An update from Evie

It’s now been about nine months since the GUPSA editing service began, and I’ve had a chance to meet numerous students (sometimes several times!) and note some trends.

Overall, I am still impressed by the level of writing and effort that students put into their assignments and theses. I have also been happy to see that some students who have seen me a few times have applied the tips and tools I have taught them to their subsequent pieces of writing. However, some haven’t – and I’d encourage students to read through the notes from our session/your edited paper to apply the feedback to any new pieces of writing you send me. To ensure this, students are requested to have at least a two-week break between editing consultation sessions.

Some students may be unaware of the one-page ‘do’s and don’ts’ page I have made available on the GUPSA website (click here to access). Please ensure you’ve read this page before you submit your paper to me; I guarantee that you’ll be able identify and remove several mistakes in your work if you do so! Around 70% of the students I meet with are from non–English speaking backgrounds. While I am happy to assist students with perfecting their essays, I would encourage students who are really struggling with English to approach EnglishHELP (click here for more information).

A recurring feature I’ve noticed in many non–native English speakers’ text is the incorrect use of prepositions, and here’s a good source to help with deciding which preposition to use. Another common mistake – for English speakers and non-English speakers alike – is misusing commas; in particular, I have seen countless sentences where a comma is placed between a subject and a verb. Never do this! For example, you would write ‘The cat sat on the mat’, not ‘The cat, sat on the mat.’

Finally, many students have asked me to explain the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’ (a tricky one!), and Mignon Fogerty (aka Grammar Girl) has an excellent post on her blog regarding this (click here to access). Just remember, use ‘that’ for restrictive clauses (i.e., information that is essential to the sentence) and ‘which’ for non-restrictive clauses (i.e., information that is not essential to the sentence), and always use a comma before ‘which’ and no comma before ‘that’. For example, you would write ‘The various studies that proved the benefits of co-education were groundbreaking’, since ‘The various studies’ is an essential piece of information. However, you would write ‘The various studies that proved the benefits of coeducation, which is also referred to as “mixed-gender education”, were groundbreaking’, since the information contained within the commas is not essential.

I look forward to working with more students in the coming months!

GUPSA Editor-in-Residence