This Is How to Write an Effective Research Paper

There are two words that evoke instant anxiety in nearly every academic—research paper. In this article, we’ll break down the steps to writing a research paper.

Here’s a tip: Although the research paper format is fairly standardized, writing guidelines may vary not only among academic institutions but also among individual professors. Pay attention to any how-to handouts you’ve received, and don’t forget to check your university’s writing lab for more resources.

How does a research paper differ from a research proposal?

A research paper is different from a research proposal (also known as a prospectus), although the writing process is similar. Research papers are intended to demonstrate a student’s academic knowledge of a subject. A proposal is a persuasive piece meant to convince its audience of the value of a research project. Think of the proposal as the pitch and the paper as the finished product.

A prospectus is a formal proposal of a research project developed to convince a reader (a professor or research committee, or later in life, a project coordinator, funding agency, or the like) that the research can be carried out and will yield worthwhile results.

Wichita State University Department of English

Dig into the research process.

Although we’ll focus more on the organization and writing of a research paper in this article, the research process is an important first step. Research will help you in several ways:

  • understanding your subject
  • formulating ideas for your paper
  • developing a thesis statement
  • speaking about your topic with authority

Gather resource materials and begin reviewing them. Here are a few good information sources:

As you read and evaluate the information you discover, take notes. Keep track of your reference materials so you can cite them and build your bibliography later. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) and other university writing lab websites are excellent resources to help you understand what information you’ll need to collect to properly cite references.

Here’s a tip: Try storing your notes in a spreadsheet. Create columns for elements you want to include in your paper as well as information necessary for your citations/bibliography. Columns can include headings such as Title, Author, Reference link, Page number, and Quotes.
Here’s a tip: Check with your instructor or university writing lab to determine the preferred citation style. Grammarly Premium identifies things that need to be cited and helps you cite them.

Organize before you start writing.

Your research spawned tons of ideas. Great! Now you’re ready to begin the process of organizing your presentation . . . before you begin writing. Don’t skip the organization step—it’s critical to your paper’s success. Without it, your paper will lack focus and you’ll spend much more time in the revision process trying to make sense of your jumbled thoughts.

The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is a sentence that summarizes the main point of your essay and previews your supporting points. The thesis statement is important because it guides your readers from the beginning of your essay by telling them the main idea and supporting points of your essay.

Purdue OWL – Developing a Thesis

Most research papers begin with a thesis statement at the end of an introductory paragraph. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to write a thesis statement as you begin to organize your research. Writing the thesis statement first is helpful because every argument or point you make in your paper should support this central idea you’re putting forward.

Most research papers fall into one of three categories: analytical, expository, or argumentative. If you’re presenting an analysis of information, then your paper is analytical. If you’re writing to explain information, then your paper is expository. If you’re arguing a conclusion, then it’s argumentative or persuasive. Your thesis statement should match the type of paper you’re writing.

Invest time in writing your thesis statement—it’s the main idea of your paper, from which everything else flows. Without a well-thought-out thesis statement, your paper is likely to end up jumbled and with an unclear purpose. Here’s more guidance from Purdue OWL.

The Outline

An outline will help you organize your thoughts before you dig into the writing process. Once you’ve developed your thesis statement, think about the main points you’ll need to present to support that statement. Those main points are your sub-headings. Now, organize your thoughts and information under each sub-heading.

Any information that doesn’t fit within the framework of your outline, and doesn’t directly support your thesis statement, no matter how interesting, doesn’t belong in your research paper. Keep your focus narrow and avoid the kitchen sink approach. (You know, the one where you throw in every bit of interesting research you uncovered, including the fungal growth in the U-joint of your kitchen sink?) Everything you learn may be fascinating, but not all of it is going to be relevant to your paper.

Need more help? Here’s an effective outlining strategy.

Writing the Research Paper

The good news is, once you reach this point in the process you’re likely to feel energized by all the ideas and thoughts you’ve uncovered in your research, and you’ll have a clear direction because you’ve taken the time to create a thesis statement and organize your presentation with an outline.

Here are the best elements to a research paper:

1 The Introduction

Here’s where you present the background and context for the rest of your article. Craft a strong opening sentence that will engage the reader. Just because you’re writing an academic research paper doesn’t mean you have to be dry and boring.

Here’s a tip: See Step 4 in our guide to better content writing. Although it’s about writing for the web, it’s relevant here, too.

Explain the purpose of your paper and how you plan to approach the topic. (Is this a factual report? An analysis? A persuasive piece?) Describe how you’ve organized your approach to the topic. Conclude the introductory paragraph with your thesis statement.

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:

  • What is this?
  • Why am I reading it?
  • What do you want me to do?
  • You should answer these questions by doing the following:
  • Set the context – Provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the claims you make and support.
  • State why the main idea is important – Tell the reader why he or she should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and convincing essay people will want to read and act upon.
  • State your thesis/claim – Compose a sentence or two stating the position you will support with logos (sound reasoning: induction, deduction), pathos (balanced emotional appeal), and ethos (author credibility).

Purdue OWL

MORE INFO: Starting Your Research Paper: Writing an Introductory Paragraph

2 The Body

Here’s where your outline will come in handy. As you’re writing, remember that your outline isn’t meant to be a prison—it’s a guideline to keep you on track. Your paper may evolve, so keep it fluid, but do remember to stay focused on your thesis statement and proving your points. Don’t let your sources organize your paper! Organize first and use your sources as they become relevant.

Consider the Rule of Three. Find supporting arguments for each point you make, and present a strong point first, followed by an even stronger one, and finish with your strongest point.

MORE INFO: Strong Body Paragraphs

3 Conclusion

Now, it’s time to wrap it up. Most research papers conclude with a restated thesis statement. Present your thesis again, but reword it. Briefly summarize the points you’ve made. Take a moment to explain why you believe those points support your case. If your research is inconclusive, take a moment to point out why you believe this topic bears further research.

MORE INFO: USC Libraries Research Guides: The Conclusion

Checklist for Revising Your Research Paper Draft

Make sure you allow time to revise and edit after you’ve completed your first draft. This part of the process is about much more than just fixing typos and adding or subtracting commas. Here’s a handy checklist to help you make sure your paper is on point.

Developmental Edit

  • Is your thesis statement clear and concise?
  • Is your paper well-organized and does it flow from beginning to end with logical transitions?
  • Do your ideas follow a logical sequence in each paragraph?
  • Have you used concrete details and facts and avoided generalizations?
  • Do your arguments support and prove your thesis?
  • Have you avoided repetition?
  • Are your sources properly cited?
  • Have you checked for accidental plagiarism?

Line Edit

  • Is your language clear and specific?
  • Do your sentences flow smoothly and clearly? (Hint: Read your paper aloud to help you catch syntax problems.)
  • Have you avoided filler words and phrases?
  • Have you checked for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation? (Hint: Grammarly can help!)

Thorough research, thoughtful organization and presentation, and attention to detail in your developmental and final line edit will help you succeed in crafting a winning research paper.

The post This Is How to Write an Effective Research Paper appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

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Quiz: Do You Know How to Network?

Networking can be a challenge.

There’s more to it than just researching events, identifying contacts, and following up. You also have to balance talking about your goals and interests against getting to know others. Effective networking as much an art as a science.

This quiz will guide you through some key aspects of effective networking and help you understand how good a networker you are.

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Do you need to brush up on your skills? Here are our top networking tips.

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Lesson 307 – Mechanics – Capitalization

Capitalize North, South, East, West, and words such as Northwest when they indicate a section of the world or country. Do not capitalize them when they indicate a direction.
Instructions: Capitalize each word that needs a capital letter.
1. I used to live in the northwest.
2. go north a mile and then turn east for two miles.
3. The west is burning up this year.
4. The Navahos of the southwest make beautiful blankets.
5. The north is cold, but if you travel south, the weather becomes warmer.
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. Northwest
2. Go
3. West
4. Southwest
5. North

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in eBook and Workbook format.
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Here’s How to Write a Perfect Letter of Interest

Your perfect job with the perfect company may not be advertised. So, how do you find gigs from within the hidden job market? You ask about them. Here’s how to write a letter of interest that will get you noticed . . . and maybe even result in a job.

Years ago, before I was the full-blown word monkey that I am today, I relocated to a new city. I’d left a job I loved—doing marketing for a dog grooming school. I knew I wanted to keep working in a field related to both marketing and pets. But I also knew that, in the small city I’d moved to, that was going to be a pretty slim job search net to cast. I’d have to get creative.

I set my sights on a large, upscale pet boarding kennel. I wrote the kennel’s owners a letter of interest, including clips from a portfolio of marketing materials I’d created, and asked them if they needed some help from an experienced pet industry professional to build their brand even further.

Although the kennel didn’t have an opening, or any role related to marketing, they did call me in to chat. Two weeks later, they created a position for me and I was employed doing something I enjoyed in an industry I loved.

Why Write a Letter of Interest?

The letter of interest is a job prospecting tool. Job hunting legend has it that 70 to 80 percent of open positions are never advertised. Although that figure is probably way higher than it should be, the truth is there are potential job opportunities out there that you’re not hooking as you troll the waters of Glassdoor, Indeed, and Monster.com.

Say you’re intrigued by a young startup and you wish they were hiring for a position that fit your skills. You could haunt the careers page of their website and hope for the best, or you could write a letter of interest to introduce yourself and begin the networking process. Which do you think will yield the best results?

A letter of interest may not get you immediately hired, but it has many advantages. It shows you have both interest and initiative—two things employers are always looking for. It also demonstrates your ability to market yourself through personal branding. In many cases, your letter will be regarded as a formal request to be considered for employment, so it will become part of a human resources file. When a position does open, guess whose letter and resume will be at the top of the pile instead of buried under a mountain of applications?

Your goal is to find out exactly what the company of your dreams looks for in an employee. Then, you’re going to become that person—the mythical Ideal Candidate.

How to Write a Letter of Interest

1 Write it like a business letter.

The first and most important thing to remember about writing a letter of interest is that it’s a business letter—treat it like one. Use the standard business letter format. Be professional.

Here’s a tip: Being professional doesn’t mean being stuffy. It’s always a good idea to try to match the communication style of the company you’re reaching out to. Look at their marketing copy, job postings, and website. If their approach to communication is more casual, yours can be, too.

2 Find the right contact.

Even if you have to call the company, get the name (and possibly the email address) of the best person to contact with your inquiry. If you do call or email to ask for a contact name, be direct. Say, “I’m interested in learning more about employment opportunities in your [department]. Would you tell me the name of the person responsible for hiring those positions and the best way to contact them?”

3 Research the company.

I scored that marketing job in a long-ago time before the Internet was mainstream. When I wrote my hard copy letter and prepared my clips, I didn’t even know what a letter of interest was. I was operating on instinct. You have the advantage of a ton of information right in your pocket anytime you need it. Let’s use it!

Your goal is to find out exactly what the company of your dreams looks for in an employee. Then, you’re going to become that person—the mythical Ideal Candidate. Check the company’s social media feeds and the careers and culture pages on its website for clues about the type of people they hire. Read job descriptions for their open positions; they’ll give you insight even if the jobs aren’t a fit for your talents.

Learn about their brand style—are they funky and fun or conservative and all business? Mirror that style to show that you’d be a good cultural fit.

4 Show how you’d add value.

Unlike a cover letter, where you’re homing in on skills and traits for a specific position, a letter of interest should demonstrate to the employer that you have a variety of skills that would make you a great fit in lots of different places. Think broadly and you’ll open more doors. What skills would make you an asset to the company?

The key to a successful letter of interest is not in showing off what you can do, but in showing what you can do for the company. Demonstrate excitement, not arrogance.

5 Keep it short, but write it powerfully.

Hiring managers and department heads don’t have a lot of extra time to read your magnum opus on why you’re awesome. The key is to be brief but memorable. Make every word count.

Avoid filler words and phrases. Keep your writing lean and clean. Use some power words to make your writing pop.

Letter of Interest Structure

Date

Let’s start with the simple stuff first! (You do know what day it is, right?) You’ll need this only for hard copy letters; in email, the date stamp is fine.

Contact Information

In a hard copy letter, put your contact info here. Include your phone number and email address. In an email, include your contact information after your signature, instead.

Here’s a tip: You don’t have to put Phone: and Email: in front of your phone number and email address. That’s just clutter. The hiring manager probably won’t have trouble figuring out what that ten-digit number and the thing with the @ symbol are.

Salutation

Greet the hiring manager or department head by name. And please do your best to find a name. (See Tip #2!) Avoid To Whom It May Concern. Nobody ever got truly concerned with, or even interested in, an email that began thus.

Opening Paragraph

Briefly introduce yourself and tell the hiring manager why you’re writing. Share your enthusiasm for the company—why do you want to work there?

Qualifications/Experience Paragraph

Talk about what you bring to the table. Let the hiring manager know why hiring you would add value to her team. Demonstrate the qualities you have that mesh well with the company’s mission and culture. (This is why you did all that research!)

The key to a successful letter of interest is not in showing off what you can do, but in showing what you can do for the company. Think in terms of excitement, not arrogance.

Close by casting a networking net.

You’re not going to close by saying something like “I hope you’ll keep me in mind if you have an opening in the future,” right?

Never! You’re better than that.

Close by asking for something. Use a call-to-action (CTA) to encourage the hiring manager to connect with you. You might ask for an informational interview—an opportunity for you to sit down with the hiring manager and learn more about the company.

Letter of Interest Example

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:

I’ve been following the Alpha Beta Company’s trajectory since it launched in 2007. When the company reached 10 million active users last month, I thought about how exciting it would be to be part of a team with the potential to grow that number to 20 million and beyond. I’m writing you to express my interest in joining your team and to learn more about upcoming employment opportunities.

I’ve been a user acquisition manager at XYZ, Inc. for five years. At XYZ, I developed the go-to-market strategy for new apps and performed analysis to calculate how our campaigns influenced user engagement. As you may know, XYZ operates in a smaller niche market. Even so, during my time with them, XYZ’s user base grew from just five hundred beta users to over 3 million today. In the ten years since I graduated with a bachelor of science in business and marketing from Great Big University, I’ve managed and launched hundreds of successful marketing campaigns on channels ranging from print media to social media to videos.

I’m excited by the idea of working in a larger market and for a company that is constantly innovating and recognized as an industry leader. I’ve enclosed my resume, which outlines my experience and skills. I’d love to sit down and talk with you about Alpha Beta’s explosive growth and new user acquisition strategy. Would you be open to meeting with me at your convenience?

Sincerely,

Your Name

The post Here’s How to Write a Perfect Letter of Interest appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

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Lesson 306 – Mechanics – Capitalization

Capitalize the days of the week, the months of the year, but do not capitalize the seasons. Example: Monday, March, summer
Instructions: Capitalize each word that needs a capital letter.
1. monday, may 1st was an important day.
2. we need more rain in the spring of the year.
3. I like december and the summer best.
4. The class will be thursday, friday, and saturday.
5. Will you come next tuesday and tell us about preparations for winter?
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. Monday/May
2. We
3. December
4. Thursday/Friday/Saturday
5. Tuesday

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in an eBook and a Workbook format.
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http://dailygrammarlessons.blogspot.com/2017/11/lesson-306-mechanics-capitalization.html

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing on a Mobile Device

In ancient times (circa 1995), so-called “cell phones” were designed exclusively for making phone calls. But these days we spend a lot more time typing on our smartphones than talking.

We use our mobile devices for everything—texting, email, posting to social media, Slacking with coworkers, commenting on our favorite blogs, and flirting with our latest matches. There’s even a growing number of authors tapping out entire novels on their mobile devices.

While the list of things we don’t do on our smartphones continues to shrink, writing on a mobile device still has its own set of challenges. So today we’re sharing five common mistakes (and how to avoid them) so you can always show up as your best self—even when you’re writing on mobile.

1Bad Grammar

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There’s just no context where blatant grammar errors will make you look good. Whether you’re texting with your mom (or your crush), emailing your boss, or crafting a witty retort on Twitter—good grammar matters.

Unfortunately, typing on a tiny touch screen can be . . . challenging. Typos abound. And when autocorrect kicks in, the results can get embarrassing.

The solution? Slow down and proofread your messages before you hit “send.” Did your phone’s autocorrect change “baked” to “naked”? Did you type “their” when you should have used “they’re”?

If you don’t have the time to proofread your texts, or you don’t trust yourself to catch every error, download the free Grammarly keyboard for your iPhone. We’ll do the proofreading for you as you type (just like on your web browser) so you can elevate your mobile writing to the same quality as what you produce on your Mac or PC.

2Keeping It (Too) Casual

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via GIPHY

We’re so used to sending casual messages to friends and family that it’s easy to forget the need for formalities in more official communication—such as answering work emails.

Writing on a mobile device does not give you a pass to be unprofessional. When you pick up your phone, remind yourself which audience you’re writing for. Are you texting your buddy about evening plans, or are you responding to a client’s question?

A “formal” message has five distinct parts: salutation, opening line, body content, call to action, sign-off.

Hi Nancy, (Salutation: addresses who you’re writing to)

Welcome to round one of your product rebrand! (Opening Line: addresses why you’re writing)

Here’s what our team came up with… (Body Content: your main message!)

Let me know which of these options is your favorite. (Call to Action: what you need from them)

Thanks so much for your feedback! (Sign-off: show your appreciation and sign your name)

—Joanna

If writing a formal message on your mobile device feels too complicated, wait until you can get back to your laptop or desktop to craft your message.

3Convoluted Text Messages

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We all just want to be understood. Increase your success rate (in life, love, and business) by writing messages that are clear and concise.

Lengthy, rambling text messages viewed on the tiny screen of your mobile device are not a great way to communicate. Especially when your novel-length missive gets broken into multiple messages that arrive jumbled in the wrong order.

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via GIPHY

Do everyone a favor by keeping things simple, and if it’s too complicated to communicate over text—don’t. Send an email or ask if you can call.

For specific examples of how to improve your texting game, click here.

4Too Much Text-Speak

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The opposite of the dreaded “rambling text” is the message that’s been shortened into obscurity using “text-speak.”

You may have spent your youth tapping out “wut r u ^ 2?” on your phone’s numeric keypad, but technology and the etiquette of mobile communication have since evolved.

So if your opening line to potential dates is still “hey, r u frE 2nt?”, I’ve got bad news. Research conducted by dating sites Match.com and Zoosk have found that bad grammar is a significant turn-off for the majority of their users—both women and men.

Your flagrant use of text-speak isn’t impressing anyone, and you’re likely coming off as childish or uneducated. Instead, show up as your best self by using your device’s qwerty keyboard to write complete words and sentences with punctuation.

5Overusing Emojis

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via GIPHY

Emoji-use is another classic case of “know thy audience.”

They’re easy to access through your smartphone’s keyboard, and can be a great tool for enhancing written communication, but they are not appropriate in every context and can even have negative consequences when used in the workplace.

While you’re safe using emojis in messages to friends and family, research has shown it’s a bad idea to send them to your boss and work superiors, clients, and coworkers you’re not close with.

Instead, focus on writing messages that are clear and unambiguously worded so they don’t need the assistance of emojis to convey their meaning.

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8 Things You Should Really Delete from Your LinkedIn Profile

There’s a lot you can do to make your LinkedIn profile shine. You list your greatest achievements. You make connections. You take the time to write a great LinkedIn summary.

But for everything you do to make your profile stand out from the crowd, there are a lot of mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn, too. Whether you’re looking for a job or just giving your LinkedIn profile its monthly polish, here are eight problems to avoid.

1 Lies

We all know that lying is bad, and lying on a resume can be especially dangerous.

It goes without saying that you should delete any fudged details. And fudging them accidentally is no excuse. Even if you mixed up your dates of employment or wrote “associate” instead of “assistant” because you hadn’t had your coffee yet that day, not being honest and not being detail-oriented are both red flags for LinkedIn recruiters. Take what Angela Ritter, a recruiter at Grammarly, has to say:

“I pay attention to detail in candidate LinkedIn profiles. I double check that the job title in their intro matches the job they are currently in, that they took the time to outline what they’re doing in their role (at least slightly), etc.”

There you have it: no lies and no mistakes.

2 Posts better suited for Facebook

Vacations. Parties. The world’s most adorable dogs. No matter how perfect those pups are, LinkedIn is not the place. As a rule, pictures and posts related to your personal rather than professional life should be reserved for Facebook, Instagram, and other more socially oriented social media platforms.

If you’re looking for a job, you might want to be careful what you post on those platforms, too. Take a look at social media mistakes to avoid while you’re job-hunting.

3 That high school babysitting job

In general, skip professional experiences from a long time ago or that aren’t relevant to your current career.

However, if a long-ago or seemingly unrelated job helped you develop skills that you want to showcase at your new job or specifically highlight in your interview, you might think about how to spin it, rather than just pressing delete. According to Nicole Williams, Linkedin’s Connection Director:

“You never know—maybe you were trained as a salesperson at The Gap in high school, and the hiring manager looking at your profile went through the same program and wants you for the skills she knows you learned.”

4 The wrong photo Was your photo taken ten years ago? Are you making a goofy face? Is your S.O. in the photo with you? Or—social media gods forbid—are you not in the picture at all, and it shows your dog, cat, baby, iguana, or nothing at all?

Williams shares an analogy:

“It’s a lot like when you’re selling a house. If there’s no photo, it’s like ‘there must be something wrong with this property.’”

No picture is bad, but selfies and vacation photos are also better left to more social social media. Your best bet is to pick a picture in which you’re smiling and looking at least somewhat professional.

5 Company secrets

You want to show off that you brought in millions of dollars of revenue for your company last year. But your company might not want that number floating on the web. Keep specific numbers off public sites—save them for your resume or in-person interviews.

6 Unexciting accomplishments

It’s the quality-over-quantity argument. You may be really proud of that award you won in high school, but unless that was still relatively recent or you have a specific reason for showing it off, it’s smart to remove stale achievements.

As with professional experiences that are irrelevant to your current career, accomplishments that don’t demonstrate appropriate qualifications for your future job end up looking like filler rather than highlighting how great you are.

7 Overused words

Creative. Effective. Problem-solver. Yawn. Some words are used so much they don’t seem to mean anything at all.

Pick your words wisely. Other words show up a lot but will give you a boost: leader, strategic, solution, and innovative are LinkedIn standouts, according to a Grammarly study of language on LinkedIn. Ritter says:

“These kinds of terms help recruiters easily search and find qualified candidates on LinkedIn. Having common business language on your profile is important, but you have to be prepared to talk about your expertise with those terms. ”

8 Bad style

Yes, there’s a style for LinkedIn. It involves consistency, conciseness, and knowing the right words to use. Read up on writing mistakes to avoid in your LinkedIn profile, and grab some extra tips for updating your LinkedIn profile like a pro.

Being smart about what you delete and what you include can help you make an impression, make yourself look good, and make LinkedIn your ally.

Check out Grammarly’s LinkedIn data study for more pro tips.

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Quiz for Lessons 301 – 305 – Mechanics – Capitalization

Instructions: Capitalize each word that needs a capital letter.
1. Where were jack and jill going?
2. i wish i could go to arizona with my dad.
3. My uncle jim was visiting with paul in idaho.
4. I just returned from parsippany, new jersey.
5. The constitution should be studied more in school.
6. the navaho indians live in interesting buildings.
7. Did you attend provo high?
8. Ann lives in canada.
9. we will be visiting the first baptist church.
10. my nationality is swedish.
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. Jack / Jill
2. I / I / Arizona
3. Uncle Jim / Paul / Idaho
4. Parsippany / New Jersey
5. Constitution
6. The / Navaho Indians
7. Provo High
8. Canada
9. We / First Baptist Church
10. My / Swedish

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in an eBook and a Workbook format.
from Daily Grammar Lessons Blog
http://dailygrammarlessons.blogspot.com/2017/11/quiz-for-lessons-301-305-mechanics.html

To Whom It May Concern: When and How to Use It Properly

Once, in a time before nearly everyone had access to the Internet in the palms of their hands, it was common to begin business correspondence with the salutation To Whom It May Concern. But times have changed.

We’ll take a look at whether you should use To Whom It May Concern, explore a few alternatives, and talk about the only type of correspondence where this greeting is still acceptable.

Should you use To Whom It May Concern?

We can’t think of many good reasons to use To Whom It May Concern in an email or letter. But there are a few compelling reasons not to.

For starters, the phrase is old-fashioned and stuffy. (If you concentrate, you can almost hear it spoken in an affected posh accent, can’t you?) It’s a remnant from a time when business correspondence had a much more formal tone. These days, however, we aim for a natural, conversational style.

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In some correspondence, To Whom It May Concern might even imply a degree of laziness on the sender’s part. Be honest—do you really not know who your email or letter concerns, or is it more that you can’t be bothered to find out? Be careful that To Whom It May Concern doesn’t show a lack of concern on your part.

Here’s a tip: The same guidelines apply to another formal generic greeting—Dear Sir/Madam. It’s equally stuffy and glaringly non-specific. You can do better!

RELATED: 7 Useful Tips on How to Write a Perfect Professional Email in English

Three Alternatives to To Whom It May Concern

You can almost always find another salutation. Let’s look at a few options.

1 Dear [Specific Person],

You’re savvy. You have the entire Internet (including LinkedIn) at your fingertips. If you know you’re writing directly to someone (a hiring manager, for example), do your homework and search out the relevant person. Yes, your letter may be passed along to other people, but those people will see that you cared enough to find the right person to address in the first place.

Here’s a tip: Rapportive, a Gmail add-on, will help you find the LinkedIn account associated with an email address. Use it when you have a contact email address but no contact name.

If your Internet search doesn’t reveal a contact name, you can always resort to the retro option—pick up the phone and make a call. There’s no need to be stealthy about asking for the person’s name, so be honest. If you’re looking for the name of a job contact, you might say something like “Hi! I’m applying for the marketing manager position and I’d like to personalize my cover letter. Could you tell me who’s responsible for talent acquisition for that job?”

2 Dear [Role], or Dear [Department],

If you can’t find an individual’s name, you can expand a bit and reference the person’s role or a specific department, instead. (E.g., Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Admissions Department.)

Sometimes, researching a contact name isn’t the best use of your time. A hiring manager, for example, doesn’t spend more than a few minutes looking at a resume, so the fact that your cover letter lacks personalization is probably not going to register as a red flag. At least you addressed the right department. Spend your time writing an amazing cover letter instead.

3 Hello, or Greetings,

If you’re not reaching out to an individual, or if your message could be seen by a number of people, you can’t go wrong with a simple hello. Keep in mind that Hello and Greetings are slightly more casual than the other options we’ve listed, so they may not be the best option for things like cover letters or other formal business correspondence.

When is it okay to use To Whom It May Concern?

Let’s say you’re writing a letter of recommendation for a colleague. He’s going to be making multiple copies to hand out at interviews, and those letters are meant to be seen by anyone interested in hiring him. In this case, because the correspondence is generally considered formal, and because there’s no single specific addressee or department, To Whom It May Concern works.

Some cases where To Whom It May Concern is appropriate:

  • Letters of recommendation/reference
  • Formal complaints lodged with a company
  • Letters of introduction
  • Letters of interest / prospecting
Here’s a tip: Always format “To Whom It May Concern” with a capital letter at the beginning of each word. Follow it with a colon. Double-space before you begin the body of your letter.

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m writing to file a complaint about the service I received during my November 15 visit to your store.

RELATED: How to End an Email: 9 Never-Fail Sign-Offs and 9 to Avoid

In most cases, though, try to narrow your focus rather than cast a broad net. Ask yourself “Who does this email concern?” If you can honestly answer “Anyone,” then feel free to use To Whom It May Concern. But if you can home in, whether on an individual (Mr. Smith) or a department (Admissions Department), always use the more specific approach.

The post To Whom It May Concern: When and How to Use It Properly appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

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Lesson 305 – Mechanics – Capitalization

Capitalize a common noun when it is part of a proper noun. Examples: river – Jordan River, uncle – Uncle Al, street – Main Street
Instructions: Capitalize each word that needs a capital letter.
1. i have crossed the missouri river.
2. Did you attend mountain view high school?
3. the three boys joined the boy scouts.
4. aunt alice will be coming from africa.
5. The magazine people is read by many people.
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. I / Missouri River
2. Mountain View High School
3. The (at beginning of sentence) / Boy Scouts
4. Aunt Alice / Africa
5. People (the first one)

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in eBook and Workbook format.
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