Composition Reminder Sheet

Andrew Todd Marcus

Composition Reminder Sheet

1. Write in third person: this means no “I/my,” “you/your,” or “we/us/our.” People will be referred to as people, human subjects, users, viewers.

Not: “I designed my project thinking about the way teens use social media.”
Instead: “This project is designed as a commentary on the way teens use social media.”

2. Avoid dangling modifiers: when you try to avoid first person, it is easy to end up with dangling modifiers. For more detail, follow this link:

Example: Walking home, the bag tore. (This implies that the bag walked home.)
Instead: Walking home, I noticed the bag had torn.
Or: While I was walking home, the bag tore.

Note that to avoid first person, this would need to be: On the way home, the bag tore.
Or: As it was carried home, the bag tore.

3. Organize paragraphs by moving from given information to new information. Give us a high level and a visual description of your project before telling us about a particular mechanism within it. See this page for an explanation:

4. Be clear in your logical connections: are two ideas related by addition (also, in addition), example (for example, for instance), cause (as a result, for that purpose), time (next, then), contrast (but, however), or comparison (likewise, similarly)? For more examples:

5. Watch for pronoun references: be sure when you use this, that, these, those, it, and they, the pronouns refer clearly back to something previously mentioned.

6. Proofread for spelling: if you see a wavy red line under a word, look it up to make sure you’ve spelled it correctly. Watch for capitalization and be aware of when to use apostrophes (

7. Note when you use that vs. which:

8. When you combine two sentences with only a comma, it’s called a comma splice. For tips on how to avoid, see:

9. Note on where vs. in which: In formal writing, if you aren’t referring to a location of any sort, use “in which.” Don’t write about: a situation where…, a theory where…, etc.

10. Use semi-colons before transitional phrases and a comma after, e.g.: ; however,

11. The proper term is based on, not “based off/off of”:

12. When you have a list of things, be sure to observe parallelism:

13. Try to reduce your reliance on being verbs:

14.  Use verbs instead of nouns where possible: “represents” instead of “gives a representation of”

15. When you form a compound adjective (“custom-designed”) you will need a hyphen between the two words. For an explanation and examples see: For an exhaustive list of hyphenation rules, see:

16. Note that “an” rather than “a” is almost always required before words that start with a vowel. For details on the rule see: