Friday, February 13, 2015

Teaching Writing: An Open Letter to High School and College Writing Students

Dear student,

Congratulations, you've made it to your upper level and college English classes.  Now it's time to up your writing game.  Sometimes it seems that teachers barely read your papers, but I promise we do.  And, in all likelihood, you're making some mistakes or missteps that are driving us up a wall!  So, with that in mind, here are my ten commandments of college writing:

1.  Thou shalt not start a sentence with "but;"  more often than not, it is lazy.
2.  Thou shalt not start a sentence with "so;" it makes it sound like a conversation with valley girls.
3.  Thou shalt not use numbers under 100; spell them out please!
4.  Thou shalt not use contractions.
5.  Thou shalt not use a lame title; be creative will ya?
6.  Thou shalt break your paper into well organized paragraphs.  No one wants to read a giant block of text, ya dig?
7.  Thou shalt follow the prompt.  *Hint* using key words from the prompt will help!
8.  Thou shalt not put a space between paragraphs.  Use the tab key, that's what it's there for.
9.  Thou shalt use transitions.
10. Thou shalt not use block quotes just to make your paper longer.  Been there, done that, I know the game.

These are my personal pet peeves so make sure to listen to your teacher to find out his/her preferences as well!

What would you add to the list, teacher friends?
Check out my Pinterest Board for Teaching Writing below!
Thanks for reading,


  1. I edit high school college admissions essays and I have to say that my biggest pet peeve is when they use the wrong homophone. Their/there, your/you're....where were their high school teachers?!

    1. Often times, we teach our students this in high school. They can correctly identify which homophone to use, and they can apply it to their writing in class. (Homophones are not in our standards for high school, so we're revisiting elementary standards to cover homophones.) However, they seem to think that it won't make a big difference if they use the wrong word outside of class, so they don't spend their time worrying about it. Sad, but true.