Don’t re-invent the wheel or color outside the lines College Life / Writing & Grammar

Hello everyone:

Today’s blog is geared to help you get ready for mid-term or final projects.  Let’s say that you have been in a writing class (mine, for example) for the past seven weeks and it is time for either a mid-term or final project. We just took the time to learn how to write a memo, a modified block formatted letter, and/or an Executive Summary. I download your project and find……..a memo hybrid letter and an Executive Summary that is two paragraphs long, double-spaced, with three inch margins. Aughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

What have we accomplished this term? Go back to the basics that we spent weeks on and look over the format. There is a reason why I taught you how to do headings on your memo and how to align the information in those headings so that they look like the buttons on a shirt (translation: they are straight, not jagged all over the page).

Your modified block letter should not have spacing gone wild, with quadruple spaces between the return address, the date, the addressee’s information, and the salutation. I got one of these yesterday; the text of the letter was three two-sentence paragraphs that started in the lower 1/3 of the letter. We have had seven weeks worth of my reminding students that their paragraphs needed to be five sentences MINIMUM. Each. Suddenly, that was thrown out the window as the student decided to re-invent the wheel with a six-sentence letter.

Folks, if you have a writing project that builds on itself all semester long, that’s a good thing, but do not copy and paste all of your old papers into the final report and think you are finished. Especially, do not turn in the old stuff as a new project without making the changes your instructor requested on the feedback you received when she graded your earlier work.

Another student turned in a really nice project rough draft but only used 2 out of the 7 sources she was required to have. She told me, “I’m not quite done with my research yet.” I have a feeling that there will be some source dumping going on in the next few days, since she now has to find someone, anyone, who agrees with what she already wrote. My educated guess is that she will then shoehorn the sources into one page (out of 12 pages) and consider herself done. Friends, do your research FIRST and then write. [Note: Professors do not enjoy source dumping, where only a couple of paragraphs out of the document have all the sources.]

If your instructor has given you examples of formatting for your documents, please use them. Part of going to college is learning to follow directions. Basically, you are learning to color inside the lines. While you may think that coloring all over the place is more creative, it frequently leads to a mess (and a lower grade). Your call.


Dr. Sheri


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.


  1. Nneamaka Mary Payne. Says: March 11, 2017 at 12:10 am

    There is lesson in doing research for the work and it pays at the end. It requires lot of work and much effort too.
    I guess there is no short cut for a good work and the joy of the good grade that comes with it. So from the professor word no dumping sources but hard work pays off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *