Welcome back! Midterm szn is finally over, but lately, I have been completely bogged down by the number of (I think excessively) long papers I've had to write. Don't get me wrong, writing is one of my favorite things to do, but not when it's 7-9 pages on Job (I actually got super invested by page 3, but that's beside the point). When I was going through edits and revisions for my final paper last Thursday, I realized that I had devised quite a method for paper writing. Not to brag, but writing is my strong suit and I've consistently done well on my papers in college so far (knock on wood). For that reason, I'm revealing my 5 tools and tips for writing a great paper.
Outline on Google Docs
When I discovered the outline tool on Google Docs I was genuinely upset that I hadn't been using it for years. If you don't know, the outline tool allows you to use headings and subheadings to outline your paper. The great part is that once you create your headings they show up in a sidebar in which all you have to do is click on the heading to jump to that part in a paper. I use this initially to map out what I'm going to write about for each paragraph and if/when I'm writing to add notes to different sections to keep track of my ideas. It's especially helpful when you're writing your introduction/conclusion to make sure you recap all of your main ideas!
Thesaurus.com is truly my holy grail. No matter what I'm writing, it's always open in the next tab. Not only does it help to make sure you're not using overused words like "happy" and "said," but it also helps to make sure you're not using the same words too often. For example, I'm a big fan of the words "however" and "whereas," but they shouldn't appear more than 2 or 3 times in a paper. I also sometimes come up with words that don't sound right in the context of what I'm trying to say so I use Thesaurus.com to find substitutes.
Grammarly is hands down my favorite/most useful tool. I have the free version, but it's installed in both Safari and Chrome and I use it at least once a day! Grammarly checks spelling and grammar, and the paid version check more advanced writing mistakes. No matter how many times I proofread a paper or even a blog post, I upload it to Grammarly and it finds at least 3 misplaced commas. This tool has saved my grade so many times!
Word Counter is a tool that I use when I have my final draft. I copy and paste the entire paper into WordCounter and the tool gives me an approximate speaking time (in case it's a speech) and reading level. I like the reading tool because I want to be sure that I'm not writing in sentences that are too simple so that I seem like I'm in middle school. Most of the time I get a 12th grade or college level which is the goal. I also like this tool because it can tell me what groups of 1, 2, or 3 words I use often. For example, I recently wrote a paper on perfectionism and it told me that the word perfectionism appeared 8 times which makes sense. What I don't want is to discover that I've used "basically" or "foremost" 3-4 times.
Readable is another tool that I use in my final draft. It quickly scores your document and gives it a readability score based on sentence structure, length, word length, word complexity, etc. It's a combination of scores for a number of tests but I usually pay attention to the main score. I also like it because it gives counts of sentences that are lower than 20 syllables and higher than 30 (for varied sentence complexity), passive voice counts, and cliche counts. The cliche counter is one of the most valuable parts because I often don't even notice when I've used cliche's in my writing.
What tools do you use for writing papers? Stay tuned, xx Lauren.