Conquer Procrastination in 4 Steps

Clock

Let’s be real for a second: everyone procrastinates. It’s a bad habit that affects everyone from teenaged students to business big-shots (whether they admit it or not). Putting off that one research paper until a more convenient time isn’t a big deal—until it snowballs into every assignment and you end up stressed out with two hours until the deadline.

If you’ve been putting off breaking this habit, we’ve got a step-by-step strategy to help you let go of procrastination once and for all!


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Step 1: Make a list of priorities

When you’ve been procrastinating for a while, the work tends to pile up. This can make it intimidating to even think about digging yourself out! To get started, sit down and make a list of everything you need to get done. If you’re also behind on personal or household-type things, make a list for that too, but separate it from your work one (because cleaning the bathroom is never quite so appealing as when it’s a viable alternative to writing an essay or annotated bibliography!).

Add in any due dates, then take a look at the list and rank the projects in order of priority. Projects with fixed deadlines are the easiest to rank, but what about open-ended or ongoing work? Consider how long each one takes, and try tackling the shorter work first: finishing something can give you a sense of accomplishment that will buoy you through the next thing!

Step 2: Turn off distractions

Procrastinating doesn’t always happen intentionally—sometimes you just get caught up in a podcast or listening to music and the next thing you know, two hours have passed. Before you get started on your work, remove distractions.

This can mean a whole bunch of different things. It can mean moving to an environment that’s more study-oriented in your mind (i.e., the library or a desk). It also just might mean shutting off distracting things: turning off social media notifications on your phone, closing the TV streaming tab on your computer, and avoiding music with lyrics.

Step 3: Break projects into manageable chunks

It can seem like the work is endless when you have long papers or projects to work on. This frustration is one of the biggest factors leading to procrastination. You know yourself better than anyone, so take a moment to honestly consider what’s making you procrastinate. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work? Secretly afraid that you don’t have enough knowledge? Just plain unenthusiastic about the topic? All these things can be addressed by taking your projects one step at a time.

Instead of giving up because the project is taking so long, break it up into smaller milestones that you can achieve one at a time. By doing this, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something every time you get past one of those milestones. They can be something as simple as “create essay outline” and “create MLA works cited page,” or something more specific like “finish first five slides of the presentation.”

The fun part of this? You get to reward yourself each time you finish a piece. Make sure that these rewards are fun, but not a new distraction. So if your reward is a five-minute music break, make sure that you set a timer so that you don’t get caught up in a new procrastination cycle.

Step 4: Check off your list—but keep it updated

There’s something incredibly satisfying about the moment you get to take a pen and slash through something on your to-do list. The organization of your list will help you stay on track without letting anything slip through the cracks. Getting into the habit of accomplishing things is a great antidote to keep you from slipping back into bad habits and procrastination.

However, make sure you keep your to-do list updated as new assignments come in! The first time you organize your tasks, it can feel like a fresh new beginning, but that enthusiasm will probably wear off as it becomes part of your normal routine. When this starts to happen, try to remember how stressful it was before you started these habits. Each time a new assignment pops up, put it on your list, along with any deadlines or similar info. If you’re the visual type, you can make this a little more personal by using pretty pens or a color-coded spreadsheet—figure out what works best for you! And really, that’s the true secret to breaking up with procrastination: pinpoint what’s likely to stop you from getting your work done, and address those specifics head-on.


One thing you don’t have to procrastinate on? Making citations! Citation Machine helps you easily and quickly cite sources in APA, MLA, Chicago style format, and thousands of other styles. Struggling with writing? Read Citation Machine’s grammar guides and learn about the basic parts of speech in English.

Why Your Paper’s Not Done Until It’s Proofread

red pencil ready to give proofreading marks

You just slaved over that paper on the Renaissance, and you’re proud of it, but you’re also exhausted and starting to identify too closely with the feudal serfs you wrote about. You print it out, head to class, and hand over the goods to your lord (er, teacher).

Expecting an “A,”  you shudder when your paper’s returned with a “C” on the top and a ton of red marks. Yikes!

After reviewing your work, you can’t believe all the silly mistakes you made. How, after hours of writing, could there possibly be so many careless errors?

Failing to proofread a paper—because you ran out of time, because you were sure it was solid, or for any other reason—can result in losing points that should be rightfully yours. Spare yourself the pain! Here are a few reasons why your paper’s not done until it’s proofread.

You’ll inevitably miss mistakes

Did you know that the worst time to edit your paper is immediately after you write it? Your brain knows what you want to say, and sometimes fills in words that aren’t even there. That’s why rereading what you just wrote isn’t a solid proofreading technique.

A better one is to build in some time for editing before your final draft is due—at least a couple of days—or planning on writing multiple drafts. Reading your almost-final product with a fresh pair of eyes helps you spot mistakes that your brain otherwise would have just “written in.”  

You can also run your paper through an online grammar and spell check, like the one right here on Citation Machine. It’ll act as a red pen before your teacher can pull out theirs—and help you understand your mistakes so you can avoid making them next time.

Another set of eyes makes a paper better

Collaboration is key. If you can have another person read your work before turning it in, do it!

A different set of eyes will not only spot mistakes that you overlooked, but another editor can make useful suggestions about flow, content, and style. This is why peer editing has become such a significant part of the writing process in many schools.

With that said, make sure that you choose a competent proofreader: teachers, parents, librarians, or that friend who busts run-on sentences like it’s her job.

Try not to take the edits personally; instead, use them as an opportunity to improve your writing. The more proofreaders and drafts, the better your paper will be.

You might have missed citations

Proofreading your research paper also ensures that you cited all information that isn’t yours. It’s easy to miss crediting sources when you’re rushing to meet a deadline, but it’s the right thing to do and helps you avoid accidental plagiarism.

In addition to proofreading for grammar and typos, double check that all citations are where they should be and properly formatted in MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, or any other style your teacher asks for

Plus, proofreading to make sure that your paper’s correctly cited can allow you to sleep soundly at night. And students need those quality Zs.

It’s never a final draft without proofreading

You worked hard on that Renaissance research paper, and you have excellent research to back up some impressive claims. Your thoughts are unique, but unfortunately, if your teacher spots numerous errors and your writing doesn’t flow, then your message will have a hard time peering through the haze. If you forget to add proper parenthetical citations or footnotes, the consequence could be even worse than a couple of letter grades.

Think of proofreading like the ending to a marathon: It’s incredibly difficult, you’re tired, and you want to pass out, but if you plug on through, you’re destined to make a proper finish. Your teacher and your GPA will thank you.


Looking for more writing help? Start off by reading these Citation Machine grammar guides and learning what linking verbs are, what is an abstract noun, how to identify a prepositional phrase, and other foundations of grammar.

How a Good College Paper Is Made

someone writing a paper

Writing a paper in college can feel different from writing one in high school. There are fewer guidelines, different sources and formatting, and a lot more material to cover. Figuring out where to begin and what instructors are looking for is just the beginning.

Let’s conquer that intimidation right now! We’ll help you construct your next college paper by going over everything from structure to perfecting parenthetical and in-text citations and more!

Pre-Writing

Before you sit down to start writing your paper, there are a few things you can do to make the process better and improve your writing and research skills.

1. Choose a Topic

Professors may have a pre-approved list of topics, or they may give you a very general prompt. When choosing a topic, keep a few things in mind.

  • What do you have an opinion about?
  • How do you feel you could do your best work?
  • What knowledge do you already have?

Once you have a topic, the next steps happen almost simultaneously: research and outlining.

2. Research

This is probably the most crucial part of your essay. To write an excellent paper, you need plenty of research to back up your thesis.

In the digital age, academic research takes place mostly online (although your campus brick and mortar library is still an AMAZING and highly underutilized resource). Still, this doesn’t mean that Wikipedia and other user-generated websites are acceptable sources. Use academic search engines such as Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, Google Scholar, and others. If you’re unsure how to access these, check with your campus library.

Here’s one crucial trick: Wikipedia and other user-generated sites are actually great resources, just not to cite directly. Wikipedia, for instance, typically contains a lot of sources in the citations at the bottom that link you to usable, credible resources.

3. Outline

Before you start writing, it can be helpful to outline your paper first. A research paper outline can help keep your paper well-organized and allow you to see what elements of your research and arguments can feed into each other, to keep the essay flowing logically.

You may want to have a rough outline before you dive fully into your research, so that you can focus your search. Have some flexibility, so that if you encounter something that amends your arguments, you have room to include it.

Structure Made Simple

You probably know the five-paragraph essay: intro (with a three-pronged thesis), three body paragraphs, conclusion. The bad news: your college papers are going to be longer than that! The good news: the same principles still apply!

1. Introduction

Start with a quick overview of the topic and relevant background information. This is only a paragraph, so keep it engaging but succinct.

2. Thesis

You always need a thesis for a research paper. While it doesn’t have to be three-pronged, it should be a complex sentence that summarizes the main argument of your paper.

3. Body

This is the most important part of your paper, where your research and the arguments you’re using to support your thesis should go.

What belongs in a college paper? Some require a summary of research, while others want an original argument supported with research.

The key is simpler than you think: have an opinion and back it up.

Think about the debates you have with your friends—maybe over a reality show or whether chocolate chip cookies should be crispy or gooey. You take a stance and you have “proof” as to why it’s the correct answer, right? The same thing applies to your college papers: opinion or theory, finding evidence, and using it to make your point.

4. Conclusion

Use your final paragraph to wrap up your paper. Restate your main thesis, briefly summarize the results of your arguments, and end with a memorable sentence. It doesn’t have to be a “call to action,” but it should leave an impression.

Formatting & Citations

Carefully read your teacher’s directions: Single or double spaced? Do you need a cover page? Is there a specific formatting style you should follow?

Up to now, you’ve probably used one style: MLA. While MLA formatting is commonly used, especially if you’re in a humanities or arts discipline, you should also discover your new best friend: APA format.

The most crucial part of formatting are around the citations. You must include a works cited list and cite your sources according to the required style guide! Within your paper, that means using in-text and parenthetical citations correctly. In general, those citations will include the last name of the author and a page number, year, or both denoting the source—format varies by style. These citations should go next to quotes as well as paraphrased information.

Example 1: MLA format parenthetical citation with a direct quote:

In these cases, “there was not sufficient evidence to conclusively prove or disprove the hypothesis” (Tyler 131), but scientists continued to pursue the theory.

Example 2: APA format parenthetical citation with paraphrased information:

Texts from this era have largely been lost to time, and the primary cause is poor preservation techniques (Jones, 2005, p. 27).

Review & Relax

1. Proofread

Always give your paper one final read-through to check for minor errors. Try to do this the day after you finish your final draft so that you can check it with fresh eyes.

In addition, you can consider running an automated paper check before turning it in. The Citation Machine Plus grammar checker was designed for this.

2. Revise

If needed, make revisions. But a word of reassurance: if you’ve done your research and proofreading, you’ve done good work! You don’t have to second-guess yourself.

3. Rejoice! You’re Done!

Before you begin writing, get a refresher on the basics with our grammar guides! Learn about irregular imperfect verbs, answer the question “what is a possessive pronoun,” explore demonstrative adjectives, and more!

How to Write When You Hate Writing

Pencil sharpener as an expression of frustration

Is it time to write a paper AGAIN? Writing can be a time-consuming and tedious process even if you like it. The process is especially tough if you aren’t a big writing fan to begin with. Happily, there are strategies to help make it easier and more rewarding.

Here are a few choice tips to make the writing process more efficient and enjoyable, whether you’re working on an academic research paper or something more creative.

Tip #1: Start off with an outline

Nothing is quite as daunting as looking at a blank screen with no idea where to start. Before you begin working on your paper, create an outline. Decide what the main idea of each paragraph will be, and jot down some bullet points with ideas you want to bring into that paragraph. If you come up with some new thoughts later on, feel free to move away from this initial structure, but an outline is a great place to start.

Tip #2: Try freewriting

Most professional writers will tell you that the secret to good writing is lots of rewriting. Not everything you write needs to be perfectly polished. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, and write whatever comes to your mind. This strategy can be especially effective for creative writing, but there’s no reason it can’t get your thoughts flowing for a research paper, too.

Tip #3: Read out loud as you write

For many students, writing is stressful because of the pressure to find the right words. Try talking out loud to yourself (or even dictating your words into a speech-to-text tool) to get the ideas going. The first draft of your work doesn’t have to have perfectly polished language. Try writing as you would speak, using informal word choices. If the assignment demands greater formality, go back later and clean up your sentences as needed.

Tip #4: Get rid of the internet

The internet is undoubtedly a helpful resource when you’re working on an assignment, but it’s also a major distraction. Put your phone on silent (and out of sight, if possible). If you need to conduct research on the web for your assignment, try using a tool or app to block distracting websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Tip #5: Use a citation tool

Citation tools like Citation Machine make the process of compiling references much easier. These tools will auto-generate citations in styles like MLA, Chicago style format, and APA format. You can export your full list of citations and copy/paste it at the end of your paper. Especially for longer research papers (which might require 10-plus sources), these tools can be a major time saver.

Tip #6: Don’t wait until the last minute

Procrastination is every writer’s biggest enemy. Most instructors can tell when you’ve put time and effort into a paper, rather than scrambling at the last minute to submit something by the deadline. If you find that you work best under pressure, create artificial deadlines for yourself prior to the actual due date. You can also share your work schedule with a friend and ask them to help you hold yourself accountable.


No matter when you write your paper, it pays to give it a couple reviews for spelling, subject-verb agreement, punctuation, proper noun capitalization, and other errors before turning it in. For an automated grammar check, try Citation Machine Plus!

Keep Calm and Recover from a Failed Midterm

Failed expression but with hope

Ugh. Failing an exam is the worst! Especially if you spent hours and hours studying hard for it. Seeing a low mark can be a shock, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. It’s the middle—not the end—of the term. You still have a chance to get a good grade and pass! Here are five tips to help you bounce back from that failed midterm.

1. Don’t panic and remember you’re human

Unlike serious academic misdemeanors like plagiarism, a failed midterm is not the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up about it too much, and use your feelings to fuel your motivation. Learn from your midterm and take positive steps to do better the next time.

2. Play catch up

Even just one missed class can cause you to miss key information that could catch you off guard on an exam. Try to attend every class or seek extra academic support if this isn’t possible. On unexpected sick days, ask your tutor or a friend for notes or to chat with you later about the topics that were discussed. If you’re behind on readings, invest the time to finish them. Even if you just review the main points, it’ll help prepare you for the final exam.

3. Put extra care into any prepared assignments

If your class includes written assignments or presentations, invest extra effort into making them great and hopefully lifting your final class grade. You usually have more control over a paper or presentation since you get plenty of chance to complete your writing (and proper APA or MLA citations), receive feedback, and revise it. In contrast, sitting for an exam relies solely on your on-the-spot recall abilities and test-taking skills.

4. Identify problem areas

A failed midterm is a great learning opportunity. Take the time to honestly assess the specific subject areas where your knowledge and understanding are the strongest and the weakest. Once you know what these are, you can put more study time into the weaker areas to rectify the situation.

If you have a corrected copy of your midterm, examine the questions you missed and look for patterns. Maybe most of your missed questions asked for historical dates, maybe they were all about vocabulary terms, etc. If you find a pattern, use that to guide your studying.

Bonus: Ask your instructor what they thought of your exam and if they can recommend next steps for you. They literally wrote your essay and can probably provide the best roadmap for you to succeed on the final exam.

5. Ask for help

If you’re struggling with your subject—or you’re just finding the class difficult overall—talking to a tutor is a good idea. They can provide tutoring tailored to your needs, recommend extra reading material or resources, provide studying tips, and more! You’ll also find that your college or university probably has a learning center or plenty of support available for students to access.


Have a paper due? Citation Machine can help you create citations and answer common questions including how to write an annotated bibliography, what is a parenthetical citation, the what’s the difference between an adverb vs adjective, what’s a coordinating conjunction, and more!

4 Infamous Plagiarism Cases

talking icons

Sure, academic honesty policies are a syllabi staple at colleges where plagiarizing can lead to an F or expulsion, but the consequences can be even more serious in the working world. Although schools sometimes grant students a second chance before giving them the boot, copying can cost you a career later in life. Here are four examples of people whose plagiarism earned them a pink slip.


Avoid accidental plagiarism in your own writing by citing sources from the start—Citation Machine can help! There are tools and guides to help you easily create MLA citations and APA citations, learn how to write an annotated bibliography, do parenthetical citations, and more!


Jayson Blair, Reporter

This former New York Times reporter not only plagiarized from other newspapers, but invented quotes and pretended to be on the scene at news events while writing stories from his Brooklyn apartment, according to a report from the NYT.

The newspaper began investigating Blair after The Washington Post published a story raising red flags about the reporter’s work. His former employer eventually uncovered problems with dozens of pieces Blair had written for the paper’s national desk in 2002 and 2003 before he resigned in May of that year. Shortly afterward, NYT Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, who had been faulted for their lack of oversight in the Blair case, turned in their own resignations.

John Walsh, U.S. Senator

The U.S. Army War College revoked this former U.S. senator’s master’s degree after an investigation concluded he plagiarized parts of a research paper in 2007. The scandal prompted the Iraq War veteran, who had been appointed to his senate seat by Montana’s governor, to withdraw from the senate race that may have given him a full term for his seat.

Kaavya Viswanathan, Novelist

Viswanathan’s debut novel “How Opal Metha Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” hit bookstores while she was still an undergrad at Harvard. But the publisher, Little Brown, pulled it from shelves when some passages were found to have striking similarities to those in several other novels. Little Brown then cancelled Viswanathan’s deal for a second novel and the would-be writer later attended law school.

Gregory Vincent, College President

Vincent resigned as president of Hobart and William Colleges earlier this year after the college started investigating him for possible plagiarism. The charges that he had plagiarized parts of his dissertation for a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania were leveled in an anonymous email when Vincent had been president less than a year. Officials at Penn ruled Vincent could keep his degree if he revised parts of his paper. In a story from the Finger Lakes Times, Vincent indicated he would complete the revisions, but had no plans to reapply for his old job.


Worried about accidental plagiarism? Run your paper through the Citation Machine Plus plagiarism checker for some peace of mind. In addition, Citation Machine Plus has a spell checker and grammar guides to help you improve your writing. The guides will teach you the definition of verb, answer the question “what is a concrete noun,” talk about adjective vs adverb, and much more!

The Horror Dictionary: 13 Fear-Inducing Halloween Words

halloween pumpkins and word boo

By Devon Brown

Halloween is when the barrier between the world of the living and dead is thinnest. From paranormal investigations to the fears that haunt the human mind, here are a few words that will transport your halloween to another dimension.

Simulacra

Noun

Images and figures inside inanimate objects.

Example:

Both victims reported a simulacra sighting before death. The first saw a screaming face in a smear of paint and the second, a figure burned into a tree.

Vortex

Noun

A swirling mass of energy believed to be the gateway to a ghostly or parallel dimension.

Example:

The vortex looked like a tornado, but we felt nothing until hands reached out and grabbed our necks.

Bewitch

Verb

To control using witchcraft in a menacing manner.

Example:

She shouted in an unknown tongue and threw herself down the stairs proving herself bewitched and beyond salvation.

Cadaverous

Adjective

Thin and pale like a corpse.

Example:

When the cadaverous figure appeared at our bedroom window, the only indication that he was alive was a knock on the glass.

Invoke

Verb

To call upon a spirit or ghost.

Example:

Alison did not believe a spell from the internet could invoke the spirit of her grandmother, until she smelled cookies baking in her empty kitchen.

Stigmata

Noun

Wounds or marks on human flesh that mirror the injuries sustained by Jesus Christ in crucifixion.

Example:

A priest concluded that the bloody wounds on Michael’s palms had to be stigmata because there was no medical reason to explain their existence.

Disembody

Adjective

To exist physically or spiritually without a body.

Example:

After examining the blood vessels in the severed head, we concluded that it was disembodied after death.

Wraith

Noun

The ghostly image of someone often seen shortly after his or her death.

Example:

I witnessed the wraith stand among mourners and stare at the body that was hers only minutes before.

Pyrokinesis

Noun

The ability to produce and control fire with the mind alone.

Example:

No one believed in her pyrokinesis, so she set deadly fires for years without suspicion.

Exorcise

Verb

To drive an evil spirit out of a body.

Example:

Sweat dripped from the shaman’s chin as he worked to exorcise the demon from the Andre’s body, but it remained and laughed at his effort.

Frisson

Noun

A pleasurable feeling of fright.

Example:

Roller coasters are the ultimate source of frisson, when coasting down a hill, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Eldritch

Adjective

Strange, ghostly or weird.

Example:

The hotel owner’s eldritch reply to my question about breakfast made it impossible for me to take another bite of the strange sausage.

Triskaidekaphobia

Noun

Extreme fear of the number thirteen.

Example:

We all thought Kyle’s triskaidekaphobia was ridiculous until he disappeared precisely at 1:00pm on Friday the 13th.


Want “scary” good citation help? Try Citation Machine. It’s an APA citation maker, MLA works cited builder, and Chicago citation generator all rolled into one. Once your citations and paper are done, try the Citation Machine Plus grammar and spell checker to polish off your paper before turning it in.

Small Strategies That Elevate Your Writing

There’s one universal truth about writing: there are always ways to improve. Sure, you may not be a wordsmith by birth—after all, writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to strengthen your skills. Trust us; you’ll be amazed at how much your writing can be elevated with a few simple tweaks.


Turn in your next paper with confidence! Check out the Citation Machine Plus essay checker for help improving your paper. There are also handy grammar guides on verbs, pronouns, determiners, and other parts of speech.


Use Active Voice

Even seasoned writers confuse active and passive voice occasionally. The easiest way to remember how to use active voice (instead of passive voice) is to simply put the noun ahead of the verb.

Examples:

Gas needs to be put in the car. (Passive voice)

The car needs gas. (Active voice)

 

The kitchen was cleaned by Molly. (Passive voice)

Molly cleaned the kitchen. (Active voice)

 

The pizza was devoured by the soccer team. (Passive voice)

The soccer team devoured the pizza. (Active voice)

 

The works cited page was formatted by Carl. (Passive voice)

Carl formatted MLA works cited page. (Active voice)

 

If you remember to place the noun first and the verb second, you’re well on your way to implementing active voice in your writing. This small strategy works wonders.

Keep Sentences Short and Sweet

Longer sentences don’t equal better sentences. While longer sentences can be used effectively when developing your unique writing style and employing proper syntax, it’s simpler to use sentences that are short and sweet. Not only does this make it easier for your readers to process, but it lessens the chance of grammatical errors on your part.

Use Strong Adjectives

Now before we explain this, let us warn you not to go crazy with the thesaurus because trust us, your professor will know. However, challenging yourself to change an elementary adjective into a stronger, more powerful one will make a difference in your writing.

Examples:

Cindy was hungry after the 4-mile hike. (Weak adjective)

Cindy was famished after the 4-mile hike. (Strong adjective)

 

Mrs. Mills laughed at how dirty her son’s clothes were after football practice. (Weak adjective)

Mrs. Mills laughed at how filthy her son’s clothes were after football practice. (Strong adjective)

 

Katie was happy that she received an A on her physics exam. (Weak adjective)

Katie was thrilled that she received an A on her physics exam. (Strong adjective)

 

Like we said, never go crazy with the thesaurus for fear of making your writing unreadable or awkward, but definitely challenge yourself to use stronger adjectives where appropriate.

Avoid Filler Words

Words like “really,” “very,” “little,” and “kind of” add nothing to your writing. In fact, using what we call fluff, filler, or qualifying words can actually make your writing weaker.

Examples:

I was really exhausted.

Scrap that and say, “I was exhausted” instead.

 

Mark is kind of indifferent about our dinner plans.

Mark is indifferent about our dinner plans.

 

The teacher was a little surprised how many APA citations her student had.

The teacher was surprised how many APA citations her student had.

 

If you can take the filler word out of the sentence and it still makes perfect sense, it very well may be a filler word.

Read Your Writing Aloud

Reading your writing aloud remains one of the smallest (albeit most effective) tips we can offer, yet it has quite the impact. By reading your writing aloud, you’re more likely to catch grammatical issues, awkward syntax, and areas of your piece that can be improved.

Write Now…Edit Later

What’s most important is getting all of your important points and ideas down on paper and turning them into tangible work. You need not edit as you go; it’s best not to put the cart before the horse. After you have a draft, focus on editing. Avoid as many roadblocks as possible during the writing process and just get it done.

Reading More in General

Even hundreds of years later, books are still in fashion, whether that be digitally or as a hard copy. And no wonder books have lasted the test of time, there are awesome benefits to reading! First and foremost, reading allows you to build a stronger vocabulary. By picking up a book now and then, you’re likely to learn new words—along with the proper context with which to use them. Additionally, reading opens your eyes to different writing styles and strategies. Strong writers have strong voices, but there’s no set way to accomplish that. By reading work from many writers—and experimenting with your own work—you’ll find that you develop the language, syntax, and style skills to take your work to the next level.


Good academic writing also needs a bibliography…and Citation Machine can help you out. Whether it be an annotated bibliography, a Chicago in-text citation, or a citation in another style, Citation Machine has the tools to get the job done.

General Strategies on Prepping for SAT Writing and Language

Studying grammar can be a pain. Punctuation? Subject-Verb agreement? Clausal errors? If you’re already shaking your head, don’t worry! Once you learn some key strategies, you’ll find that the SAT Writing and Language test isn’t so bad.

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT Writing & Language test is to organize your preparation into three parts. Start your prep by understanding the structure of the SAT Writing & Language test. After that, master grammar rules and learn specific strategies. Finally, focus on pacing and endurance.

To get you started, here are some general strategies you can use to prep for the SAT Writing and Language test.


If you’re working on your writing skills, check out Citation Machine Plus’s essay checker and grammar guides! Review your paper for writing suggestions while also reading up on irregular verbs, what is a determiners, how to define interjection, and more!


Part One: Get to Know the Test

When it comes to test prep, it’s important to know test format inside and out. That way, you’ll be more relaxed. Here are some key facts about the SAT Writing & Language test:

  • The SAT Writing & Language test is the second section you’ll encounter (SAT Reading is the first).
  • You’re given 35 minutes to tackle 44 questions that are distributed among four passages.
  • There are two question types you’ll encounter:
    • Grammar: these questions will test your knowledge of grammar rules.
    • Essay editing: these questions will focus on identifying the best transition word between sentences, adding or deleting sentences, and more.
    • Keep in mind that some of the passages have graphs—you’ll also be asked about the data in these graphs.

Besides familiarizing yourself with the test structure, it’s also good to know that one of the main challenges of the SAT Writing & Language test is its placement in the context of the SAT as a whole. The first section you’ll encounter is SAT Reading, for which you’re given 65 minutes. You’re then given just 35 minutes for SAT Writing & Language. As long as you know that the change in the time allotted is basically cut in half, you can anticipate and prepare for this challenge.

Part Two: Master Grammar and Develop Your Favorite Strategies

When it comes to the SAT Writing & Language test, you’ll need to master grammar and develop strategies for tackling questions that ask you to edit the featured passage.

It sounds intimidating to learn grammar, but here’s a step you can take to make this process easier: take a SAT Writing & Language test without any prep. Go through and see which grammar questions you missed. Keep a running list of each question type. You can then see which areas are weak and review just those areas. For example, let’s say you’re strong at pronoun agreement but weak at punctuation. Save time by focusing your energy on punctuation since you’re already awesome at pronoun agreement!

Here’s a sample list of the general types of grammar questions you’ll encounter:

  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Clauses
  • Parallel List Structure
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Verb Tense
  • Pronoun Agreement

Once you master grammar, focus on the question types that ask you to edit the essay. See if there’s a pattern. If so, focus on mastering that question type.

A general strategy you can use for questions related to editing the essay is to identify the paragraph’s main idea. By identifying the main idea, you can determine if a question’s proposed edit supports the paragraph. If not, you can eliminate that answer choice until you find one that does support the main idea.

Part Three: Work on Pacing

Be sure to initially focus on accuracy before adding pacing. Once you have decent accuracy on practice questions, you can start timing yourself.

Start working on pacing by timing how long it takes for you to complete an individual passage. Based off this initial time, you can see how much you need to speed up. For the SAT Writing & Language passages, you’ll want to complete each passage in about 8.5 minutes. Once you have individual passage timing down, you can start timing how long it takes for you to do two passages and go from there. For instance, give yourself 17 minutes to complete two passages. Add more passages to build your endurance for a full-length SAT Writing  Language test.


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College Prep for Juniors: 4 Ways to Start This Fall

By Ella Chochrek

What you’ve heard is true: Junior year is a pivotal year in the college planning process.

For one, you’ll want to take your ACT or SAT this year—which means you’ll have to put in some study time. But junior year of high school is about more than just taking your standardized tests. You’ll also want to narrow down your college list, keep up your grades and start visiting schools.

Don’t know where to start? Not to worry! Here’s a short breakdown of what we think you’ll want to do in fall of your junior year to help you prepare for the college admissions process:


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Prep for College Entrance Exams

In the fall of your junior year, you should take a practice SAT and ACT to determine which test works best for you. Almost every college takes either test—and does not show preference for one over the other—so choose whichever one makes you most comfortable. Many students choose to take the exam for the first time in spring of junior year, with most taking the SAT/ACT at least twice. Make sure to take some practice exams before the real test, but if you feel comfortable with how you’re performing on practice tests, consider taking the exam in December to get your nerves out of the way.

Create a College List

Maybe you haven’t had the chance to go on college tours yet, but the fall of junior year is a great time to start narrowing down your list. After you take a practice SAT/ACT, you should have an idea of what schools you might be eligible for based on your grades and scores.

In addition to looking at the academic requirements for various schools, also consider what factors you’d like to define your college experience. Factors like location, size, specializations, and so forth. Do you want to take classes where you’ll get to know your professors well? A small liberal arts college might be best for you. Are you hoping to attend a school with tons of spirit? Consider places with strong Division 1 sports teams. Decide what factors are most important to you, and create your list accordingly.

Learn More About Colleges

Be proactive and keep on learning about different college opportunities. Go to college fairs, attend information sessions with college representatives that are held at your school, and visit college nights in your area. Fall of junior year can also be a great time to tour colleges yourself to get a feel of what you’re looking for in a college campus.

Bonus: If you know or have connections to someone who graduated from a college you’re really interested in, ask them if they’ll do an informational interview with you. It’s a great way to feel out the college’s culture.

Keep Up Your Grades/Extracurriculars

While college admissions can be a daunting and time consuming process, SAT/ACT prep cannot get in the way of your other school work. You may be taking challenging courses (like AP) this year, along with busy extracurriculars like the school band or the varsity basketball team. Stick with all of the things you’ve been involved in throughout your high school career so far, and try to keep your grades up—or even improve them. Colleges like to see an upward trend, and junior year is a great time to take on new leadership positions in clubs/sports or to get your grades up from prior years.


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