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Faculty Development: Glossary of Writing Terms

Glossary of Writing Terms

The Writing Center and Walden faculty both communicate with students about their writing, and students sometimes report confusion about the feedback they receive. Below is a glossary of some of the common terms used by the Writing Center and by faculty, with simple definitions that can help your students understand your intentions.

APA and Citation Terms

DOI: Acronym that stands for digital object identifier, which is a number under which electronic documents are cataloged.

Sentence case: A method of capitalizing in which the only capitalized words are the first word, any proper nouns, or words that immediately follow a colon (much like the capitalization pattern of a sentence, hence the name).

Seriation: The use of lists within text.

Title case: A method of capitalizing where all major words (including all verbs and all words with four or more letters) are capitalized.

For more on APA concepts and guidelines, see our APA pages.

Grammar and Punctuation Terms

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human actions or characteristics to nonhuman entities. Avoid this practice in scholarly writing.

Colloquialism: A word or phrase used in informal language only.

Conjunction: A word that connects parts of a sentence or phrase (e.g., and, however, yet).

Clause: A group of words containing a subject (a main noun) and predicate (the verbs and modifiers that accompany that noun). A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence; an independent clause can do so.

First person: A point of view that presents the perspective of the author using pronouns like I or me.

Nonrestrictive information: Material that could be removed from a sentence without altering the structure or essential meaning of the sentence.

Parallel structure: Use of consistent word patterns to present multiple items. (Not parallel: watch movies, a play, and dinner. Parallel: watch movies, see a play, and eat dinner.)

Passive voice: Type of writing in which the author places the object of the action as the subject of the sentence. The initiator of the action is either absent (“The ball was thrown”) or placed after the action (“The ball was thrown by Hector”).

Second person: A point of view in which the author speaks to a stated or implied “you.” Avoid using second person point of view in scholarly writing.

Serial comma: A comma appearing before the final conjunction in a list of three or more items.

Syntax: Sentence structure, or the way words are constructed to form a thought.

Tense shift: A change from one verb tense to another, which is sometimes unintentional.

Third person: A point of view in which the author reports actions occurring to someone other than the author, using pronouns such as he, her, or they.

Topic sentence: Typically the first sentence of a paragraph, which transitions from the previous paragraph and introduces the content of the current paragraph.

For more grammar concepts and examples, see our Grammar pages.

Paper Layout and Word Processing Terms

Hanging indent: Indentation style in which the first line begins at the left margin, but subsequent lines are indented by .5”. The reference list uses a hanging indent.

Hyperlink: A URL address that appears in blue with underlining is hyperlinked, meaning that the reader may click on it to access the website. Writers should alter the URLs in reference lists so that the text appears black and without underlining.

Justified: Text with a smooth left and right margin, with words stretched. Walden prefers, and MS Word defaults to, left justification, with only the left margin smooth.

Page break: An inserting tool in MS Word that will cause a division in the text, moving the next piece of text to the top of a new page (as in front matter or a reference list).

Section break: An inserting tool in MS Word that creates a page break and also a division in the paper, allowing the author to create new page numbers for that section only.

For more help with MS Word concepts and processes, see the Academic Skills Center's MS Word help pages.