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University of Oklahoma | College of Education | Norman | Oklahoma

  Adult & Higher Education Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies s

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PET PEEVES

Whenever you are completing a writing assignment for me (be it a term paper report, journal, case study, analytical report, research prospectus, or dissertation), please remember that you are writing a scholarly piece. Please be sure to write in complete sentences (not in point form) and follow all necessary scholarly prose rules and requirements. You should use the American Psychological Association (APA) style of referencing whenever possible or appropriate. However, you are free to choose another scheme to write your paper (MLA, Chicago, American Sociological Association) as long you maintain consistency throughout your prose. The OU Writing Center can serve as a useful resource for you if you are on campus.

Your paper should be submitted to me electronically as a Microsoft Word document with all the proper format and requirements. You will get back electronic feedback from me using the tracked feature of MS Word.

Information about student academic integrity (including a tutorial on plagiarism) provided by the Office of the Provost is available here.
Please be knowledgeable about these matters.

Below are some pet peeves and suggestions.
(Please try not to make these errors in your papers)


  1. Know the difference between "its" and "it's." The former is a possessive noun (The cat ate its food) and the latter is an abbreviation for "it is" (it's common knowledge that cats are independent). This is unfortunately a very common error (you will see them even in newspapers) but it is an extremely bad error. Please learn the difference and do not make the error for the rest of your life. Your grade could be reduced by as much as one letter for each error.

    Wrong: The cat ate it's food.
    Wrong: The cat ate its' food.
    Right: The cat ate its food.

    Wrong: Its right to say that all humans are mortal.
    Wrong: Its' right to say that all humans are mortal.
    Right: It's right to say that all humans are mortal.
    Right: It is right to say that all humans are mortal (it is always desirable to spell out abbreviations in formal writing)


  2. Citation is a part of a sentence; therefore the period comes after the citation.

    Wrong: There are 14 million college students in higher education today. (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2000).
    Right: There are 14 million college students in higher education today (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2000). Notice that there is only one period, and it comes after the citation.

  3. Do not split infinitives in formal writing.
    Wrong: I perform this procedure to partly solve the problem.
    Right: I perform this procedure to solve partly the problem.

  4. Anytime there is a direct quote, page numbers must be cited. Paraphrases do not require page numbers--only the authors' names and year of publication)

    Right: "Strategic planning is not like a bell bottom fad" (McKinley, 1999, p. 46).

  5. The abbreviation for "and associates" as in "et al." has a period after the "al" only.

    Wrong: There are 15 million college students in America today (Peterson et. al., 1999).
    Wrong: There are 15 million college students in America today (Peterson et. al, 1999).
    Right: There are 15 million college students in America today (Peterson et al., 1999).

  6. Avoid committing a comma splice. This is another common error and a very bad one.

    Wrong: Walter went to the grocery store, and bought an apple.
    Right: Walter went to the grocery store and bought an apple.
    Right: Walter went to the grocery store, and he bought an apple.

    Wrong: Mary was tired, therefore she did not do well on her exam.
    Right: Mary was tired; therefore, she did not do well on her exam.

  7. Subject-verb-noun agreement (no match) problems (this can happen between sentences as well).

    Wrong: A college student should be able to do whatever they want.
    Right: A college student should be able to do whatever he wants.
    Right: A college student should be able to do whatever she wants.
    Right: A college student should be able to do whatever he or she wants.
    Right (the best): College students should be able to do whatever they want.

    This technique, as you can see, is the best way to avoid gender specific problems. It also makes for a much easier reading and writing.

  8. Know the difference between "there" and "their." The former is a direction and the latter is a possessive noun.

    Wrong: Their are many people at the mall today.
    Right: There are many people at the mall today.

    Wrong: Marvin and Mary went to pick up there checks.
    Right: Marvin and Mary went to pick up their checks.

  9. Don't end sentences with prepositions.

    Wrong: My boss likes people whom she can work with.
    Right: My boss likes people with whom she can work.

  10. Rule of paraphrasing or direct quoting: Always paraphrase whenever possible and direct quote only when you absolutely cannot find your own words to describe or explain someone's opinions. When direct quote, you usually do it with only a few words rather than a complete sentence or a full paragraph, unless you need to do so. Whether you paraphrase or direct quote, you must always cite the source, and direct quotes require page numbers. Paraphrasing forces you to write with proper introduction, better transition between points, and better coherence.

  11. There is no such punctuation as a single quote mark ('), unless it is used as an apostrophe (e.g. OU's football team) or within double quotation marks to denote a quote that the original author used. Example: Jane writes that "John Smith's concept of 'academic integration' is functionally unrelated to the concept of student engagement" (2000, p. 34).

  12. Know the difference between a hyphen and a dash. A dash is denoted by either two hyphen-looking marks (--) or one long dash.

  13. Avoid the use of the word "thing" in formal writing. Be more precise about what you mean.

  14. Avoid second-party references (e.g. you) in formal writing if you can (often not necessary). At least, do not combine two-party references with the first (I, we) or the third party (he, she, they, it).

  15. Spell out all short forms and abbreviations (the first time) in formal writing.

    Wrong: Arnold says he'll be back.
    Right:
    Arnold says he will be back.
    Right: The American Psychological Association (APA) has an easy format to learn. The APA style of referencing has a large following.




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