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Tips for writers


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How to reference personal communications

Personal communications may be private letters, memos, some electronic communications (e.g., email or messages from nonarchived discussion groups or electronic bulletin boards), personal interviews, telephone conversations, etc. Because they do not provide recoverable data, personnel communications are NOT included in the List of References at the end of your research paper. Cite any personal communications as an in-text citation only. Give the initials as well as the surname of the communicator, and provide as exact a date as possible.


M. E. Daniels (personal communication, March 2, 2014) explained in an email that…
The interviewee (M.E. Daniels, personal communication, March 2, 2014) explained during our interview that…


If you are citing a recording or archived copy of a personal communication (e.g., email message, interview, etc.), these forms are recoverable and should be referenced in your List of References as a online forum post, tape recording, video etc.



From: Citing References in Text, Section 6.20, Personal Communications
APA Publication Manual (6th ed) (2010)
APA website

Reynold’s Community College Library



Reducing bias in writing-2

From the APA Publication Manual (6th ed) (2010):

Recognize the difference between “case,” which is an occurrence of a disorder or illness, and “patient,” which is a person affected by the disorder or illness and receiving a doctor’s care. “Manic-depressive cases were treated” is problematic; revise to “The patients with bipolar disorders were treated.”

(from Reducing Bias in Language (3.11). Guideline 2: Be Sensitive to Labels)


Avoid terms such as “patient management” and “patient placement” when appropriate. Usually, the treatment, not patients, is being managed; some alternatives are coordination of care, supportive services, and assistance. Also avoid the term “failed,” as in “eight participants failed to complete the Rorschach and the MMPI,” because it can imply a personal shortcoming instead of a research result; did not is a more neutral choice (Knatterud, 1991).

(from Reducing Bias in Language (3.11). Guideline 3)
APA website

Reducing bias in writing-1

From the APA Publication Manual (6th ed) (2010):

Respect people’s preferences; call people what they prefer to be called. Accept that preferences change with time and that individuals within groups often disagree about the designations they prefer. Make an effort to determine what is appropriate for your situation; you may need to ask your participants which designations they prefer, particularly when preferred designations are being debated within groups.

Avoid labeling people when possible. A common occurrence in scientific writing is that participants in a study tend to lose their individuality; they are broadly categorized as objects (noun forms such as the gays and the elderly) or, particularly in descriptions of people with disabilities, are equated with their conditions—the amnesiacs, the depressives, the schizophrenics, the LDs, for example. One solution is to use adjectival forms (e.g., “gay men,” “older adults,” “amnesic patients”). Another is to “put the person first,” followed by a descriptive phrase (e.g., “people diagnosed with schizophrenia”). Note that the latter solution currently is preferred when describing people with disabilities.

from Reducing Bias in Language (3.11). Guideline 2: Be Sensitive to Labels.
APA website

One space or two at the end of a sentence?




Space Invaders – Slate.com

Sentence Spacing – Wikipedia

APA Publication Manual 6th edition: Spacing (4.01).
Using two spaces after periods ending sentences aids readers of manuscript drafts.

Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!
Unless you are typing on an actual typewriter, you no longer have to put two spaces after a period.


Owl Editing

APA page margins

Set uniform margins of at least 1 in. (2.54 cm) on the top, bottom, left, and right of every page. Use your word-processing software to add a header that will appear at the top of every page that includes the running head and the page number. The header appears within the top margin, not below it.

According to the APA Publication Manual 6th edition (section 8.03, pp. 229-230).


For more information about editing and formatting of essays, manuscripts, and theses, see the Owl Editing website.

The Active Voice

The active voice is direct and vigorous. In grammar, passive describes a sentence in which something sits and waits for something to happen to it. With passive sentences, you sound like someone who sits and waits for things to happen.

    PASSIVE: The ball was kicked by John.
    ACTIVE: John kicked the ball.


Proper use of articles

The root word of “the” is “this” or “that” (definite article).
The root word of “a/an” is “any” (indefinite article).

This table shows how the articles should be used with nouns:


A common error in writing: nominalization

Nominalization is changing a verb into a noun. When you change a verb to a noun, you take the strength away from the sentence. For example, “to conclude” is a specific act but if you are “reaching a conclusion” you’ve eliminated the specific action and replaced it with an all-purpose verb. Instead of “concluding,” the action becomes “reaching.” LOOK FOR such words as: recognition, assumption, formation, protection, realization, destruction, decision, examination and correct the error by changing the word back to a verb that is assigned to a subject.

INSTEAD OF: We reached the conclusion that…
USE: We concluded that…
INSTEAD OF: I am working on the assumption that…
USE: I assume that…