Here’s a bonus tip I left out of my recent post on proofreading. One of the most common words used in the English language is “is” and its variants. Unfortunately, “is” signifies only existence, a quality of being, and not anything interesting about the nature of the existence being described. So it’s important to use verbs that convey more meaning, that carry forward the action or ideas that make up our work.
One of the greatest frustrations that professors face is the lack of solid writing skills among some of our brightest students. To see a student who we other wise know to be smart and even articulate bury their written ideas under poor grammar, bad spelling, awkward colloquialisms, and misconstrued logic is painful, even heart-breaking. I’ve come to believe, though, that a big part of the problem is not so much that students are inherently lazy writers or that they simply don’t care enough to do well, but that they do not proofread their work, at least in part because they haven’t learned how to do it well.