Professional Writing

The purpose of this site is to supplement Hiemstra and Brier’s book entitled Professional Writing: Processes, Strategies, and Tips for Publishing in Educational Journals (Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, 1994). Many resources are provided as supplements to a college course where this book is utilized. If you have ideas, suggestions, or resource tips related to this topic, or if you would just would like to converse with me, feel free to send an electronic message.

A new resource related to professional writing: Rocco, T. S., Hatcher, T., & Associates. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Here is an html version of a primer for writing a journal article in the APA 6th style. Here is the PDF version. This an html version of a primer for writing a journal article in the APA 5th style. Here is thePDF version

. In addition, here are some APA style tips from the American Psychological Association.

Tips for greater success in writing journal articles.

Professional writing and publishing Internet resources.

Various resources for writers at all levels and areas of interest.

The principles of readability, by William H. DuBay (Costa Mesa, CA: Impact Information, 2004). A book on the principles, theory, and research related to readability, readability scales or formulas, and reading grade levels. Here is a link to one of the many readability tests, the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test, with several related link embedded within this Wikipedia piece.

Common means for reducing a readability score if that is your goal:



Following are some examples on how to be more concise and omit superfluous words from A Plain English Handbook:



More Verbose

More Concise

in order to


in the event that


in the nature of


in view of the fact that

because (or since)

is provided with


subsequent to


prior to


at the time of this writing


taken into consideration


in due course

soon (or promptly)

make the necessary adjustments


large number of


owing to the fact that


after the conclusion of


come in contact with


in the event that


I would appreciate it if



The 1918 original version of Elements of Style by William Strunk is now online. This classic guide is still very useful for today’s writer.

Here are some basic explanations of the correct use of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs as the primary types of words in your phrases and sentences.


1.      A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea:


Grand Canyon



2.      A pronoun is a substitute for a noun:





3.      A verb expresses action, a state of being, or a condition:





4.      An adjective in some way modifies a noun or pronoun:





5.      An adverb in some way modifies a verb, adjective, or even another adverb:






Many errors in writing involve an incorrect use of verbs. Most important among these is a lack of subject to verb agreement. In essence, within a sentence the subject and verb must agree in number. Here are some examples based on the work of Shaw, H. Errors in English (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, pp. 232-233):


          Incorrect:    The regulations often requires far too much paperwork.

          Correct:      The regulations often require far too much paperwork.

                             [Regulations and require are plural.]


In addition, a verb should not agree with a noun that comes in between it and the subject:


          Incorrect:    The city mayor, as well as the council members, were upset by all the new

                             State noise abatement regulations.

          Correct:      The city mayor, as well as the council members, was upset by all the new

                             State noise abatement regulations.

                             [Substituting was for were is correct because “city mayor” is the subject of

                             the sentence.]


When two subjects form a unified thought or have a closely related meaning, use a singular verb:


          Incorrect:    His managerial skill and technical expertise are well respected.

          Correct:      His managerial skill and technical expertise is well respected.

                             [Skill and expertise, both singular, make up a unified thought.]


The plural form of some nouns, often those ending in the letter a, may appear singular causing the author to select a verb that doesn’t agree in number with the noun:


          Incorrect:    The data indicates that the conclusion was correct.

          Correct:      The data indicate that the conclusion was correct.

                             [Data is a plural noun. Datum would be the singular version.]


Pronouns, too, must agree in number with the nouns they represent:


          Incorrect:    The group improved their test results by 40% after the workshop.

          Correct:      The group improved its test results by 40% after the workshop.

                             [Group as the noun is singular.]


Adjectives and adverbs must clearly refer to any word being modified:


          Incorrect:    The supervisor tested several trainees using a new procedure.

                             [It is unclear whether the supervisor or the trainees used the procedure.]

          Correct:      The supervisor, using a new procedure, tested several trainees.


The examples above are only a few of the grammatical errors that can be made. Referring to stylistic guides, utilizing grammar check features of word processing software (although don’t over rely on such software), and seeking feedback from colleagues are means for decreasing any such errors. Another good technique in improving your grammatical skills is to pay attention to how sentences are constructed in a book or paper that you know has gone through reviews by talented people.


There are many advantages to use a personal computer in your writing efforts. The computer's biggest advantage is in creating and revising text through word processing software. Such software typically facilitates easy storage and retrieval of your work. Always remember to save your material frequently on the computer’s hard drive. It is a smart procedure, too, to save at least one copy on a backup medium such as a flash drive, external hard drive, or your organization’s intranet server. There are several word processing features available in most software packages that can be very helpful:


1.   Deleting, moving, rearranging or changing material rapidly.

2.   Special stylistic features such as underlining, bold type face, italics, centering, and using color.

3.   Including or inserting photos, symbols, and web page links.

4.   Controlling margin size, type of print font, and print size.

5.   Creating impressive tables, charts, and graphic designs to support your text.

6.   Adding headers or footers, utilizing mathematical formulae, and creating columns.

7.   Translating words into other languages and incorporating text from other documents.

8.   Using shading or specialized text boxes, such as this one, to create appealing visual effects.

9.   Especially helpful for longer reports or proposals are automatic features such as outlining.

10. Useful features such as time saving macros, word counting, and spell and grammar checking.

11. Automated features like readability scores, footnotes, endnotes, indexes, and table of contents.

12. For editing purposes and sharing writing with colleagues, a tracking feature will identify with

      colored text and formatted informational boxes any changes made from one draft to the next.



There are various legal and ethical issues with which a writer must be concerned, some of which can have severe consequences. These include such issues as the following:

The recommendation is to be aware of the legal and ethical concerns that you could face. For example, U.S. copyright laws have been established to protect the intellectual property of authors. You should honor these laws by citing correctly those people, organizations, and web sites from which you obtained information used in your writing efforts. Direct quotes should be accurately referenced according to the rules established by either your organizations’ stylistic guide or some style guide you use for obtaining consistent citational information. If you paraphrase or summarize material from other sources, give them appropriate credit in a references or bibliography section in your report or seek written permission to use the information.


 One thing to think about is developing a personal code of ethics or some guidelines for your writing efforts. Here are several items you could examine for possible inclusion in such a statement:


I will test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.

I will be honest and fair in my writing efforts.

I will make certain that included information, photos, graphics, and quotations do not misrepresent my written material.

I will never plagiarize.

I will ensure that my own cultural or religious values and beliefs and not imposed on others through my written words.

I will avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, and social status.

I recognize that including certain types of information could cause harm or discomfort to others.

I will avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

I will admit mistakes and correct them promptly.


Vocabulary Building Help


·         The Longman Vocabulary -,1682,11667-main,00.html

·         The importance of good vocabulary in writing -

·         Powerful words: Developing vocabulary for success  (they want to sell you software, but some of the tips and links are helpful) -


Finding Publications that Match Your Interests


There is no easy way of providing help with this topic. It takes some research via the Internet or perusing your university library collections. I found some sites that might help with this topic, but I can’t vouch for how up-to-date they are as addresses change, editors change, and periodicals come and go.


·         Education journals -

·         Open access journals in education -

·         Electronic journals - Here is a partial list of electronic journals (many Institutions of Higher Education libraries subscribe to large numbers of electronic journals) -

·         Journals indexed in ERIC -

·         Education journals in the Yahoo directory -


Editing and Reducing Words in Manuscripts


·         The law of small errors -

·         Editing hints and tips -

·         Jossey-Bass manuscript manual for editors -

·         Manuscript preparation -


Choosing a Topic


·         Choose a topic for an essay -

·         Choosing the topic -

·         Persuasive writing topics (with numerous related links) -

·         Guidelines for choosing a topic (Cliff Notes) -,articleId-29017.html


Making an Outline


·         How to write an outline -

·         Creating a useful outline -

·         How to make an outline -


Writing Introductions and Conclusions


·         Guide to writing introductions and conclusions -

·         Introductions and conclusions -

·         Introductions and conclusions -



Updated by Roger Hiemstra, March 1, 2011

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