Writer's Studio

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use first person in my paper? Is second person ever acceptable? ~ Show Answer

It is best to stay in third person. Since you are the author of the essay, your reader will automatically assume that the non-cited claims in your paper are your own. Additionally, second person is too direct and usually off-putting to the reader.

Should I introduce new information in my conclusion? What information should go in my conclusion? ~ Show Answer

Your conclusion should not contain totally new information, but you should go further than just restating the claims in your essay. You should try to take the reader to the outside world by letting them know why your essay is a worthwhile document for people to read.

Should my thesis be specific or general? ~ Show Answer

Your thesis should be specific enough to outline the purpose of the essay, but you should not spell out all your claims in great detail. Leave that for the body of your essay.

Present or past tense? ~ Show Answer

Past tense is the easiest tense in which to write, but you want to write about works of fiction or poems as if they are living documents. So, present tense would work for essays that deal with this type of subject matter.

Do I need an outline before writing? ~ Show Answer

You should find a pre-writing method that works for you. There is no set rule for this process, but pre-writing is important and will help you organize your essay.

When should I use block quotations? ~ Show Answer

You should use block quotations sparingly and use only the part of the quotation that is most valuable to your claim.

How many quotations should I use? How do I introduce a quotation? ~ Show Answer

No more than one-third of your paper should be comprised of quotations. Primarily, your paper should be your own words and thoughts. You should never include a quotation without explaining its significance and blending it with your own writing. Additionally, you should try to maintain focus and only use the most relevant part of the quotation in your essay.

Can I switch verb tense? ~ Show Answer

Usually you do not want to switch verb tenses, but if you are writing about a work as if it is a living document in present tense, then it is okay to switch to past tense when you are no longer writing about the document.

How much time should I spend on summary? ~ Show Answer

Unless you are writing a summary essay, your essay should have very little summary in it. It is more important to analyze the work you are addressing.

What is the best way to make clear transitions? ~ Show Answer

The best way to make clear transitions is to remember to connect the topic and concluding sentence of each paragraph directly to your thesis. If you do this, your paper will flow smoothly.

How do I avoid sounding redundant? ~ Show Answer

The best way to avoid sound redundant is to dig deep into your subject matter. Go past the obvious and try to look at your claims from different angles.

How long should my thesis be? Should my thesis come at the beginning or end of my introduction? ~ Show Answer

Your thesis should be long enough to fully address the essay's prompt. This may mean that your thesis is longer than one sentence. Additionally, it is usually a good idea to state your thesis at the end of your introduction paragraph and not the beginning.

What should I include in my introduction? ~ Show Answer

Your introduction should begin with an engaging sentence. You should then briefly touch on the main ideas of your essay and end your introduction with your thesis.

Am I allowed to ask questions? ~ Show Answer

You should avoid using questions in your paper because it is your job to be an expert about your subject matter. Additionally, you should avoid questions in your paper because it discounts your authority.

How do I know when to start a new paragraph? ~ Show Answer

You should start a new paragraph when you are switching to a new subject. Remember that a balanced paragraph is usually 3 to 5 sentences long.

My writing prompt seems very broad, how do I decide on a topic? ~ Show Answer

Be as specific as possible, but remember to choose a subject that is open enough to fulfill your essay's page requirement.

What is the best way to edit my paper? ~ Show Answer

There are numerous ways to edit your paper. We recommend reading your paper aloud to a friend. Additionally, reading your paper backwards is a good idea, starting with your last sentence.

I am not passionate about the topic I am writing about, what should I do? ~ Show Answer

Since writing an essay is such an involved task, we recommend choosing a topic that interests you. If the subject matter of the prompt does not interest you at all, try to find a way to connect to the subject matter and go from there.

How do I avoid passive voice? ~ Show Answer

The best way to avoid passive is to write in declarative statements with a clear subject and active verbs.