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The 4C Thesis Statement Solution

Your thesis statement is the backbone of your entire paper.  Get it right, and you are set up to write a great paper.  A good thesis statement not only clearly states your position on the topic, it also provides a quick outline for the rest of your paper.  But how do you write a thesis statement that works? You could use a thesis statement generator, but you still need to do the thinking involved to know what to put into it.

That’s where the 4C Thesis Statement Solution comes into play.

What is the 4C Thesis Statement Solution?

The 4Cs stand for: Choose a topic, Collect evidence, make a Claim, and Convince your audience of your claim.

The thesis statement itself has 3 parts, Topic, Claim, and Evidence List, but to get to those parts, you have to go through the 4Cs.

The following shows you how to go through the 4Cs and arrive at a well written thesis statement at the end:

1. Choose a topic

Your purpose in stating your topic is to let your reader know what the paper will be about.

Have you ever been lost somewhere without a quick way of finding out where you are? It is confusing and frustrating.  Similarly, if you don’t state your topic in the beginning of your thesis statement, your reader will feel lost before he or she even gets to the meat of your paper.

If you have an open ended assignment in which you are asked to choose a topic yourself, make sure your topic is not too broad.  It is really hard to form an opinion on a very broad topic. You can start with a broad topic and narrow it down.

For example:

The 1960s –> music –> rock and roll –> The Beatles

Shakespeare plays –> Romeo and Juliet –>major characters –> Mercutio

Are you writing a thesis statement now?  If so, write your paper topic at the top of your document.

2. Collect evidence

Imagine a detective pinpointing a perpetrator without collecting any evidence first.  Impossible, right?  The evidence has to be gathered before the crime is solved. So then why do so many students feel that they have to write their opinion before they have enough evidence to form a valid one?

Before you can make a claim and write your thesis statement, you need to be very knowledgeable about the topic at hand.  If you are writing about a book, find quotes in the book that address your theme.  If you are writing about a broader topic, find articles and other sources that give you multiple views on the topic.

In the process of gathering evidence, you may find yourself narrowing your topic even further.  Let’s take the example of The Beatles.  While it’s already narrowed down from 196os history, The Beatles still may be too large a topic to form a meaningful opinion.  You may decide to focus on their influence on the world.  Or perhaps you want to discuss one of their albums and its influences.  Don’t be afraid to discard some evidence in order to focus on a more coherent and manageable topic.

3. Make a Claim

What do your pieces of evidence have in common?  What do they say about your topic?  These relationships should form the basis for your claim.

For example, in rereading scenes from Romeo and Juliet, you may find that Mercutio is always a good friend to Romeo.  That can be your opinion:

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio is a great friend to Romeo

You’ll notice that the topic is clearly stated, and the claim almost hits you over the head with its directness.  That’s good.  Your thesis statement should be extremely clear.

4. Convince your audience of your claim

Now that you’ve made a claim, it’s time to convince your reader that you are right. You do this by compiling a brief list of the evidence you will use to prove your claim.

You may want to include all of your evidence in your list, but you may also want to leave some of it out if it doesn’t prove your opinion.  Remember, everything in your paper should prove your claim.  This is especially important for your list of evidence, because it tells your reader where you are going with your paper.

Look through the evidence you have gathered and pull out 3-5 main ways of proving your opinion.  Then list them out:

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (topic), Mercutio is a great friend to Romeo (claim). This is shown when Romeo is pining after Rosamond in the beginning of the book and Mercutio helps him lighten up, when Mercutio supports Romeo in his fight with Tybalt, and when Romeo is devastated at Mercutio’s death (list of evidence).

The Beatles’ music (topic) made a huge impact on the world (claim). They changed music forever with their unique sound,  influenced 1960s fashion, and have appeared on numerous forms of media, including video games and television shows (list of evidence).

To recap:

The 4Cs of thesis development are:

Choose a topic (not to broad!)

Collect evidence on your topic

Make a claim based on your evidence

Convince your reader you are right with an evidence list

 

The thesis statement itself has 3 parts –

Topic, Claim, Evidence List

 

I hope the 4Cs will help you write better thesis statements in the future!

How to set yourself up for writing success this school year

The beginning of the school year can be a real challenge.  New teachers mean new expectations and new types of assignments.  You may have learned to be a writing rock star in your classes last year, only to find out that your new teacher has much higher expectations.  Don’t panic.  Now is a great time to set yourself up for success for the rest of the school year.

Here are a few things you can do:

1. Get to know your teacher.

Many teachers give rubrics and guidelines in the beginning of the school year.  If your teacher is one of these, make sure that you look through the guidelines carefully and clarify any questions with your teacher.  He has taken the time to provide this framework because he cares about your ability to meet his expectations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can follow them better.

If your teacher didn’t provide any guidelines about his expectations, make sure to ask if he uses a rubric he can share with you.  If not, perhaps he has a sample paper that shows what he’s looking for.  Some new teachers may not have this available either.  If this is the case with your teacher, at least he’ll know that you care about his class and will work hard to succeed.

2. Use a rubric.

If your teacher provided you with a rubric, use it. If not, use one of the following rubrics to help guide your writing:

AP Rubric

College Writing Rubric

Writing without a rubric is like driving to a new destination without a map (or a Smartphone). Use the rubric before and after writing your paper to ensure that you are on the right track.

3. Ask for feedback.

When you get your first paper back, hopefully it will be full of helpful comments that will guide you to become a better writer.  However, many teachers don’t have time to write comments, or they assume that students won’t care enough to look at them.  If your paper comes back with a grade but no comments, find time to meet with your teacher and ask her why you received the grade you did.  Even if you got an A, you should know why, so that you can replicate it in the future.  You can even bring a rubric with you to guide your meeting with your teacher.

4. When in doubt, follow these basic writing rules:

1. Write a thoughtful thesis statement containing your opinion and a roadmap of at least 3 justifications for that opinion.

2. Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence letting your reader know what the paragraph is about.

3. Only choose quotes that support your thesis statement and that you can follow up with at least 2-3 sentences of well thought out explanations.

4. Make sure that your paper contains more of your own thoughts than it does quotes written by someone else.

5. Write an outstanding conclusion that sums up your paper without directly restating your introduction and gives your reader something to think about when it’s over.  (Answer “So what?” about your paper.)

If you do all of these 4 things now, in the beginning of the school year, you will set yourself up for success in writing and have less stress throughout the year as well.

What is in a thesis statement?

I’ve noticed that by far, the most hits on this blog come from my post on thesis and outline generators, so I thought I’d take a minute and write about the formula for a good thesis statement.

A good thesis statement has 3 parts:

1. Presentation of the topic

2. Your opinion on the topic

3. Your roadmap for how you will prove your opinion

For example, if you were to write a thesis statement on the topic of kids watching TV, it might look something like this:

Topic presentation:

In the United States, the average child between the ages of 2 and 11 watches around 30 hours of television a week.

Opinion:

While there are some educational television shows out there, nothing can replace the learning that comes from loving human interaction; therefore, parents should spend more time with their kids and reduce the amount of television their children watch.

Roadmap (3 parts)

(1) More human interaction would benefit kids by helping them learn how to interact with and treat others in a real world context.  (2) Children who spend more time with their parents are proven to do better in school and have larger vocabularies.  (3) Also, many tasks must be learned hands-on, especially in early childhood, and a television can’t provide that type of learning experience.

(Notice that each part of the road map tied back to the opinion about learning, and didn’t just list general reasons why television watching is bad for kids.  Be specific in each part of your thesis statement!)

Put all three parts together, and there you have it – a comprehensive thesis statement, letting your reader know what your paper will be about, what your opinion on the topic is, and how you will convince him or her that you are right.

Q&A:

Q: I don’t even know what my opinion is on the topic.  How can I write my thesis statement before I know what research is out there?

A: You can’t.  Wait until you have researched and synthesized the information before writing your thesis statement.  Sometimes I wait until I have written the bulk of my paper before writing my thesis statement.  Then I go back and tie all of the paragraphs back to the thesis statement.

Q: What is the difference between a thesis statement and an introductory paragraph?

A: Good question.  An introductory paragraph can sometimes include only a thesis statement, but the better-written ones also have a grabber at the beginning, like a quote, a compelling question, or an interesting scenario.  Then there is a bridge connecting the grabber to the thesis statement, and finally, the thesis statement itself.

Q: What if my paper is much more complex, and I have far more than three parts to include in my roadmap?

A: First, group your subtopics together as much as possible.  Even if a section has multiple components and paragraphs, as long as all of those paragraphs relate to the same subtopic, you can mention only that main subtopic in your thesis statement roadmap.

Then, make sure that your wording is as concise as possible for your thesis statement roadmap.  You only want the main idea of the subtopic in your roadmap, not the details.

Q: Why do thesis statements matter so much?  Why do my professors seem to care about them?

A: A well-written thesis statement prepares your reader for the rest of your paper.  It tells her what you will be proving in your paper and how you will go about proving it.  Thesis statements also help you by providing you with a roadmap for your paper, as well as a central idea on which to focus.

Q: Once I’ve written my thesis statement, can I just forget about it and write the rest of the paper?

A: No.  You must tie every paragraph or subtopic back to it in some way.

How to Write Better Papers in Less Time: 5 Tips

Have you ever gotten an assignment to write a paper and thought, “I hope this takes me a long time?” I didn’t think so.  However, most students waste time and drag assignments out needlessly.  I’d like to present a list of the top 5 ways to save yourself time while writing your papers for school.

1. Eliminate distractions.

We do our best work when completely focused on the task at hand.  However, there are increasingly more distractions that keep us from staying on track.  Write a list of all of the distractions that typically lure you away from writing your paper.  My top 4 are Facebook, searching for things to buy online, answering texts, and checking my email on my phone.  Once you’ve identified the distractions, make a point to be more aware of when you let them get in the way of working on your paper.  You may feel like you are rewarding yourself for doing so much hard work, but you are just extending the time that you have to sit and “try” to work on your paper.  Say no now, and you’ll have more time later to do the things you really want to do.

2. Be deliberate and strategic when choosing a topic.

The first hurdle in paper writing is choosing a topic.  When thinking about a topic for your paper, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Will this topic help me show my professor that I understand the course material?

2. Will I be able to easily find enough resources for this topic?

3. Does the breadth of the topic correspond with the required length of the paper?

If the answer to any of these 3 questions is “No,” your paper will take you more time to write.

Be strategic, but don’t spend a lot of time choosing a topic beyond asking yourself these 3 questions.  Allow yourself no more than 15 minutes to choose a topic.

3. Don’t edit your paper until you are done writing it.

If you think you will save yourself time at the end of writing your paper by editing it throughout the process, you are wrong.  Stopping to edit will waste a lot more time than it saves.  Even if you don’t feel confident about your writing, force yourself to keep going.  Get all of the content on the page, and then go back and make changes.  Trust me, if you start and stop and go back, paper writing will be a very painful process.

4. Generate your “Works Cited” page as you write.

Every time you cite or use an article or book, quickly type the source down in the required format.  And don’t forget to take down the page number immediately! If you wait until you get to the end of the writing process, you’ll have to spend time re-finding every source you used – a real time sucker and an unpleasant task when all you want to do is drink a beer and celebrate that you’ve finally finished writing your paper.

For your convenience, here are the book and article formats for citing in APA and MLA:

APA Article:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article.Title of Periodical,    

                  volume number(issue number), pages.

APA Book:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location:

Publisher.

MLA Article:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of

publication.

MLA Book:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

Medium of Publication.

(Citation information is from the Purdue OWL.  Check it out for more detailed information about APA and MLA formatting.)

 5. Each time you sit down to write, write for at least an hour with no breaks.

People do their best work in unbroken, meaningful chunks of time.  Every time you take a break, you are pulling your thoughts away from the paper and adding a few minutes when you come back to refocus and get back to work. An hour isn’t that long, but it is long enough to fully immerse yourself in your paper, to the point where you gain greater insights and can really knock out a portion of your paper.  Schedule at least an hour to write your paper and don’t let yourself take any breaks during that time.

Try out a few of these tips and leave a comment below with your tips for saving time.

 

Why the ellipsis is your friend…

Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, and you know there is a point to it, you know it’s coming, but it seems to take forever for the storyteller to get to the point?  Don’t you just wish that you could cut out some of the middle to get to the important parts?  Well, you can!  In your papers, that is.  You can, and you should.

Sometimes, when writing a paper, you will come across a great quote that supports the point you are trying to make in your paper.  The beginning really relates to your point, and the end drives it home as well.  But the middle deviates to another topic.  What do you do? You throw an ellipsis (…) into the middle, and magically have a perfect quote to use.  Just write the beginning of the quote, and in place of all of the throwaway words in the middle, write … Then, continue the quote with the ending you’d like to use.  You can also take out 2 or 3 useless sections by inserting an ellipsis into each section.

Yeah, you may be thinking, but if I include the middle of the quote, it will make my paper longer.  Sure it will, and all of that pointless stuff in the middle made your friend’s story longer, too, but it also turned it into a less than pleasant tale to sit through. Remember, you want your professor to enjoy reading your paper, not just be happy with the length.

 

Why writing a paper is like going on a backpacking trip

Backpacking is probably one of my favorite activities.  I feel the most alive, the happiest, when traveling through unknown places, preferably 3rd world countries, because they are cheaper and still full of incredible experiences.  My husband and I went to Belize a few months ago, and I did not want to leave.  I was imagining us extending our trip, going to Guatemala, and then further south, not returning home for months.

Wouldn’t it be great to feel like that about writing a paper?

Most people see paper writing as a burden, as something they have to do to get through school.  But in reality, writing papers is one of the most authentic learning experiences we have in college.  Just like traveling, we decide where to go.  We immerse ourselves in learning.  And, unlike when traveling to third world countries, we can’t get giardia from doing so.

I find that when I have a task to accomplish which I perceive as unpleasant, it is helpful to reframe it for myself to make it more enjoyable.  For example, I can see working out as a way to become more fit, instead of an hour of my day spent grunting and sweating.  In doing so, I try harder and get more out of it.

So here are a few ways you can look at your paper writing assignment as a backpacking trip. In doing so, you will hopefully become more invested in your paper, enjoy it more, and come out with a better paper in the end.

1. Choosing a topic = Deciding where to go

You may be thinking yeah, but my professor controls the topic of my paper.  It has to relate to the course topic.  You are right.  And when planning a trip you are limited by a specific budget, a certain time frame, flight availability, etc.  However, when choosing a destination, you also think about places you really want to see and explore.  Can’t paper writing be the same?  Choose a topic you really want to explore and about which you’ll enjoy learning.

2. Doing initial research = Reading travel guides before you leave

When I am going on a trip, I love visiting book stores and paging through travel guides.  What can I see in Italy?  Where do I want to go in India?  Finding research for your paper can be the same.  I think that most people look for sources as if they are shopping for paper plates for someone else’ s party.  They know they need  them, and they know the basic size and material they want, but other than that, anything will do.  The moment you begin choosing boring sources, that’s when the paper writing process begins to suck.  Instead, look through your research database like you are looking through a guidebook.  Be selfish – where do you most want to go?

3. Writing an outline = Creating an itinerary

You have done a little bit of research about where you want to go within your paper.  Now it’s time to plan your trip.  What are the main places (ideas) you want to visit in depth?  When planning a trip, you decide on a few places to stay and learn even more about them, and that’s also what you do in the outlining phase of writing your paper.  When my husband and I went to Italy, we decided we would first go to Rome, then Venice, and then down to Florence.  Once we knew where we were going, we looked into the deeper details of where to stay, which museums and sites to visit, etc.  It is the same with your paper.  Once you know your subtopics, you can begin the exciting part – figuring out more about each topic.  As you identify further subtopics, write them into your outline. Now you know where you will go in your paper.

4. Doing deeper research = Packing for your trip

Once your initial outline is roughly complete, go back to your sources and pull out specific quotes to use in each section of the paper.  I find it very helpful to write these into the outline, citing them as I go, so that I don’t have to go back and type them up later.  Doing this is like packing the essentials in your backpack before a trip.  Do you have enough sources?  If not, keep looking.  But don’t include random sources just to fulfill your professor’s requirements.  Make sure that everything you put in your paper is essential.  Backpacking can be a pain in your back when your pack is filled with nonessential items. Trying to shove unrelated articles into your paper will make the process painful as well.

5. Beginning your paper = The plane flight over

I admit it – beginning a paper is my least favorite part.  Why?  It is hard to know where to start.  I usually start with my first subtopic, rather than the introduction, because the introduction is a preview of the rest of the paper, and until I know what is in the rest of the paper, I think it is fruitless to try to write an introduction.  But forcing myself to sit down and begin writing can be difficult.  I have to get the first few sentences down, and then it takes off.  Similarly, plane flights are usually one of the low points of the trip.  But you have to go through them to get to your destination.

6. Writing the body of the paper = Experiencing the trip

As you write the paper, you learn so much about your topic.  You explore ideas you never knew about previously.  As you learn more about your topic, your initial outline sometimes changes.  You decide to explore new ideas as they are revealed to you.  But you still stay in the same subtopics and stay focused on the same overall topic.  After all, if you are in Florence, you aren’t going to wake up in Guatemala City.

7. Writing the introduction and conclusion = Creating an album of your trip

After I return from traveling, I like to create an album showing where I was and what I experienced.  It is the same with your introduction and conclusion.  Now that you know the specific subtopics and the details within them, you can write your introduction, showing the reader where you will go, and the conclusion, showing where you have been.  Make the introduction exciting by beginning with a grabber, and the conclusion satisfying by tying it all together with a call to action.

8. Editing and revising = Telling exaggerated tales about your trip

Lets face it – no trip is perfect, and without editing, your paper won’t be perfect, either. But we don’t go home from a trip and tell everyone about the moments we wish hadn’t happened.  Instead, we embellish the good parts and conveniently leave out the less than savory moments.  When you edit and revise your paper, you get the chance to remove the imperfections before handing it in.  Do you really want your professor to know about that night in Roatan when you got locked out of the hostel?  I didn’t think so.  You also don’t want him to see all of the mistakes in your first draft.

So you see, paper writing can be like going on a great trip.  The key is to see this as a great learning opportunity and be picky about your topic and your sources.  Make sure you really care about your paper.

And while you’re at it, send a postcard or two to share your learning.

6 tips for being your own best editor

Editing seems like the easiest part of the writing process.  In fact, many people don’t even edit their papers, or they have someone else edit them.  I admit it – when I was in college, I would email all of my papers to my father.  He would email them back with a few grammatical corrections, then I made the corrections and turned in the paper.

However, editing is an essential part of the process, and if you can edit your own writing, you won’t have to worry about finding someone else to do it for you.  But just as with anything else, editing takes skill.  The following are some suggestions for how to edit papers effectively.

1. Give yourself time to leave the paper and come back to it.

Don’t finish papers the night before they are due.  Give yourself at least a day to ignore your paper before you go back and edit it.  When you have just written a paper, you are too connected to it to be able to look at it critically.

2. Use your rubric.

If your professor provided a rubric, use it to edit and revise your paper. Grade yourself honestly for each section of the rubric.  Remember, your professor is your audience, and the rubric is his lens for viewing your paper.  Try to view it as if you were him.

If your professor didn’t give you a rubric, use this one: College Writing Rubric.

3. Read it out loud.

As you look over your paper, read it out loud.  Or better yet, have someone read it to you.  You may have missed words here or there; sentences that made sense to you two days ago in a paper-writing haze may now need to be revised.  This is a very powerful method for finding writing that needs to be changed.

4. Detach yourself from your paper.

There is a reason why the first writing attempt is called a rough draft.  It is not supposed to be perfect.  In order to fix your paper, you may have to make drastic changes.  Go into the editing process with an open mind and be willing to throw entire sections away.  If they don’t advance your thesis statement or strengthen your paper, you don’t want them in your final draft.

5. Check out my blog entry on choosing more academic words for your paper.  

Changing a few nonacademic words to their higher brow counterparts can make your writing sound much more scholarly.

6. Celebrate afterward

After you have thoroughly edited your paper, take yourself out for a margarita.  You deserve it.

3 grammar websites you will love

Grammar consists of the nitty-gritty rules on how to write well.  Most of us don’t even know all of the rules, let alone remember to follow them on a consistent basis.  Yet, learning about fun things like how to use a semicolon correctly or how to break a sentence down into its parts can dramatically improve our writing.  Below, find 3 grammar websites that actually make following the rules fun.

The Write Practice Grammar Guide

Written by Liz Bureman, a fellow Denverite, this grammar guide will help you out with questions like when to use affect vs. effect, how to use an ellipses (…) correctly, and when to end a sentence with a preposition.  Each article is short, to the point, and enjoyable to read.

Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl’s tagline is “Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”  That should give you an indication of the tone of the website.  Here, you can find topics such as when to use a comma versus a colon, a National Grammar Day Tale of Love, and word choice posts too numerous to count.  Each article is also available in audio format, for all of you auditory learners out there.

Daily Writing Tips

If you love grammar, you will love this website.  Every single day, they publish a new grammar tip or idea.  You can also look back into the archives for more ideas or to brush up on different grammar topics.  It even includes quizzes on different grammar topics, if you have that much time on your hands.

There you have them – my favorite grammar websites.  Go ahead, try them out.  Just don’t tell anyone. And if you still want someone to proofread your paper, email me.

2 key emotional ingredients for school success

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my clients, and she was telling me how emotional she is getting about her first grade daughter’s reading level.  She said that when she got her latest test scores, she just burst out crying.

It got me thinking about the emotions of learning.  When I taught elementary school, many children in my classroom were unable to learn at first, because they had so much going on in their lives that was more important.  The turning point in their learning abilities came when they realized they could trust me and gained confidence in themselves.

From this experience, I will argue that there are 2 key factors to being successful in school (or really, any endeavor).

1. Self-confidence

Do you approach your assignments and papers with the knowledge that you can tackle any task?  Self-confident people view difficult experiences as learning opportunities.  What do you tell yourself about your skills and abilities?  Does your internal voice say that you can do it, or shy away from difficult tasks?  If you lack confidence in your abilities, get help by hiring a tutor or visiting your school’s writing center.  Break assignments down into smaller tasks so that you can see what you need to do to be successful.

Remember that everyone is brilliant in different ways.  Know yourself – where do your strengths lie?  Can you apply them to assignments you find more difficult?

Finally, self-confidence grows from accomplishments.  So if you are feeling badly about your abilities, fake it until you make it.  Just keep working and know that when you complete assignments, you will not only learn more, but gain confidence as well.

2. Support from others

Do you have a teacher you trust, someone who always encourages you and knows you can accomplish any task? If not, seek one out.  Get to know your professors; see if one of them can serve as your mentor.

Surround yourself with people who know how brilliant you are and who will help you achieve your goals.  Are your friends understanding when you can’t go out with them because you have to do schoolwork, or do they tell you to have more fun?  Are they willing to discuss academic topics with you?   If not, befriend fellow students and make a point of spending time with those who are succeeding in school.

 

In elementary education, we spend a lot of time focusing on our students’ emotional needs, but it seems to me that this focus is lost as students grow older.  However, the older we get, the more complex our emotions become.  We may be able to push them aside more effectively, but they can still greatly affect our success.  Who hasn’t experienced an argument with a loved one followed by an unsuccessful day at work? Take time to nurture yourself.  When you feel good, you will be much more successful.

4 paper writing ideas for extroverts and interpersonal learners

This week, I have been focusing my blog posts on writing papers for the different learning styles.  Today I will be focusing on interpersonal learners – those who learn best by conversation and relating to others.  What are the implications for how they should write papers?

Even though paper writing is thought of as a solitary activity, it doesn’t need to be.  The following are some ideas for social learners to get the most out of their paper writing assignments.

1. Get together with a friend to first discuss your writing and then write.  Ask each other questions like:

“What are you focusing on in your paper?”

“What is your thesis statement?”

“Do these subtopics make sense within this paper?”

2. Read the assignment with other students from your class and get multiple opinions on what your professor is looking for in the paper.  Someone else may have noticed something you missed.

3. Throughout the week or so during which you are working on the assignment, discuss the paper topic with others.  You never know what ideas a friend or family member might contribute.

4. Hire a tutor.  If you want someone to discuss your writing with you in depth, consider hiring a writing tutor.  He or she will be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss ideas and ways to improve your writing.

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