developed penicillin- resistance. Such resistance has arisen through natural selection in three main ways.’ The first sentence also refers back to earlier paragraphs.
The paragraph’s third to fifth sentences explain the three mechanisms by which bacteria develop penicillin resistance.
The paragraph’s final sentence is a concluding one.
Activity 10.2: Spot the transitions
Many public health specialists consider knowledge of hepatitis C, and how its causative agent the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted, to be poor among young adults in the UK1,2. This situation is unlike that of AIDS (autoimmune deficiency syndrome) and its causative agent HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus), which have been the subject of widespread public health campaigns in recent years3,4. However, current public awareness of hepatitis C infection can be compared with that of AIDS and HIV in the late-1980s5. Moreover, exaggerated fears about routes of transmission and the likelihood of infection may be similar for hepatitis C now as they were for AIDS and HIV more than 20 years ago.
Activity 10.3: Move closer
A suitable answer: Male drivers aged 18-21 pay much higher car insurance premiums than their 45- 55-year-old counterparts because young drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents for which they are responsible.
Or the sentence could be recast: In comparison with middle-aged drivers, young drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents for which they are responsible. As a result, male drivers aged 18-21 pay much higher car insurance premiums than their 45-55-year-old counterparts.
Activity 10.4: Shortening sentences 1
(a)One possible answer: In a normal person, when a blood vessel is breached, platelets at the site of the injury release clotting factors. They trigger a ’coagulation cascade’, resulting in a blood protein called fibrinogen being converted into fibrin. The fibrin creates a tangled mesh that traps blood cells, so forming a clot.
(b)One possible answer: A shipboard navigation system can process signals received continuously
from several overhead global positioning system (GPS) satellites. By establishing the identity, locations and time signals of the satellites, a navigation system can electronically triangulate the ship’s location to within a few metres.
Activity 10.5: Shortening sentences 2
(a)One possible answer: Since the discovery of the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985, it has been rusting rapidly by a process involving the action of microbes. The wreck has also been visited by numerous expeditions, which have stripped the wreck of thousands of its artefacts and damaged its superstructure.
(b)One possible answer: Proteins are made up of one or more polypeptide chains. Each chain contains repeating units called amino acids, which exist in several forms. The precise sequences of amino acids give the protein its specific properties.
(c)One answer: Near the end of King William III’s reign, between the years 1695 and 1701, English copper coinage reached its nadir, with former employees of the Royal Mint being contracted to produce official coinage independently without close supervision. The contractors chose to manufacture coins by employing cheap labour and using substandard copper, improperly processed, with farthings and halfpennies minted using poorly engraved dies. The resulting coins often had blemishes, omissions and even spelling mistakes.
Activity 10.6: Applying punctuation to create meaningful sentences
A possible answer (yours may contain fewer or more commas and might incorporate dashes and parentheses):
It is the unequal heating of Earth’s surface by the Sun that powers the circulation of the atmosphere. The equator and the Tropics receive a much higher intensity of sunlight than the poles. This is a consequence of several factors. First, the Sun is overhead or nearly overhead at the equator and the Tropics so the Sun’s rays are directed almost directly downward. At the poles, however, the Sun ’s rays strike Earth’s surface much more obliquely and have travelled farther through the atmosphere to reach Earth’s surface. This means that each spot on the polar surface receives more diffuse light than an equivalent area at the equator. Added to this is an effect known as albedo, a measure of reflectiveness. At the poles the pale ice and snow reflect light well, so reducing light absorption. In equatorial regions, by contrast, the green or yellow landscape and the clear oceans reflect less light. The sum total of these effects is that the equator and Tropics heat up more than the poles.