We’ve all done it: “In this essay I will first cover…” It gets overlooked because it is how we would speak in our normal lives, or if we were giving a presentation. Unfortunately, it makes markers shiver. It doesn’t matter if you are an English or engineering student, markers across all disciplines will sigh every time an introduction contains that dreaded “I”. It takes away from the highly sophisticated initial introduction that you have just written, drawing your reader/marker in to the fascinating world of your chosen topic. Then you throw an “I” in there and it brings them straight back down to reality with a bump. So what can you do instead? It is really simple to replace “I” without really changing much of what you have written. You will also notice that when you do, your essay sounds much more sophisticated. Proof Master’s specialised Proofreading service focuses on addressing issues such as these to improve the academic strength of your work.
Top tip: instead of “in this essay I will cover..” consider phrases such as “The purpose of this essay is to explore…” or “this essay will examine the evidence relating to…” Notice that such a small change has significantly changed the tone of the sentence.
Remember, “I” can be used for reflective reports – it would be really difficult to reflect on your own thoughts and feelings without mentioning yourself.
We regularly misuse words in natural conversation. We all have that one friend that says “… and I was like, really late so my boss was like, freaking out.” Admittedly, even in natural conversation the overuse of the word “like” can become infuriating; however imagine how markers start to feel when they see the word “like” crop up in student essays. If you thought the word “I” was irritating, excessive use of “like” is similar to a volcanic eruption – marker brains everywhere! The use of “like” in this way is a colloquialism, or slang, and has been part of the English language for far longer than most people realise.
Top Tip: If you aren’t describing something e.g. “it was like reading a book” or expressing an emotion e.g. “I don’t like this,” it is probably best to avoid, like, using the word “like.” See what I did there?
Trusting spell check
We all love the spell check button. We’ve been up all night pushing to get our work finished by the deadline and we are exhausted. That magical button puts all our errors in one place and then we are good to go, right? Sorry, but no. We admit, spell check is a magical button, and it does put all your spelling errors in one place, but what if you have written a real but incorrect word? Have you ever had an email come through saying “god morning” instead of “good morning” and had a little snicker to yourself over someone else’s mistake? Spell check doesn’t pick up “god” as a typo because it’s a real word. You are now wondering how many strange mistakes you might have submitted over the years aren’t you? Proofreading work isn’t just about going through spell check and clicking “accept change” for all those red underlined words. No one would pay people to do that! To see what proofreaders actually do, check out Proof Master’s services page here. It’s about reading each word and making sure what you have written makes sense. We have had a teacher in training write that she went to the “First Aid Kid” to find a bandage – sounds like at her school there is a designated child that hands out bandages!
Top tip: Read your work carefully. You’ve heard it 1000 times before, I know, I know! Seriously though, read it. Don’t read what you THINK it says, but what it actually says. Our brain will insert the “t” in “First Aid Kid” if we skim read it.
When you are immersed in the environment of a particular topic, abbreviations become natural; you know exactly what they mean, as do the people around you. When anyone outside that environment however hears them, they could mean absolutely anything. Let’s look at some examples shall we?
CAT Therapy – No, this is not therapy for cats. In psychology it refers to Cognitive Analytic Therapy
PE – No, this isn’t sport at school. Any medics out there? It’s a medical abbreviation for Pulmonary Embolism
WWF – Well this could be one of two things: the World Wide Fund for Nature or World Wrestling Federation
These three abbreviations show how important it is to first explain something in full and outline what the abbreviation will be from that point going forwards. Even abbreviations you think are well known, such as ASAP, can actually mean different things. Anyone ever heard of the rock band ASAP fronted by Adrian Smith?
Top Tip: Either write things out in full all the way through your work, or write it out in full the first time, and then show the abbreviation going forward. For example: “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is becoming increasingly popular. Many individuals perceive CBT to be….”