Other journals and other publications like books, theses, and proposals tend to have very little in the caption, with the figures being understandable only when reading the main text. Even in such cases, I myself prefer to put all the graphical details like "the dotted line represents" in the caption, plus enough context so that the import of the figure is clear.
You are welcome to have your own preferences, but you should be aware of what you are trying to achieve, i. Word-level issues Try hard to avoid ambiguous references Conversation is replete with ambiguous words like "this", "these", "his", "it", "they", etc.
These words have no meaning in themselves, but in conversation the meaning is usually clear from the context. In written text, however, the intended meaning is quite often not evident to the reader, because there are e. It is a good idea to read over anything you write, searching for this sort of word.
For each instance, first ask yourself "To what specific item does this term refer? For such a reference to make sense, the object, person, or concept must have been explicitly mentioned just prior to your reference. Often you will find that "it" or "they" refers to something vague that was not even discussed explicitly in your paper, in which case you should reword your text entirely. Even if the item to which you refer is explicitly mentioned in your paper, ask yourself whether there is any chance that the reader might not know to which of several items you might be referring.
If so then state the actual name of each; "he" would be ambiguous. Often an ambiguous "this" or "these" can be disambiguated by adding a noun that specifies precisely the type of object or concept to which you are referring. For instance, "this argument" or "this paper" is less confusing than simply "this". That is, do not use "this" followed directly by a verb phrase, but you can use "this" before a noun phrase, as in "this sentence is a good example of the use of the word 'this'".
Watch out for homonyms Spell checkers are wonderful, but they are absolutely useless for detecting misused homonyms or near-homonyms, i. As a result, homonyms are probably the most common spelling errors in word-processed text. Even if you are lazy and let the spell checker fix all of your other words, make certain that you know the differences between words like: Yet because the spell checker takes care of all the other words you may misspell, learning to use these few words correctly is surely not much of a burden, and is crucial for convincing your readers that you are competent and trustworthy.
Avoid "comprise" Apparently the word " comprise " has now been used incorrectly so many times to mean " compose " that this usage is now becoming acceptable. But it is much safer simply to avoid "comprise" altogether, as anyone who does know what it started out meaning will be annoyed when you use it to mean "compose". If you take a grammatically correct sentence containing "but" and replace it with "however", or vice versa, the result will almost always be incorrect, mainly because of comma punctuation.
However, I do not like tangerines. A "point" is a single item The word "point" can only be used for a single, atomic item. Thus it is not appropriate to discuss a "sub-point", "part of a point", the "first half" of a point, etc. Instead use "topic" or "section", etc. Use "a study" or just "research", never "a research". Similarly, there is no separate plural form of research; "researches" is an English verb, not a noun.
Avoid capitalization When in doubt, use lower case. Capitalization is appropriate only for specific, named, individual items or people. For example, capitalize school subjects only when you are referring to a specific course at a specific school: Department of Computer Sciences vs. When in doubt, use lower case.
Avoid contractions Contractions are appropriate only for conversational use and for informal writing, never for technical or formal writing. Hyphenate phrases only when otherwise ambiguous In English phrases groups of several words forming a unit , hyphens are used to group pairs of words when the meaning might otherwise be ambiguous.
That is, they act like the parentheses in a mathematical expression. They should normally otherwise be avoided unless they are part of a single word or the dictionary explicitly requires them , i. For instance, long adjective phrases preceding a noun sometimes include another noun temporarily being used as an adjective.
Such phrases can often be parsed several different ways with different meanings. For example, the phrase "English language learners" as written means "language learners from England", because, by default, "language" modifies "learners", and "English" modifies "language learners". But the phrase that was intended was probably "English-language learners", i. Note that there would never be a hyphen if the same phrase were used after the noun it modifies, because in that case there would be absolutely no chance of ambiguity: Note that hyphens are used only in adjective phrases; they are not needed after an adverb and are therefore incorrect.
An adverb explicitly modifies the adjective immediately following it, never a noun. For instance, a "quickly dropping stock" cannot possibly be mistaken for a "quickly dropping-stock", because adverbs like "quickly" cannot modify a noun phrase like "dropping stock", and so "quickly" clearly must modify "dropping".
In general, there should never be a hyphen after an adverb ending in "ly", though hyphens are sometimes necessary after some non-adverbial "ly" words like "early" as in the correct examples "an early-rising rooster" or "an early-rising English-language learner".
You may want to search through your finished document for "ly-"; nearly all examples of those three characters in a row will be mistakes. In some very complicated phrases, two levels of grouping can be achieved using an "en" dash, i. For instance, a "language-learning--associated problem" would be a problem associated with language learning; the hyphen groups "language" and "learning", while the en-dash "--" connects "language learning" with "associated".
Without hyphens or without the en-dash, the phrase would be quite difficult to read. But in such cases it is often clearer just to reword the sentence to avoid the ambiguity, as in "a problem associated with language learning". In cases where the word grouping is quite obvious because the pair of words are so often used together, the hyphen can be omitted even when it would strictly be required to avoid ambiguity.
For instance "chocolate chip cookies" is unlikely to be misread as "chocolate chip-cookies", despite that being the literal interpretation, and so the hyphen can usually be omitted from "chocolate-chip cookies". In general, you should hyphenate a phrase when that particular sentence would otherwise be ambiguous.
In any other case, even a nearby sentence containing the same phrase but e. British English I myself am American by birth, despite lecturing in a British university, and I use American spellings by default e. Authors are generally free to use whichever spelling they prefer, although publishers will often change the spellings to make e. Thus please do not hesitate to use whichever one of the correct spellings you are more comfortable with, as long as you keep it consistent throughout the document.
Additional guidelines specific to academic writing Academic writing includes texts like original research papers, research proposals, and literature reviews, whether published or not. Formatting and grammar rules When in doubt about grammar or page format, researchers in psychology and computer science generally follow the APA style guide ; biological fields use similar standards. Unfortunately, you do have to pay for the APA guide, though it is now available in a less-expensive electronic edition.
Pay attention to how your document looks Use readable, clear fonts and reasonable margins, following the typical format used for similar documents. If your word processor cannot make the spacing regular between words e.
Poor spacing makes the page look jumbled and seem incoherent, even if the writing is not. Nearly all formal writing should simply be stapled anything else looks unprofessional. For instance, using a fancy cover and binding for a short paper or report is distracting and makes it difficult to photocopy the paper; such binding is necessary only for long papers that a staple would have trouble keeping together.
At the opposite extreme, it should be obvious that folding one corner is not an acceptable substitute for a staple. Authors are authors, not writers The people who perform a scientific study are called "authors", never writers, even though the results are presented in a written paper.
Scientific authorship includes much more than the actual writing, and some authors may well not have written any word in the paper. Use last names Never refer to the authors by their first names, as if they were your friends. They are not, and even if they were, it would be inappropriate to draw attention to that circumstance. Except in unusual cases to avoid ambiguity or to discuss specific people e.
Author names are keys -- spell them properly In academic writing, an author's last name is like the key in a database lookup -- if the name is misspelled e. Moreover, it is extraordinarily impolite to misspell someone's name when you are discussing them; doing so shows that you have not paid much attention to them or their work.
So you should make a special effort to spell author names correctly, double and triple checking them against the original source, and ensuring that you spell them the same way each time. Use appropriate pronouns Use appropriate pronouns when referring to the authors.
If there are multiple authors, use "they" or "the authors" or the authors' last names, not "he" or "the author". If there is only one author and you can determine the gender with great confidence, you may use "he" or "she"; otherwise use "the author" or the author's last name. Referring to other texts Use double quotes around the title of an article when you refer to it in the text.
Italics are reserved for books or other works of similar length. Avoid underlining altogether underlining is just a way of indicating that handwritten or typewritten text should be typeset in italics, and is thus inappropriate when italics are available as they are on any modern word processor.
Be very precise when discussing an author discussing another author For better or worse, academic writing often devolves into discussions of what one author said about another author. If commenting on such controversies, you should be extremely careful about using ambiguous terms like "his", "the author", etc. Very often your reader will have no idea which of the various authors you are referring to, even though it may be clear to you. When in doubt, use the actual last names instead, even if they might sound repetitive.
Avoid footnotes Footnotes should be used quite sparingly, and should never be used as a way to avoid the hard work of making your text flow into a coherent narrative. Only when something genuinely cannot be made to fit into the main flow of the text, yet is somehow still so important that it must be mentioned, does it go into a footnote.
A thesis is a statement that expresses the main idea of your paper. It explains the goal or purpose of your formal essay so that your readers know what to expect. A strong thesis should state the main idea of your essay and some points for discussion. For instance, if you were going to write a paper about why you like coffee, the main idea would be that you like coffee, while your discussion points would be your reasons for liking coffee. So your thesis might look like this: It consists of several paragraphs that work to support or explain the main idea by elaborating on the discussion points mentioned in the thesis.
Each body paragraph should focus on a sub-topic. Such an essay will typically start with a broad discussion of real-world phenomena and move quickly to the thesis -- its main argument -- or the subject.
Body paragraphs connect clearly with the thesis or subject and build an overarching discussion. Transitions between paragraphs connect the ideas without relying on obvious summaries of what came before and what will come next.
Conclusions in the best formal essays tie together all elements of the argument through summary or by provoking further thought on the thesis or subject.
Developing an excellent structure in a formal essay also allows you to think more clearly and ultimately demonstrates your careful thought.
Writing an excellent formal essay demands that you follow and understand many conventions. Understanding why conventions exist can give you more control over your formal writing and help you create excellent essays.
For example, avoiding "I" in formal essays will allow you to write sentences that are more focused on a topic. The phrase "I thought the movie was long" is about the author's opinion, while the phrase "The movie was long" is about the movie's characteristics; the first phrase is an informally written opinion, while the second is a formally written observation. Formal essays favor objective language and concise sentences.
A formal essay is more objective than the narrative or personal essay because it is usually based on provable facts and examples. Format of the Formal Essay. In general, a formal essay is at least five paragraphs long and contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a .
Informal essays have no set structure and they are typically shorter than formal essays. Informal essays also use first and second person, and often include thoughts and opinions. The subject matter of informal essays is brief and a .
When writing a college essay, formal writing must be observed. This is to leave a good impression to your reader. This is to leave a good impression to your reader. In business, written communication is essential in several ways. Mastering formal essays enables you to use this kind of writing for many different purposes, such as job searching and professional correspondence. Clear, concise and conventional writing are key elements in an excellent formal essay. The best formal essays also have an obvious purpose.
When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone. The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. See the box below for examples of the differences in tone in informal and formal essays written on identical topics. The key ingredient to a formal essay is the thesis. A thesis is a statement that expresses the main idea of your paper. It explains the goal or purpose of your formal essay so that your readers know what to expect. A strong thesis should state the main idea of your essay and some points for discussion.