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I want to take a break from our series of 10 Good Study Habits to talk about writing.

Writing is an important part of nontraditional online education. Many schools do not use exams or quizzes to evaluate your knowledge of a particular subject. Instead, written assignments are the way an instructor gauges a student’s knowledge and understanding is measured. This makes it all-the-more important to have good writing skills.

Beth and I are in the planning stage of putting together an online course in writing to help you improve your writing skills. This is Beth’s expertise, and she has a vast amount of knowledge to share.

In the meantime, I want to take a few minutes and discuss the importance of presenting your papers in the proper way. Yes, I am talking about writing style; specifically, APA and MLA style. There are other styles of writing, but these are the two most common, and both give student’s trouble.

I am often asked why this is important. I can answer that in two ways. The first is to refer back to why APA Style was created. It was in 1929. There were many academic papers floating around, but they were all done in different formats and cited and referenced sources in different ways. The American Psychological Association came up with a standard way to format papers and sources, which was the basis of APA Style.

The second way I answer the question of why style is important is to give an illustration. When I was in the Army, we had many inspections. Room inspections, motor pool inspections, file inspections, and of course operational inspections. We were always being inspected to ensure we were upholding high standards. I learned that if I made a good first impression, in other words, everything looked like it was in order, the inspectors did not dig too deep. Often times, the inspector would walk in, look around, and walk out with a “Looks good!” I worked hard to make sure everything was in order and that it looked squared away.

The same goes for a paper submitted for a grade. The first impression an instructor will have is the appearance of the paper. Is the title page set up correctly? Is it double-spaced? Is there a Reference or Works Cited page? If everything looks good, you have created a good first impression. Then your instructor can focus on the content of your paper and not have to spend a lot of time making corrections to the basic appearance.

Do you see? If your paper is set up correctly, your instructor will have a good first impression before reading your paper.

So, how do you create that good first impression? You begin by setting up your paper with proper margins, font, and paragraphs settings. Whether you use APA or MLA style, these are the same.

If you need help with your APA or MLA Style, we have a checklist that will help to ensure you have covered all the details in setting up your document.

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