How to Write

(How to Prepare Technical Reports)

William J. Rapaport

Department of Computer Science and Engineering,
Department of Philosophy,
and Center for Cognitive Science
State University of New York at Buffalo,
Buffalo, NY 14260-2500

Last Update: Thursday, 9 August 2018

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

If you are reading a printed version of this, you might be interested in the Web version, at

which has links to other helpful Web sites (indicated in some printed versions by underlined phrases).


  1. General Information
  2. Special Information for Programming Projects
  3. How to Handle Citations
  4. Some Rules of Thumb about Grammatical Issues
  5. Why worry about all this?

1. General Information

1.1. How to Study

1.2. All papers MUST be word-processed (or typed)

1.3. Proofread your paper, and check for spelling errors!!!!

1.4. What kind of paper?

1.5. Do not use double-sided printing.

1.6. Number all pages.

1.7. Do not use running heads or foots (feet?).

1.8. Double space everything you type.

1.9. Margins.

1.10. Paragraphs.

1.11. Order of Material.

1.12. Title of Paper.

1.13. Don't do any of the following!

1.14. Include an Abstract.

1.15. Do not use a table of contents.

1.16. Use a staple.

1.17. Separate sentences with precisely 2 blank spaces.

1.18. Footnotes or endnotes

1.19. Using Box-and-Arrow Diagrams:

1.20. Keep Your Audience in Mind:

1.21. Edit Your Paper:

1.22. Some Good Books to Consult:

  1. The single best book on writing is:

    Strunk, William, Jr.; & White, E.B. (1918/1935/1959/2000), The Elements of Style, 4th Edition (New York: Allyn & Bacon/Longman/Pearson).

  2. Gillman, Leonard (1987), Writing Mathematics Well: A Manual for Authors (Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America).

  3. Knuth, Donald E.; Larrabee, Tracy; & Roberts, Paul M. (1989), Mathematical Writing (Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America).

  4. Also see below.

2. Special Information for Programming Projects

All programming projects should be written as reports.

3. How to Handle Citations


3.2. References for quotations must include page numbers!

3.3. Format for in-text references.

3.4. References.

4. Some Rules of Thumb about Grammatical Issues

4.0 A Good On-Line Reference

A good on-line reference is
The American Heritage Book of English Usage

4.1 Punctuation

A useful document on how to punctuate is:

Aune, Bruce (2001), "Punctuation and Syntax" [PDF].

4.1.1. Commas (,)

4.1.2. Semi-colons (;)

4.1.3. Colons (:)

4.1.4. Double quote marks ("/" or “/”)

4.1.5. Single quote marks ('/' or ‘/’)

4.1.6. Capital letters

4.1.7. Apostrophes (')

4.1.8. Dashes (—)

4.1.9. Ellipsis (…)

4.2. Word Confusions

An excellent online document on word confusions is:

4.2.0. "Affect" vs. "effect":

4.2.1. "As" vs. "because" vs. "since":

4.2.2. "It's" vs. "its":

4.2.3. "Of" vs. "have":

4.2.4. "Their" vs. "they're" vs. "there":

4.2.4. "Try to" vs. "try and":

4.2.5. "Which" vs. "that":

4.2.6. "Yay" vs. "yea" vs. "yeah":

4.2.7. "Your" vs. "you're":

4.2.8. "We" vs. "I":

4.2.9. "e.g." vs. "i.e.":

4.3. "He" vs. "She" vs. "She or he" vs. etc.

On whether to say "he" or "she" or "she or he" or "s/he" or "they" (etc.), see:

5. Why Do All This? Why Worry about Grammar, etc.?


[1] Like this one did. But keep footnotes or endnotes to an absolute minimum. Important information, such as the information in this note, should really appear in the text, not in a footnote or endnote! (back to text)

Text copyright © 2002–2018 by William J. Rapaport (
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