A few Tips on Writing
Make sure you have a short, clear introductory
paragraph that lets the reader know what the paper is going to be
to affect vs. to effect:
This is a terribly common mistake. The verb 'to effect' is very
formal and rarely used; it means 'to succeed in causing
something planned to happen.' When students use 'to effect,'
they almost always have a meaning in mind that is captured
by the verb 'to affect':
"The presence of other people affects an individual's
performance." "She was strongly affected by her recent
The error comes from the fact that 'to effect' is synonymous
with the phrase 'something has an effect on something
else.' So don't use the verb 'to effect'---use 'to affect' or
'to have an effect.'
"My mother's [not mothers] decision was difficult."
Its vs. It's: For example, "Its [not It's] most attractive feature is the price"
To avoid the traditional sexist use of "he," use one or more of the following
(a) alternate references to male and female (e.g., if you gave one example about a
woman in one paragraph, use an example about a man in the next paragraph);
(b) say "his or her" and "he or she" (but don't use the clumsy his/her or s/he);
(c) use the plural form "people" (but don't say "they" if you refer to a single person).
tenet vs. tenant:
A tenet of a theory is a major principle on which the theory is based. Your tenant
pays rent to you every month.
A colon [:] introduces a closely related sentence part (e.g., "He made one major mistake:
not to calculate the probabilities right").
The part after the colon can be a complete or an incomplete sentence.
A semicolon [;] separates two sentence parts more distinctly than a comma does and less
distinctly than a period ("She was not tired; he was exhausted"). The part after the
semicolon must be a complete sentence.
Plural words: "Phenomena" is a plural world--its singular form is "phenomenon"
("These phenomena are intriguing"). The same
holds for "data," which is the plural of "datum"
("The data do not confirm the hypothesis")
and "criteria," which is the plural of "criterion" ("The criteria were set too high").
Do not use definite articles for theories:
"Dissonance theory predicts that ..."
(NOT: "The dissonance theory") Same for attribution theory, signal detection theory,
expected utility theory, prospect theory, etc. Note, however, that psychological
processes or phenomena often do carry a definite article (the fundamental attribution
error, the availability heuristic, etc.)
Text by Prof. B. Malle