Writing Guidelines


Mechanics includes things like spacing, punctuation, grammar and spelling. This is a college-level class and as such, I expect you to follow basic mechanical conventions. Assignments that contain excessive mechanical errors will be returned for revisions.


All written assignments should be double-spaced.

Margins should be no more than 1.25 inches.

Include page numbers on all written assignments.

Include your name, the date, and the course information on all assignments.

No extra spacing between paragraphs, but do indent new paragraphs.

Font size should be 11-12 point.

Spelling: Spelling errors are usually perceived as a writer’s careless attitude towards the entire project. Don’t allow your work to be perceived in this way! Take the time to check carefully for spelling errors.

Commonly confused words:






e.g. (“for example”)/i.e. (“in other words”)

Punctuation: The most frequent problems that students have with punctuation are comma and semi-colon usage. You may want to review these websites to brush up on your punctuation usage.





You should write for a wide audience, not just for your teacher. Assume your audience is other college students who are not in the class. That means that you will have to explain terminology from the course and that you must use citations and references to indicate course material (rather than referring to “our textbook”). You should also avoid writing as if you are responding to an assignment prompt (e.g. “For this assignment I decided to…..”).

For more information on writing for different audiences, visit OWL (Purdue’s On-Line Writing Lab): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/658/04/


In college level writing you should work on developing your own voice, rather than relying heavily on the voices of others. To do this, you should avoid quotations and try to paraphrase material in your own words. Here are some basic guidelines for uses of quoted material:

1. Avoid using too many direct quotations, particularly if they are lengthy or you can say the same thing in your own words. Reserve quotes for instances when the author’s original words have a unique impact.

2. Never simply drop a quotation into a paragraph. Use signal phrases to introduce your quotes. (see http://academics.smcvt.edu/writingctr/Quotes.htm for how to integrate quotes effectively).

3. Don’t expect the reader to interpret the quote for you. Explain why you think your quotes are meaningful or relevant to the rest of the paragraph.

4. Make sure you put quotation marks around other people’s words. Failure to do so is plagiarism.

5. In this class, no more than 10% of any written report should be direct quotations. Reports that exceed this limit will be returned for a rewrite and a 10% deduction will apply.

In addition to developing your own voice, you are expected to write most papers in an academic voice. This means that you should:

1. Avoid colloquialisms (slang)

2. Avoid clichés and idioms

3. Avoid repetition of words (use your thesaurus, but make sure the language you choose is language you are familiar with)

4. Avoid 1st person and 2nd person pronouns

5. Try to use the language of the discipline


Revised 7/16