How to Stop Writing like You're in High School
College Life | 

How to Stop Writing like You're in High School

No one cares if you have a cover page.

It's time to unlearn many of those high school writing habits. They just don't exist anymore in college.

In high school, you might have learned to start every paragraph with the main point and end every paragraph re-stating the main point. That's not the case in college. You have much more freedom to write in the way that serves your ideas and argument.

College professors want you to think critically and write persuasively. Here's a cheat sheet to help you shift into college writing gear.

Source: K.C Uthus, FlockU

Word to your flocker.

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Three Major Things Professors Look for in a College Paper

If your professor read your paper back to you aloud, would you be embarrassed?

Every professor evaluates papers differently. Some are looking for creativity and don't care if your paper has a couple typos. Others are sticklers for grammar and spelling, and take off points for a misplaced comma.

In almost all cases, however, there are a few common factors that you can pretty much assume any professor will want to see in a paper.

1. Did you understand the assignment? Read the assignment carefully as soon as you get it. Make sure you completely understand it. If you're unclear, ask your professor questions right away. Also, pay attention to verbs, because they tell you what to do. There's a big difference between "summarizing" and "comparing," for instance. Understanding the assignment is super basic, but can be easy to screw up.

2. Did you make an original argument and support it? Nearly all college papers need an original argument (or thesis) and evidence that supports it. Welcome to college writing life. Professors want to see that you can formulate an opinion and use research to back it up. Your mission is to convince your professor of your way of thinking.

3. Did you show that you learned something through the assignment? A writing assignment is a learning experience. Professors create writing assignments because they want you think about something in a certain way--so, use your head. Your paper should be thoughtful and informative. It should look like you spent time on it; and didn't throw it together three beers deep.

You'll be in good shape if your paper hits all these points. That being said, this list is not a foolproof strategy. Your professor might want to see other things, as well. The better you understand your professor's requirements, the less confusing (and painful) writing can be.

Word to your flocker.

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13 MORE Hotkeys in Word You Just Gotta Know

Fly, fingers, fly.

We promised we'd be back with a second list of hotkeys to learn once you mastered these basics. It's all in the name of writing faster, and when your roomies are beckoning you away from your homework with a beer, damn straight you better type like hell.

So here we go with a continuation of the Word hotkeys you should learn to fly, baby, fly across that keyboard.

Toggle between all uppercase letters, title case letters, and all lower case letters.

  • PC: Shift + F3
  • Mac: Shift + F3

Indent text.

  • PC: Control + m
  • Mac: Control + Shift + m

Apply/remove superscript (such as for citations or scientific/mathematic formulas).

  • PC: Control + Shift + equal sign
  • Mac: Command + Shift + plus sign

Apply/remove subscript (again can come in handy for scientific/mathematic formulas).

  • PC: Control + equal sign
  • Mac: Command + equal sign

Insert footnote at the end of the page (to create citations in the body and a list of sources at the end of a page).

  • PC: Control + Alt + f
  • Mac: Command + Option + f

Insert endnote at the end of the document (to create citations in the body and a list of sources at the end of the document).

  • PC: Control + Alt + d
  • Mac: Command + Option + e

Search the document for a word or character.

  • PC: Control + f
  • Mac: Command + f

Format text on single-spaced lines.

  • PC: Control + 1
  • Mac: Command + 1

Format text on double-spaced lines.

  • PC: Control + 2
  • Mac: Command + 2

Insert a page break.

  • PC: Control + Enter
  • Mac: Shift + Enter

Turn track changes on and off.

  • PC: Control + Shift + e
  • Mac: Command + Shift + e

Spellcheck the document.

  • PC: F7
  • Mac: F7

Print document.

  • PC: Control + p
  • Mac: Command + p

Writing faster now? Good. You deserve to go party.

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5 Things to Immediately Do After Flunking a Paper

Remember, failure is part of learning.

So you failed a writing assignment. WTF. Maybe you think you deserve a better grade. Maybe you put zero effort into the paper and aren't surprised by the big, red 'F' staring back you. Either way, it feels crummy. Worse, you probably have some ground to make up to get a good grade in the class, or even just pass it.

The good news is, there are a few important things you can do now to bounce back from that 'F' and ace your next paper. Here's some advice.

1. Take all feedback to heart. If your professor left comments on your paper, read them over and understand where you went astray. Digest those critiques and consider them when tackling your next paper. What will you do differently next time?

2. Ask what you did wrong. You don't always get comments on your paper, and sometimes, the comments can be difficult to understand. Don't guess why your professor gave you an 'F.' Schedule a meeting with him or her to ask what you did wrong and what you should have done instead.

3. Get examples of good writing. Talk to your professor about writing examples when you meet. Ask him or her for any samples of good writing that you can refer to when you work on your next writing assignment.

4. See if you can do extra credit. Let's say this was the last writing assignment for your class and there isn't much--or any--opportunity to make up for the 'F.' Ask your professor if you can do extra credit. Some professors will say yes, and others will turn you down. But the worst that can happen is they say no, so it can be worth asking.

5. Don't beat yourself up. Failures happen. They're a part of learning. In fact, people learn much better by making mistakes and correcting them, than by doing everything right from the get-go. Learn as much as you can from this assignment so you know more about how to get an 'A' next time. And remember, you'll get there!

Word to your flocker.

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Anatomy of a College Essay

Don't fuck this up.

Every college essay you write must have structure - aka anatomy. Structure lets your professor follow your thought process, critical when proving your point. When was the last time you won an argument by talking in circles and mixing up ideas? Your essays need to move your professor from point to point to point to conclusion.

So here's our take on the basic anatomy of a college essay--you can even use it as a template moving forward. Note: This is assuming that most essays are about five to seven doubled-spaced pages.

The Logistics
Don't forget the obvious. Put your name, the date the essay is submitted, the name of the class, and name of your professor in a list on the top right or left corner.

Title
Length: About five to 10 words, and make sure it fits onto one line
Main Purpose: To say what the essay is about
Even though you have a guaranteed reader--your professor--the title should still grab attention. You are likely being graded on that. But avoid complicating the title. Say what the essay is about, simply and tightly.

Introduction
Length: One to two paragraphs
Main Purpose: To provide context for your thesis
The introduction sets up your piece. Your professor is about to read your thesis statement for the first time. What does he or she have to know first to understand the context of your argument?

Thesis Statement
Length: One sentence
Main Purpose: Communicate your argument
The thesis statement is the heart of your piece. It must be strong and take a stance. You know you're taking a position when someone could argue against your thesis.

Supporting Paragraphs
Length: About five to seven sentences each, about eight to 12 paragraphs in an essay
Main Purpose: To prove your thesis
This is the meat of your essay. Every paragraph should contain one idea, with some explanation and/or hard evidence (such as examples and reputable statistics) to support it. An organizational trick is to state the paragraph's main idea in the first sentence. Once you've written the piece, read only the first sentence of every paragraph. If the sentences flow, you're in a good place. If they don't make sense, go back and edit.

Conclusion
Length: One paragraph
Main Purpose: To tie up your entire essay
Don't introduce new information in the conclusion. It's the place to summarize your essay and drive your thesis home. Give your professor a final thought to remember.

Citation Page
Length: As long as it needs to be to cite every source
Main Purpose: To show where your evidence came from
Citations give validity to your sources and show that you didn't just fabricate research. They are a "necessary evil"--be sure to include them.

Keep this framework handy the next time you begin outlining an essay.

Word to your flocker.

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Be Freeeeeee!

Why You Should Randomly Start to Write Shit When You're Stuck on a Paper

You're wasting time on the internet right now because you have no idea what to write. Amright? Well, Eventually you've got to produce something that makes sense, so how about a muse to help get you going?

Here it goes: JUST WRITE SHIT. Whatever is in your head. Put it down and don't stop. Even if you're thinking, This is the dumbest thing ever. I don't know what I'm doing. I wish I were knee deep in vodka and feasting on leftover Chinese food. Well, stop. Write. Sooner or later that drivel will start to make sense.

This approach, called "free writing," can warm up your brain and put you in writing mode, which is half the battle when it comes to completing a paper. Here's the best way to do it:

  • Don't pay attention to typos or grammar. Just keep going.
  • If you draw a blank, write the same word or phrase over and over until you get unstuck.
  • Sometimes it helps to set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer runs out, look over your writing for ideas or sentences that might be useful in your paper.

Why do you dread writing--is it with every assignment or just certain ones? Usually it's because you don't know what to say or how to start. Stop with all the pressure, that's going to waste time and give you the runs. You don't always need to know what to say right away. Put yourself in writing mode and let the thoughts come to you, rather than ransacking your brain for them.

"The best way to get started is to begin." Of course. So begin. Start writing. Just be sure to delete all the nonsense before you hand in your assignment. I guarantee your professor does not want to know how many times you thought about sex before you wrote your paper.

Word to your flocker.