Monday, April 8, 2013

Style, Style, Style...What About Writing??

Look past the style
at the writing inside
“APA Style=10% of grade.”

Eeeek! 10% of my grade is a lot. I better make sure I get the APA formatting perfect; no sense losing points for something that isn’t content related.

Is this your thought process for a paper? Well, while it doesn’t make sense to lose points on something so seemingly trivial, there is one very important point that you might be missing.


Professors assign papers in order to test your knowledge and research skills. And while formatting is important, the content of your paper is even MORE important.

For some, writing a paper in a particular style is inconsequential; they would probably write it in a particular format anyway. But for many, writing in a style is cumbersome and hampers their ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to writing without limitations?

Here’s the good news: You can! And the only barrier to doing it is yourself.

First, work on content and research. Without these things, it is nearly impossible to write papers well. If you are well prepared to start a draft (with research and possibly an outline), the words will come much easier. The main point is to get all of your good ideas on paper, and then you can begin to mold them to create a visually appealing essay, meaning in the proper format.  

And don’t forget your bad ideas. They need to get on paper, too. (No, you won’t keep them, but if you have them written down, then the rest can be awesome because you know what you don’t want to be in the paper.)

Now, once you have your ideas down, organize. If you have an outline scribbled down (or made into a formal outline) compare it to your paper. If you’re using a word processor, highlight the main points of your essay and make sure that you followed through with what you promised the reader (your thesis/argument and main points).

NOW you can worry about the formatting. If it’s in APA Style, look at the title page, running head, abstract, keywords, headings, references, and parenthetical (in-text) citations. If it’s MLA Style, check your heading, title, paragraph layout, parenthetical citations, and works cited. If it’s CMS, check your title page, footnotes/endnotes, parenthetical citations, and bibliography.

It may be tough work to forget formatting for a bit (while you do that important thing called writing), but your paper will thank you. Writing in a particular style is just to make the paper easier to read and the information easier to comprehend/utilize. Therefore, formatting style should take second place to the information that should be understood—your writing.

So, the next time you get a paper assignment with “APA Style=10% of grade” written on the rubric, don’t panic. Get your writing done first, and then worry about the formatting. Style is important, but the 90% is even more important.


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