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1.) Bracket the first word, clause, or phrase of each sentence. If you start more than 3
sentences the same way, try to experiment with different sentence beginnings.
e.g. [Sawyer] wore glasses on Friday.
[After the dance,] Jack and Kate went to dinner.
[Running up the stairs,] Hugo fell on his face.
2.) If any of your sentences start with the following words, and the sentence is NOT a
question, you need to place a comma after the clause.
IN ORDER TO
e.g. After the dance, Jack and Kate went to dinner.
Although Ben was the leader of the island, he didn’t have more charisma
Before opening the door, Sun should have knocked.
If you have any of the words above in your sentence (not at the beginning), make sure
you have a comma to set off the dependent clause.
e.g. John is going to ruin the island, unless Richard can stop him in time.
Ben is going to be expelled from the island, whether he likes it or not.
Jin should be happy Sun is pregnant, even if the baby isn’t his.
3.) Circle the “to be” verbs in your essay. After you’ve circled them, write the number of “to
be” verbs at the top of your paper. Get rid of half of your “to be” verbs by revising your
sentences to include action verbs! Try to keep as close to the original meaning as you
e.g. The tv show Lost is interesting to me. The tv show Lost interests me.
Ben’s rant is a critique of John’s leadership skills. Ben’s rant critiques
John’s leadership skills.
Sawyer and Kate were locked in the polar bear cage. Sawyer and Kate
could not escape from the polar bear cage.
4.) Box all the words, phrases, clauses, or ideas that have been repeated several times (do
not include articles). Replace some of the repetitious language with synonyms found in
Claire and Charlie couldn’t believe what they were seeing with their own eyes.
On this tragic day, Desmond’s son was killed.
Jack completely understood everything he had to do.
5.) Highlight or underline every sentence. Alternate colors so that the first sentence is done
in blue and the second sentence is done in red/pink. Continue to alternate these two
colors throughout your essay. When you are finished, look at the length of your
sentences. Are they all short? Are they all long? How much variety in length do your
sentences have? Consider combining short sentences about the same subject; consider
breaking up long sentences.
e.g. Sayid is a good soldier. John is a better hunter. While Sayid is a good soldier, John
is a better hunter.
Claire is Aaron’s mom. Kate is raising him. Although Claire is Aaron’s mom, Kate
is raising him.
Hugo won the lottery and bought his mom a house before he was thrown in jail for
breaking out of the psych ward and attempting to “rob” a bank. Hugo was
thrown in jail for breaking out of the psych ward and attempting to “rob” a bank.
Before this happened, he won the lottery and bought his mom a house.
6.) Highlight all of your prepositional phrases; eliminate half of them.
e.g. Charlie went with Desmond to find a phone. Charlie and Desmond went to find a
Shannon tried to plan a romantic dinner for Sayid. Shannon planned a romantic
dinner for Sayid.
Alex wanted to go to the boat dock to see Karl. Alex went to the boat dock to see
7.) Draw an X over the following words; they are unnecessary clutter that do not add as
much to the meaning of your sentence as a well used synonym would (and some of
them bring the tone of your writing down to an informal level- not appropriate for
e.g. Kate was wearing a really wonderful leather coat. Kate was wearing a
Keamy was well aware of what Ben was capable of doing. Keamy was
aware of what Ben was capable of doing.
Lapidus is a very good pilot. Lapidus is a good pilot.
Do you think Walt got Michael’s letters? Do you think Walt received
8.) Look up words you don’t know how to spell. Spell check is not perfect- it makes mistakes! Don’t
rely on a computer program for part of your grade!
e.g. Ethan lost hatt paper Juliet gave to him. Ethan lost that paper Juliet gave to him.
9.) If you think you have the wrong word, or you could find a better word than the one you’re
using, mark it with an asterisk* and look it up. What do you want your sentence to convey?
Focus on what you want your reader to take away from your sentence.
e.g. Sawyer was melicitious* towards Jack. Sawyer was meanspirited towards Jack.
10.) Highlight the subject and verb of each sentence or phrase. Draw an arrow from the verb back to
the subject. Are they in agreement (number- she talks, I talk, we talk, etc.)?
e.g. Charlotte run a mile every day. Charlotte runs a mile every day.
11.) Box in all your conjunctions. Make sure that you use commas before the appropriate
conjunctions when there is a different subject used after that conjunction than there is at the
beginning of the sentence.
e.g. Danielle wanted to keep Alex, but Ben kidnapped her.
Nikki and Paulo were not fan favorites, so they were killed off.
If a conjunction is between two pronouns, make sure you use the correct pronoun case. If you
are ever confused about which case to use, try reading the sentence to yourself without the first
pronoun/proper noun (e.g. Karen let her and I relax. Karen let me relax.)
e.g. He told Mike and I about the game. He told Mike and me about the game.
Ana Lucia wanted to give them and we both a chance. Ana Lucia wanted to give
them and us both a chance.
12.) Mark all of your prepositions. Make sure you are using the correct one. Refer to the preposition
handout or a dictionary if you are unsure.
e.g. Juliet tutored Jack on Latin. Juliet tutored Jack in Latin.
Boone fell off of the plane. Boone fell out of the plane. -OR- Boone fell off the
Mr. Eko was talking on his philosophies. Mr. Eko was talking about his
13.) Circle your verbs (including helping/auxiliary verbs). Make sure the majority of your verbs are in
simple present tense, simple past tense, or simple future tense. You will rarely need to use the
present perfect, past perfect, or future perfect tense in an academic paper.
Simple Present: They walk
Present Perfect: They have walked
Simple Past: They walked
Past Perfect: They had walked
Future: They will walk
Future Perfect: They will have walked
If you have one of the following in your verbs (and you are not trying to make a clear
deviance from the time everything else in your essay is happening), change the tense to
simple present, simple past, or simple future.
WILL HAVE BEEN
WILL HAVE HAD
* Rely on past tense to narrate events and to refer to an author or an author's ideas
as historical entities (biographical information about a historical figure or narration of
developments in an author's ideas over time).
* Use present tense to state facts, to refer to perpetual or habitual actions, and to
discuss your own ideas or those expressed by an author in a particular work. Also use present
tense to describe action in a literary work, movie, or other fictional narrative. Occasionally, for
dramatic effect, you may wish to narrate an event in present tense as though it were happening
now. If you do, use present tense consistently throughout the narrative, making shifts only
* Future action may be expressed in a variety of ways, including the use of will, shall,
is going to, are about to, tomorrow and other adverbs of time, and a wide range of contextual
e.g. Miles had lost his shirt. Miles lost his shirt.
Charles Widmore will have been 80 in March. Charles Widmore will be 80 in
Purdue OWL information about when to use each verb tense.
14.) Box in your articles. If you use a definite article (the)make sure you mean that you are writing
about a specific item, place, or thing. If you use an indefinite article (a, an)make sure that you
are not writing about a specific item, place, or thing.
e.g. Charlie gave Sawyer a key. Charlie gave Sawyer the key. (the second sentence
uses “the” because there is only 1 key to write about.
15.) Circle the words ALSO and TOO. If you find either at the beginning or end of a sentence set off
by a comma, revise your sentence to place the words where they belong. You should NEVER
begin a sentence with ALSO. You should NEVER set off the word too with a comma at the end of
e.g. Also, Rose and Bernard like to dance. Rose and Bernard also like to dance.
Jack thinks that Christian hated him, too. Jack thinks that Christian hated him
16.) Mark any dialogue or thoughts expressed in your essay. Set thoughts off with italics. Make sure
you use quotation marks around direct quotes only; if the person quote did not use the exact
words you have in your essay, put the word THAT after said (She said that she didn’t know any
better). Make sure that all commas and periods stay inside the end quote marks.
e.g. What was Kate thinking, I thought to myself.
Jacob said to Locke , “Sorry this had to happen.”
Penny said that she never wanted to see Desmond again.
In most instances, students should choose 3-6 of the steps to apply to a clean draft of their essay. If the instructor
has not assigned certain numbers, the student is free to choose any of the steps here.