Writing Advice from Education Faculty

Dr. Mary Steppling

Professor of Speech-Language Pathology

Writing can say much about us. We should always strive to represent ourselves well in both verbal and written situations. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when you are writing:

The written word is not easily erased, so always proof what you write--whether it is an e-mail or a formal assignment. Grammar and spell check can find some mechanical mistakes, but they cannot edit your intent; only you can do so.

Always allow a little extra time to edit. If you are working on important assignments, completing them and putting them aside even for a few hours can give you a fresh perspective when rereading.

Although there are many styles for formal writing, speech language pathologists always use the style sanctioned by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Your thoughts in your voice are very important for two primary reasons: First, repeating the words of others too often will push the boundaries of plagiarism. More important, writing something in your own words aids your understanding and so helps you to learn new material.

Many resources are available online, and search engines make them accessible. Look for them. One of my favorites for spelling and vocabulary is the online Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, available at www.m-w.com. For grammar, you can turn to our very own Dr. Tuten’s www.getitwriteonline.com (see the “tip archive”).

Here are some others. Have fun finding your own!

Guide to Grammar and Writing
Breaks down grammar into categories, from sentence-level concerns to issues at the essay level. This site also contains quizzes.

Grammar and Style
Includes answers to some common grammatical questions and contains exercises to help gain knowledge.

Grammar quizzes

Worksheets on many grammar issues

Dr. Sandy Ayers

Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education

When writing—whether for my class or for any other reason—you will want to keep in mind the following advice:

  • What is your purpose for writing this piece? For a formal class assignment, are you comparing, reflecting, or reporting?
  • Who is your audience? For a class assignment, I am your audience.
  • What form will suit your writing? For a class assignment, follow the directions provided.
  • What information do you need to gather and organize before writing the paper?
  • What steps in the writing process do you need to follow? Remember that you will expect your students to follow these same steps, which include
    • brainstorming,
    • drafting,
    • revising,
    • editing, and
    • publishing (final finished papers—for an assignment, “publishing” means that the paper is ready to be turned into me).

My pet peeves:

  • Shifting tenses inappropriately in your writing
  • Misuse of pronouns (For example, saying “Me and Jane” rather than “Jane and I” when a subject pronoun is appropriate or saying “Jane and I” instead of “Jane and me” when an object pronoun is appropriate. Here are sentences in which the pronouns are correct: Jane and I were excited about the election. I was glad when my father gave the keys to his new car to Jane and me.)
  • Confusing contractions with possessive pronouns (For example, its vs. it's, whose vs. who's, your vs. you're or inappropriately using an apostrophe in the possessive pronouns theirs, ours, yours, and so forth)
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Pronoun-antecedent agreement (Example: "Every student who completed her work," not "Every student who completed their work")
  • Plagiarism
  • Failure to cite references correctly

Dr. Chris Burkett

Assistant Director of M.Ed. Program in Divergent Learning; Assistant Professor of Education

Professional research and writing are cornerstones to the Divergent Learning graduate program. It is paramount that candidates in this program continually strive to refine and enhance their professional writing abilities.

The culmination of this effort is showcased in the Divergent Learning Action Research Thesis. Through the writing process in the DL program, candidates should always edit and revise their work. The following two links take you to the grammar and punctuation handouts that were shared with you in EDU 709. These documents were written by Doris Layton, Ph.D. and Randy Lee, Ed.D. Please use them to refresh yourself on correct grammar and punctuation usage:

Dr. James C. (Jim) Lane

Associate Professor of Education

When writing formal papers for my classes—and even in less formal kinds of writing assignments—you will want to keep in mind the following advice:

  • Avoid confusing pronoun references. Make sure that each pronoun refers clearly to the appropriate person being discussed in your paper.
  • Use formal terms in all writing, unless otherwise noted. “The guys” is not an appropriate substitute for the phrase “the students.” Use specific adjectives that conjure up images for the reader rather than saying, simply, “the room was cool.”
  • Don't use abbreviations in your narrative unless the instructor tells you to do so. Some examples would be using “vs.” instead of “versus,” “edu” instead of “education,” and “elem” instead of “elementary.” 

Dr. Lynne S. Noble

Professor of Education

When writing papers for my classes, you will want to keep in mind the following advice:

  • You will lose points for incorrect grammar, punctuation use or misspellings.
  • Please visit the Academic Skills Center if you have any worries about your writing.
  • I am happy to look at your work-in-progress, as long as you submit it to me at least five days before the final paper is due.
  • Read your work out loud. Often you can catch errors just by listening to your words. Even more effective is to have someone else read your paper out loud to you.

I have a few pet peeves:

  1. Misusing who and that. Who refers to people and animals with names; that refers to objects and animals without names: “the teacher who assigned my homework,” “Spot, who is my dog,” “the pencil that I used to finish my homework,” “the cow that is in the field.”
  2. Using a singular pronoun to refer to a plural noun: Refer to a child as she/he, her/him; refer to children as they/them/their. “The child brought his book; the children used their markers.
  3. Misusing academic, educational, or theoretical examples.
  4. Misspelling: Teachers need to know how to spell OR know how to check all their spelling. 

Dr. Leigh Ann Spell

Professor of Speech-Language Pathology

When completing writing assignments for my classes, please remember the following advice:

General Writing

  • Start your writing assignments well in advance of the due date! Good writing does not happen in one draft the night before an assignment is due.
  • Follow the following three stages when writing:
    • Pre-Writing Stage: Plan what you are going to write by outlining or using a graphic organizer to organize your main ideas.
    • Writing Stage (a.k.a. first draft): Write your paper in narrative form. Read it aloud to make sure the content makes sense and it is well-organized. You can also begin to check mechanics.
    • Re-Writing Stage: Make final additions/corrections in content development, organization, and mechanics (spelling, grammar, word usage, punctuation).
  • Some people have difficulty finding writing errors in their own work. If you are one of these people, use the Academic Skills Center for feedback on your paper drafts.

Clinical Writing

  • Make sure you read and understand what is required in each clinical writing assignment. What you will find professionally is that each setting uses a different format and requires different information for evaluation reports, progress reports, etc. This is true in classes as well. In some of my classes you might have to write a report in an education format while in others you will have to write a report in a medical format.
  • See General Writing advice above.

Scholarly Writing

  • Use APA citation format for all scholarly papers.
  • Avoid plagiarism by making sure that you cite information that is not your own writing. See the SLP Writing page for information on how to summarize and how to use APA citations correctly.
  • Use formal language. Do not write in the first person or use slang terms in your writing.
  • See General Writing advice above. 

Dr. Tracy West

Associate Professor of Education

When completing writing assignments in my classes, you will want to keep in mind the following advice:

  • Be certain that your thoughts are your own. If you are using the words of others, be sure to correctly site the source. Click here for very helpful and detailed information about APA style.
  • As always, when writing about individuals with exceptional learning needs, be sure to use “people first” language. For example, “A student with a learning disability” or “a young man with a mild mental disability” is correct; “a disabled student” or “a mentally retarded person” is not. Just remember to put the person first. 
  • Edit, edit, and edit again. Most of the written documents that you will create in your classroom will be going home to parents or out to other colleagues. Remember: “you are what you write,” and this maxim applies to e-mail. You have to be certain that what you think you are saying is clear and grammatically correct. In addition, clear and concise writing is critical in the completion of Individualized Education Plans and other required paperwork in special education.

My tip is to read it aloud. If you think it may not sound right, ask a friend or utilize the many resources available to you here at Columbia College, including me!