Author Mike

Mike is a proofreader at

Be Yourself When You Write Essays

essay writing
11 Mar

Unfortunately, we see many misguided essays here at ProofreadingPal on a daily basis. And one of the fundamental suggestions we always offer to those clients is to “be yourself when you write.” read more »

posted in: Essays

Know Your Enemy – The Modern Language Association (MLA)

mla enemy
9 Mar

Perhaps it would help if we knew our enemy. Most of us would surely feel better if we knew these format formulators were neo-Nazis, mafia henchmen, or Iowa State Cyclone fans. Alas, ‘tis not so. Instead, the creators and protectors of the MLA format are not unlike you and me. They are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, athletes and nerds and singers and dancers and, perhaps even a few are acrobats and stand-up comedians. But the thing these folks all have in common is their membership in the Modern Language Association. Yes, this is our common enemy: the MLA. read more »

posted in: MLA

Knowing What to Look For

14 Dec

Effective writing is not so esoteric as to be beyond description. There are many elements we can specify. Let’s look first at structure. read more »

Livestock Judging and You

14 Dec

Most skills are learned largely through imitation. It’s common sense that if we want to improve as an ice skater, we find someone who is better than we are and watch them skate. The more skilled we are at observing, the more effective we’ll be at adapting what we see another skater do into what we can do. We have to know, as precisely as possible, what to look for, and then we have to practice what we’ve observed. The same concept works with writing. read more »

How Writers and Proofreaders Can Live in Peace

10 Dec

When Alexander Pope (1688-1744) warned, “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” he was, among other things, explaining why editors and proofreaders – even us here at ProofreadingPal – so often find ourselves in antagonistic relationships with writers. read more »

What to Say and How to Say It

9 Nov

So what should you say in your admissions essay and how should you say it? Read this blog post to find out. read more »

How to Make One Essay Work for Most Prompts

23 Oct

As we said last time, the University of Chicago is a unique institution and perhaps the leader in the ponderous college essay prompt competition. The university actually contacts newly admitted and current college students and asks them to submit essay topics. “We think of [college essays] as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions,” Chicago’s admissions officers say. “The [essays] can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.” Here are a few examples of the essay topics Chicago has offered its applicants in recent years: read more »

Writers vs. Editors – Cage Fight for the Centuries

17 Oct

Some proofreaders and editors like to think there are rules, rigid rules, rules that transcend life itself. But no matter how earnest and well-meaning these folks are, they remain earnestly wrong. There is only one rule for writers, and author Mildred I. Reid phrased it as well as anyone: “The only rule for effective writing is: Does it work?” read more »

Strunk and White are Still Dead or How Writers Can Stay Alive

16 Oct
posted in: Essays

There are some rules of English grammar that are, and probably will remain, nearly absolute. But that does not mean all grammar rules are immutable. After all, while gravity is the law, much of grammar is only a suggestion. So how do you know when to obey the gods of grammar and when not to? The applicable law is complex in its simplicity. Here it is: If it works, it’s right. If it doesn’t, it’s wrong. read more »

Strunk and White are Dead

13 Oct

I admit it. I used to teach grammar. But it wasn’t my fault. I was merely a product of my upbringing. I had been taught that grammar rules. As a student in what was then called junior high, I had excelled at diagramming sentences. I never dangled participles. Moreover, I created conventional transitions with such gracious terms as “However” and “Nonetheless.” I could spot a gerund with my eyes closed. When I advanced to high school, I never sought to foolishly split infinitives. I never used a preposition to end a sentence with. I never used the first person. I didn’t use contractions. And I never started a sentence with a conjunction. I fervently sought to compose fully developed paragraphs, each containing a clearly identifiable thesis statement and at least three supporting points. Sentence fragments? Never. Structure was everything. Those imposters, style and voice, were the enemy. Intellectual, academic, “proper” writing required nothing less than full submission to pedantic tradition and the gods of grammar. And so it was that, as a young student, I dutifully read Strunk and White’s venerated tome, The Elements of Style. But I never liked it. Originally written and self-published in 1919 by Cornell University English professor William Strunk Jr., the 43-page opus was edited and revised into an 85-page work by Strunk’s former student, E.B. White, in 1959. By then White was a revered author, essayist, and editor. In his updated 1971 introduction, White calls Strunk’s original work “an attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin.” White admired that effort, but he did not find it infallible. He explained that his revised edition deleted “errors and bewhiskered entries.” White wrote that his revised edition was “a thorough overhaul” of Strunk’s original. read more »

posted in: Essays

How to Address the Prompt and Still Tell Your Story

5 Oct

No, you can’t ignore the prompt. If the folks on the admissions committee wanted you to write on anything you wished, they would have told you so. And many do exactly that. But those who go to the trouble of providing a specific prompt want you to deal with it. How you do that? Glad you asked. read more »

So How Do You Impress that Admissions Committee?

5 Oct

If it’s October, it’s the World Series, it’s Halloween, and it’s college application admissions time. Learn how to impress the admissions committee. read more »