Category Archives: Sentences

The art of art citations

The art of art citations

by Zoë Mahler

We all know that adding images to papers doesn’t impact the page number of our writing (and if you didn’t know that, then you’ve just received your first tip). That being said, as an art history major I have learned over the years the importance of correctly citing images in papers and all the mechanics that lead to a perfect citation.

I once wrote a paper for a 300-level art history course that included twelve different paintings by three separate Impressionist painters. It was a lot, and writing about all of them (while also making sure I wasn’t mixing any of them up) was quite the hassle.

Here are a few simple tips and tricks for properly citing images in an art history paper using the Chicago Manual Style. Let’s use the Mona Lisa as an example.

First things first: There are a few things to remember the very first time you mention an image. 1) Make sure you are presenting the reader with the full name of the piece, the artist, and the date of the painting. 2) Whenever you address the work of art, it must always be italicized: Mona Lisa. 3) Make sure to place (Figure 1) in parentheses after the image. This way, when you cite the images at the end of your paper, the reader can see which painting correlates to the writing. The only time you use (Figure 1) is after you introduce the painting the first time. For the rest of your paper, just call it by name, as with the Mona Lisa.

Bringing all these pointers together, here is an example of what the final product may look like:

In his 1503 painting, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci creates his own natural background behind the smiling woman to complement her color palette (Figure 1).

Now you are at the end of your paper: After your bibliography, insert a picture of the artwork into your Word document. All your artwork will be the final pieces in the order they appear in your document, starting with Figure 1.

But how and where do you cite these artworks? It’s pretty simple. The only place you need to cite your photos – unless it is something you saw in person for a gallery talk – is after the bibliography (as mentioned before). You do not cite photos of your artworks in your bibliography unless you went to the museum yourself and saw the painting firsthand. For this example, I obviously have not gone to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, so the only place I am citing this photo is below the image. You can simply follow this format:

Format: Figure no. Title of Artwork, artist, date, name of gallery, City.

Example: Figure 1. Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503, the Louvre, Paris.

You will not always know where a painting is being held, and sometimes it may not even be on exhibit. Because of this, it’s okay if you only have the first three criteria.

Correctly citing your artworks or pictures in a paper not only lets the reader know what they should be looking at or imagining from your writing, but it also helps you categorize what you’re working on for your own benefit. If I hadn’t been establishing which figure was which while I was writing my paper, I probably would have gotten pretty confused from time to time. As long as you follow these guidelines, your paper should be a pristine work of art itself!


Zoë Mahler is a senior with an art history and mass communication double major, and a religion and sociology double minor. She spent her summer on a Principia Abroad program studying archaeology and prehistoric Neolithic temples in the United Kingdom and Malta.

Run-on sentences: Crossing the finish line

by Greta Johnson

I am one of the many students who are prone to writing run-on sentences. Many that I compose feel like a never-ending race with the finish line far down the track. So, when the professor of my WRIT 350 course assigned a group project to present a grammar lesson, my partner and I chose this topic. As the saying goes, “teaching is the best way of learning,” so I figured that I’d be able to fix this issue in my writing while informing others about it.

I used to think that I needed to write in more concise sentences to avoid run-ons. However, as I did further research, I realized that going back to the basics of what makes up a sentence is the key to avoiding writing run-ons. And there are multiple ways to fix run-ons besides writing shorter sentences.

Sentences must include the following: a subject, a verb, and an expression of a complete thought. If these are not clear to you in your writing, then you likely have a run-on sentence.

There are many ways to correct a run-on sentence, such as these:

  1. Use a comma and a FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) coordinating conjunction between two independent clauses (for more on these, see “Outrun those run-on sentences.”)
  2. Use a semicolon between independent clauses
  3. Separate the clauses into two independent clauses with a period
  4. Rewrite the sentence

My partner and I put these principles to the test when we had to create examples for our peers to practice. Here’s how we did it:

First, we created a run-on sentence like this one: The fog was thick he could not find his way home. Then, we corrected the run-on using the methods described above:

  1. The fog was thick so he could not find is way home (FANBOYS conjunction).
  2. The fog was thick; he could not find his way home (insert a semicolon between the independent clauses).
  3. The fog was thick. He could not find his way home (separate the independent clauses with a period).
  4. He could not find his way home due to the thick fog (rewrite the sentence).

Unfortunately, during our presentation our professor corrected one of the examples that I wrote (don’t worry, these ones are all correct J). I felt embarrassed at first, but soon brushed it off. I realized that I did not have to take on the role of an expert on the topic of run-on sentences and that this presentation was just as much of a learning experience for me as it was for the students watching.

From one developing writer to another, do not fret if you feel like your sentences run on and on down a track with a distant finish line. This line is actually closer than you think once you realize there are ways to draw it closer to you.


Greta Johnson is a sophomore double major in theatre and educational studies with a concentration in theory and practice. When she’s not doing homework – because she somehow has A LOT – she loves assisting tap dance classes in University City and being on the improv team on campus, Lazy Zipper.


Let’s agree to agreement

by Mackenzie Batten

One of my most traumatic writing experiences in high school was when my literature teacher senior year told me that for each incorrect subject-verb agreement, he would take off ten percent of my final paper grade. When I graduated, I thought the harsh grading was over—but here at Principia, I have had professors with similar rules and grading patterns as my high school teacher.

Subject-verb agreement is when the subject and the verb of a sentence match—that is, a singular subject must have a singular verb and a plural subject must have a plural verb. I believe that subject-verb agreement is crucial because it helps the clarity and the flow of your writing. If you write using a singular subject and then use a plural verb, it might confuse the reader as to how many people you are writing about. So to avoid confusion and impress your teachers—here are some of the rules I have learned while trying to master this skill.

Here are the four main scenarios where confusion arises. To help demonstrate these concepts, the subjects will be bolded and the verbs will be italicized.

  1. In a sentence where the subject includes more than one noun and there is an “and” between them, use a plural verb.

Nancy is selling her house this summer.

Nancy and Bruce are selling their house this summer.

In the first sentence, “Nancy,” singular, agrees with “is,” because “is” is also singular. But in the second sentence, there is an “and” between the two singular nouns, making them a plural subject, so the plural “are” is used. That wasn’t so hard, was it? But it gets trickier, so stick with me.

  1. In a sentence where the subject uses more than one singular noun and there is an “or” between them, use a singular verb.

Emily or Ava is in the room with Barrett’s guinea pig.

In this example, the use of “or” makes the singular nouns of “Ava” and “Emily” a singular subject, so “is,” a singular verb, is correct. I know that that idea can be confusing, but just remember that the use of “or” between two singular subject means a singular verb!

  1. In a sentence where “or” is used in between a singular noun and a plural noun, the verb should agree with the closest noun.

Either Charlie or his friends work at the pub every day.

In the first sentence, the verb agrees with the plural “his friends” because it is closer to the verb. Just remember—whichever subject is closer is the one that needs to be in agreement.

  1. In a sentence where there is a quantifier—a single subject that refers to multiple people—have the verb agree with the quantifier, rather than the noun it is referring to.

Everybody knows about Principia’s rugby team.

“Everybody” is a quantifier, since it is a singular subject, it is correct to use a singular verb. I know that seems backwards because “everybody” refers to multiple people, but it is actually singular!

I hope this helped! Please come to visit any of the writing tutors if you have any more questions!

Mackenzie is a political science and economics double major. She enjoys competing in Principia’s Moot Court and on the Mediation Team.

Make it match!

by Mackenzie Batten

Last year, I was given the task to explain parallel structure to my Teaching the Writing Process class. I found that it is a really crucial concept because it can seem simple to understand, but can actually get fairly complicated. My class and I found some basic ideas about parallel structure helpful, so I thought I would share them with the blog!

Parallel structure must be followed when writing lists by using the same pattern of words or phrases. This shows the reader that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. You could write:

Tony loves eating, playing and sleeping.

Tony loves to eat, to play, and to sleep.


Tony loves to eat, play, and sleep.

…And they would all be correct. The only time you run into trouble is if you mix and match them: 

Tony loves eating, to play and sleep.

One way I like to test to see if a list is parallel is by making each item on the list into its own sentence. Let’s use the following sentence as an example:

My mom taught me how to clean, how to read, and she instructed me on fish-feeding.

Now, to break the sentence up:

My mom taught me how to clean.

My mom taught me how to read.


My mom taught me she instructed me on fish-feeding.

While the first two sentences make grammatical sense, the last does not, so you would know that you need to rewrite that part of the sentence.

Here’s how that sentence could look:

My mom taught me how to clean, how to read, and how to feed my fish.


My mom taught me how to clean, read, and feed my fish.

If there is one thing to take out of this lesson, it is that CONSISTENCY IS KEY!


Mackenzie is a sophomore at Principia College. She is majoring in political science and economics and minoring in business administration. She hopes to go to law school after graduating from Principia.


The last shall be first

by Anna-Zoe Herr

Want to know a simple way to make your wording pop? Pay attention to where you put your words in each sentence! A simple rule is to put the words that carry the most meaning at the end of your sentences.

Roy Peter Clark explains why this works in Writing Tools,* where he advises us that “for any sentence, the period acts as a stop sign. That slight pause in reading magnifies the final word.” That means the last word in every sentence stands out because there is a mental pause right after it. When chosen carefully, the last word in a sentence can provide a bridge to the next sentence, emphasize meaning, and even create a liveliness of tone. Clark calls this “emphatic word order,” which is a small edit for a writer, but a huge improvement for the written piece.

There are two things necessary in order to use emphatic word order when you write:

  1. Be clear what exactly you are writing about in the whole text.
  2. Be clear exactly what each sentence is saying and doing as part of the whole.

If we are very clear about our subject or argument, we often do emphatic word order intuitively; but in many cases we need to go back, play with each sentence, see how it fits into the whole paragraph, and determine what the important words are. With that understanding, when we rewrite the sentence, it can do miracles!

Here is an example:

“Today, some areas of science seem to have claimed to declare truth and error, a status only religion used to have. Therefore, science is as controversial a topic as it gets, for in our age it started knocking on the doors of individuals on a quest for a more accurate truth and has fallen onto the slippery slope of political power-play.”

Using the principles of emphatic word order, I could revise like this:

“Today, some areas of science seem to have claimed a status that only religion used to have: the right to declare truth and error. Therefore, science is as controversial a topic as it gets, for in our age it has fallen onto the slippery slope of political power-play, as well as knocking on the doors of individuals in a quest for a more accurate truth.”

When you look at the last words in these sentences, you can see that they carry the most weight.

The words we choose to put at the end of a sentence can change how readers interpret our intent, but if we understand our intentions, then we can use rhetorical strategies like emphatic word order  to express them in each sentence.

Anna-Zoë is a double major in global perspectives and studio art. She has studied in a university in Germany prior to coming to Principia, where she also studied to be a writing tutor. Next semester, she will be going on the Prague abroad to continue with more writing.

*Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark (2008)

Using “you” less

by Bailey Bischoff

We use the word “you” a lot in our everyday speech. However, when writing a paper for class, it is often inappropriate to use “you” as the subject of your sentence. Engaging with your reader by using “you” (e.g., You should wear a rain jacket when traveling in the rainforest.) is called using a second person narrative voice. Whether you are writing in first person, second person, or third person is determined by which pronouns you use in your writing.

First Person:

Pronouns – I, me, we, mine, us
Example – Last week, I wrote a research paper about which type of music Principia students like to listen to at the pub.

Second Person:

Pronouns – you, your, yours
Example – It is probably surprising to you to learn that George Washington’s teeth were not made of wood, but were made instead of bone, ivory, and human teeth.

Third Person:

Pronouns – he, she, his, it, they, theirs
Example – In Professor Shimkus’s article, she argues that the globalization of markets contributes to increases in the amount of cross-continental human trafficking.

For formal academic writing, it is best to stick with a third person narrative, although some fields and assignments may be excepted. Third person narrative is more formal and professional, which is why we use it for academic writing. Of course, formal and professional isn’t the point. Being clear and specific is. Avoiding “you” helps you be precise for your readers.

How can you transition your writing to third person when you’re so used to speaking in first and second person?

Sometimes, cutting out “you” from your sentences happen naturally as you write more clearly and concisely.

Ex. When flying across the country, you should always pack a book for the plane ride.
Ex. Packing a book for an upcoming plane ride often makes long flights more enjoyable.

You can also substitute “one” for “you”, to give your writing a more formal tone.

Ex. When flying across the country, one should always pack a book for the plane ride.

Even better, you can use the real subject of the sentence.

Ex. When flying across the country, travelers should always pack a book for the ride.

When it comes to writing academic papers, you should remember to use “you” less!
No, wait! Writers should remember to use “you” less.

Bailey Bischoff is a junior majoring in political science and is serving as student body president.

Outrun those run-on sentences

By Katya Rivers

What is a run-on sentence?

A run-on sentence consists of two or more independent clauses that have been joined without appropriate punctuation or a coordinating conjunction. Dividing a run-on sentence into concise, meaningful units can help to clarify your message.

First, an independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. You can tell because it has both a subject and a verb and forms a complete thought. Second, a coordinating conjunction is a word that joins two independent clauses. You can remember these as FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

How do I find it?

  • Locate the independent clauses; it may help to underline the subject-verb pairs.
  • Make the separation clear by drawing vertical lines between independent clauses.

How do I fix it?

  • Use a period and proper capitalization to separate the independent clauses into two (or more) complete sentences,
  • OR use a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction to connect separate but related independent clauses,
  • OR use a semicolon (;), colon (:), or em-dash (–) as appropriate to separate related independent clauses,
  • OR change one independent clause into a dependent clause and join the two clauses, using appropriate punctuation,
  • OR rewrite two fused independent clauses as one cohesive independent clause.

Let’s see it in action:

Incorrect: One way to confront a problem is to seek advice it can come from someone with more life experience.

Correction A: One way to confront a problem is to seek advice; it can come from someone with more life experience.

Correction B: One way to confront a problem is to seek advice. Frequently, guidance can come from someone with more life experience.

Correction C: One way to confront a problem is to seek advice from someone with more life experience.

Katya Rivers is a senior majoring in religion.

The proper way to use “Because”

by Bailey Bischoff

“NEVER use ‘because’ to start a sentence!” is an oft-spoken refrain of middle school English teachers. These well-meaning teachers drill this phrase into children’s heads because they don’t want children to write sentence fragments like this: “I was sad. Because the dog ran away.” The second “sentence” is actually a fragment as the initial “because” makes the phrase a dependent clause, and a dependent clause depends (you can think of it as leaning) on an independent clause for support.

An independent clause is a sentence with both a subject and a verb that can stand on its own. However, dependent clauses cannot stand on their own and need an independent clause to accompany them. In essence, if you start a sentence with a dependent clause (as I have here), make sure a comma and an independent clause follow it. This rule helps explain why it can actually be okay to start a sentence with “because.”

It is grammatically incorrect to write, “I was sad. Because the dog ran away.” However, one can write, “Because the dog ran away, I was sad.”

Because* – Dependent clause – Comma – Independent Clause.

Your sentences can grow from there to include more complex ideas, such as those required in your academic papers: Because the conquistadors colonized Latin America through the use of institutionalized slavery and encomiendas, a hierarchical societal system was put into place, the remains of which can still be seen today.

Because you are no longer in middle school, feel free to use “because” at the beginning of sentences (just as long as you follow it up with a comma and an independent clause).

*If you want to know more about other words like “because,” words that frequently start dependent clauses, do a search for “subordinating conjunctions” and you will find such words as “although, if, when, even though, in order to,” and more. Here’s a link to more information on subordinating conjunctions:

Bailey Bischoff is a sophomore majoring in political science and has just been elected student body president.

An Awk-topodous Approach to Clunky Composition

by Genevieve Bergeson

Instead of imperiling my career in comedy (i.e., making a bad joke), I’ll cut to the chase: today we will explore how cephalopods and sentences are similar, that is, octopi and the syllable “awk.” “Awk”  is what professors and colleagues write in the margins of our writing next to confusing—awkward—sentences. Ah, but you probably want to hear the joke anyway.

Why didn’t the cephalopod share his writing?

Because it was too oct-word.

AwktopusSo, “awkward.” What constitutes an “awkward sentence”? Essentially, the individual parts of the sentence (phrases, clauses, etc.) don’t quite fit together; this in turn makes the meaning unclear or confusing. Instead of following the main idea (head) of the sentence (octopus), the reader gets tangled in the tentacles (phrases & clauses). On the other hand (or tentacle), the parts of an effective sentence work together smoothly to propel your denizen of deep thinking forward.

Awkward sentences (awk-topi) appear for several reasons, grammatical and otherwise. Perhaps you’re simply squirting ink and ideas everywhere because you haven’t figured out how to articulate them yet. Perhaps you’re unaware there are principles and strategies to help you eliminate awk-topi. Either way, my punny scientist friends Seth and Steph Allopod recommend this octet for eliminating awkwardness and making writing clearer.

Ready? Let’s get kraken!

  1. Make sushi. (I’d say “calamari,”  but that’s literally another animal.) Don’t cram too much into one sentence; separate the ideas into more manageable bites.
  2. Be direct. Say your idea in as few words as possible.
  3. Delete unnecessary words and information.
  4. Parse the sentence. Mark subjects, verbs, objects, phrases, clauses, etc., differently so you see the parts of the sentence and how they interact. (Sometimes words get caught between related parts and interfere with the relationships of those parts—subject/verb, pronoun/antecedent, independent/dependent clauses. Be clear about who’s doing what.)
  5. Start fresh. Turn your paper over (or scroll to a blank page) and rewrite the entire sentence.
  6. Switch things around. Putting key words and ideas in different positions may reveal a more fluid grammatical structure, which makes it easier for your reader to understand your point.
  7. Check verb forms. Eliminate unnecessary and confusing tense shifts. Use active verbs (unless passive voice is more appropriate for the situation).
  8. Word choice. Does the word mean what you think it means? Are there more accurate terms you could use? When in doubt, consult a good dictionary.

Happy thinking!

Genevieve Bergeson, in her second year as a Principia post-graduate teaching intern in writing, delights in all things creative—art, words, and music. She has authored and illustrated the children’s book Racing Pajamas (read more at and has several other stories in the works.