It’s vs. Its: What’s the Difference?

The English language is a tough business. So much so, it’s unimaginable to have mastered all its intricacies. (See what I did there?)

Determining whether to use “it’s” or “its” is an essential building block of good writing, but it’s easy to let this little word topple your Jenga tower. Even the most seasoned writers are apt to forget an apostrophe every now and again. Take the following text message exchange:

A: When do you want to see that superhero adventure movie no one can stop talking about, the superhero adventure movie to END ALL SUPERHERO ADVENTURE MOVIES???
B: Its playing at 8 tonight. Wanna go?
B: *it’s
B: *it’s playing at 8 tonight
B: That was all autocorrect. I know the difference between it’s and its, I swear. PLEASE YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE MEEEE.

Ok, maybe things aren’t always this dramatic. But knowing the difference between a regular ol’ pronoun and a possessive pronoun is essential for understanding English grammar (and using it to express yourself in writing). Especially when it comes to that tiny, impossible-to-define, root of all description: it.

When do you use “it’s” and when, “its”? We hope this comic will help set the record straight.


What's the Difference Between It's and Its? Cartoon - BibMe blog

Bonus: here’s a practical tip for making sure you’re using the right form of it’s: run the “it is” test

If you’re not sure whether to put in the apostrophe, see if your version of “its” works as two words: it is.

It is nice out.
I’m sure it is going to work.


In these instances, “it is” can be replaced by
it’s:

It’s nice out.
I’m not sure it’s going to work.  

Lovely!

For the other version, take these sentences:

Put the toy back in its place, won’t you please.
The robot took its sweet time making my dinner.

You wouldn’t say “the robot took it is sweet time,” now, would you? There you go: no apostrophe needed.

Not sure your paper is free of rogue apostrophes, reckless subject verb agreement, or other wilding grammar errors? Take our free grammar check for a spin!

 Illustrations by Liv Bishop

Impress Your English Teacher with These 3 Sources

You will write a ton of papers throughout your school life, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be the same. The difference between an ok paper and one that “wows” your teacher may not be entirely related to your writing skills. The types of resources that you use to conduct your research can also set your work apart and demonstrate your willingness to think outside of the box.

Here are some out of the ordinary source types that you should consider using in your next research paper:

1. Maps
Writing a paper on a specific period in history? (The Elizabethan era of Shakespeare, perhaps?) Is your topic focused on a particular part of the world? (For example, Greece, if you’re studying Greek mythology.) Including a map in your works cited page could help provide context to your topic. Also, who doesn’t love a visual aid?

For example, did you read All the Light We Cannot See and are writing about World War II? Using a map can help communicate which countries were associated with the Allies, the Axis, or neutral. Another map could show the progression of attacks and offensives.

If you’re interested in using a map for your paper, consider checking library databases for copies of historical maps, or find an atlas that shows geographical charts for your desired timeframe. Some libraries also have special map collections, so ask your librarian for help.

2. Interviews
Interviews express a person’s thoughts on a given topic in a very focused and concise way. They are often also very personal and can provide a human element to even the most scientific or static topic—which is especially useful in persuasive essays. The best part is, interviews are easy to find, and are often used in newspapers, magazines, or even as part of popular T.V. shows. When including interviews in your project or paper, be sure to account for or acknowledge bias—your teacher will appreciate your insight.

3. Letters/Correspondence
Including letters or even emails as sources in your reference list is a great way to add a personal touch to your paper. For instance, including a snippet of a letter from George Washington describing Benedict Arnold would be a great addition to your Revolutionary War research paper. Copies of historical letters and other correspondence can be found in places like the National Archives at https://www.archives.gov/. Libraries, universities, and museums are also great places to look.

All of these source types and more can be easily cited with the help of BibMe.org. Our citation tools can show you how to cite a website, create an APA reference page, generate an MLA citation, and much more! In addition, BibMe Plus has a grammar check to help you write well-written papers. Try it today!

Feature Focus: BibMe’s Intuitive Annotation Tool

Were you asked to create an annotated bibliography? Wondering how to write an annotated bibliography? Or even what it is? Look no further, because BibMe’s free Annotation Tool can help!

Bibliographies are generally found on the final page of an assignment or research paper and contain citations for sources used in a project. Annotated bibliographies take it one step further and include the full citation PLUS commentary about the source. 

The commentary about the source is the annotation. Included in this commentary, or annotation, is:
    • A summary of the source (one to three sentences)
    • Your evaluation of the source and how or why you found it beneficial (one to three sentences)
      Here’s an example of an annotated bibliography, in APA format, created with BibMe’s free Annotation Tool:

Civil Rights Movement. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2018, from http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement

This website features articles, videos, pictures, and speeches that pertain to the Civil Rights Movement. Included are brief summaries of historical events and notable people, including the March on Washington, Bloody Sunday, and the Little Rock Nine. I appreciate the brief overview of many significant events and the primary sources throughout were beneficial for this assignment.

Lee, H. (2002). To kill a mockingbird. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Based in Alabama in the early 1960s, Atticus Finch defends a black man during his rape trial. Scout Finch, Atticus Finch’s brave 6 year old daughter, narrates the story and walks us through a time of racial and social injustice. The novel shed light on life in Alabama right before the civil rights movement took off and allowed me to understand the time through an innocent child’s eyes.

Ready to make your own annotated bibliography with BibMe’s Annotation Tool? To do so, create your citations as you normally would on BibMe. At the final step, you’ll see “Add Annotation” at the bottom of the citation form. You can also get here by clicking on the “Edit” link on an existing citation.

Image of annotated bibliography tool
Add your summary and evaluation in the box. BibMe will format your citation, with annotation, in the proper format and in the style you choose (MLA style, APA format, Chicago, or another style). After you create your citation with its annotation, copy and paste it into your bibliography, download it to Word, or save it for later use. It’s simple, easy, and free! Doesn’t get better than that!

Image of annotated bibliography tool

If you need more help with your bibliography, works cited list, or reference list, check out our citation guides. We also have a great grammar check feature to help you build a paper you’re proud of.

About the Author

Wendy is a Content Manager at BibMe, a Chegg Service. She loves using her library science background to promote an appreciation of citations and writing. Her interests include chats about books, cats, and good food.

Smart Tips to Choosing a College

So, you’ve been accepted to college—congratulations! No more gathering transcripts, asking for recommendation letters, stressing over application essays (and running them through a grammar checker), or waiting for responses. But choosing where to go to after you’ve gotten in can be a difficult decision. After all, different schools have different perks, and even if you’ve already done extensive research, it can be tough narrowing down a list to just one place.

To make the process a bit more manageable, we are criteria you can take into account when figuring out where to go.

Consider the Financial Aspect

College costs a lot of money, and there’s no reason school price shouldn’t factor into your decision. You shouldn’t make the decision based on price alone, but if you get a scholarship to one school and not another—or if one institution is private while another is public—that information is worth taking into account.

Visit the Schools

While it won’t always be possible to visit every school—due to time, distance or money—visiting your top choices is a great way to decide if they’re really be right place for you. Oftentimes, you get a feeling just from visiting a place. Visualizing the campus’ layout and the students without actually stepping foot on campus is challenging, so try to find a way to visit in person if you can.

Talk Out the Decision

Discussing your thoughts with family or friends might be helpful, but talking out the decision to yourself could also prove a helpful strategy for determining the right choice for you. You also might want to write out your thoughts on Post-It notes as you go, if you’re a visual learner.

Speak With Current Students

Talking with students who currently attend a school can go a long way toward determining whether that’s the place for you. While reading in guidebooks and online information can help you get an idea of what a student’s experience might be like, there’s no substitute for talking with a student over the phone or in person. Connect with someone from your high school who’s a current student at that college, or if you don’t know anyone who goes there, ask your regional admissions officer if they can put you in touch with an enrolled student.

Go With your Gut

Although it’s best to make an informed decision after conducting research, you may find yourself pulled toward one school, whether it’s for the academic programs or because it just felt like the right fit. If you still feel conflicted after making a pro-con list, go with your gut—do what you think is right, taking into account criteria including strength of academic programs, money and social experiences.

Take Your Time

For most schools, you have until May 1 to say whether or not you’re coming, a full month after the latest acceptable letters come in. There’s no problem with waiting until May 1. Deciding where to go to college is a big decision—after all, you’re planning to spend four years at that institution. There’s nothing wrong with taking that month to mull things over; there’s no perk to accepting an offer in early April.

Deciding on a college may be hard, but creating citations in high school and college can be easy with BibMe. Cite sources quickly and automatically in MLA format, APA format, and thousands of other styles.

How To Brainstorm When You’re Out Of Ideas

We’ve all experienced the mental block that occurs when the well of ideas has run dry. Snap out of staring-into-space mode with these brainstorming tips for infinite ideas generation.

Switch Up Your Method

There are lots of different brainstorming methods to choose from—so if one isn’t working for you, try switching to another. Examples include:

1. Free Writing

Free writing means picking up your pen (literally or figuratively!) and writing continuously for a set time period. Don’t worry about your spelling or a grammar check for now—just let the ideas flow! The goal is that you free yourself from the constraints of over-thinking or deliberating whether an idea will work or is ‘good enough’. Forcing yourself to continue with a train of creative thought could take you somewhere unexpected.

2. Mind Mapping

Also known as clustering or creating a spider diagram, this method basically involves branching points out from a core idea. Each point can connect to further branches, letting your core idea lead you somewhere that might have been too much of a leap to make otherwise.

3. Bullet Method

The bullet method is great for those who prefer a more ordered brainstorming session. It involves breaking a topic down into subtopics, which are then broken down further into bullet lists of connected ideas. It’s essentially a more structured-looking mind map! This method is ideal if you wish to note down any sources of inspiration that you might later need to create a works cited page for your MLA or APA style citations.

4. Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are a good method for comparing two or more things, and can be especially useful when planning compare and contrast essays. They involve drawing a circle for each thing that needs to be compared. In each circle you write the ideas, traits or characteristics that are relevant to that item. The circles should have an overlapping section for their shared characteristics.

Focus On Quantity, Not Quality

This might go against all your academic instincts, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies. However, allowing yourself the freedom to simply create ideas, without worrying about them further at this stage, could lead you somewhere that you wouldn’t have otherwise got to.

Set A Time Limit

Setting a timer can be an effective way to focus the mind on the task in hand. A time limit will also help prevent you from getting stuck on over-thinking your ideas, and will encourage you to just get as much down on paper as possible before your time runs out!

Change Your Surroundings

Sometimes, a change of scenery can work wonders for creativity. You could physically change your surroundings by taking yourself off to the library, a coffee shop or somewhere else you wouldn’t normally work. Or you could go for a more subtle change such as switching from your computer to good old-fashioned pen and paper. Or try playing background music, if you’re used to working in silence.

Find A Friend

Adding another person to the mix can be really effective in sparking inspiration and unblocking the flow of ideas. Why not try getting some of your class peers together to brainstorm in a group (check with your tutor first). Alternatively, having an impartial third-person to bounce ideas off can be useful as their questions could lead you to consider a new perspective.

Sources

https://medium.com/@WriterLionel/sound-advice-what-to-listen-to-while-working-601af736846

https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/

https://www.thoughtco.com/creating-a-venn-diagram-1857015

 

 

Which Citation Format Should I Use?

So, you’re writing a paper and want to make sure that you’re citing your sources correctly. Great! Ensuring that you properly cite and reference your sources will prevent lost marksor even a failed paper, or worsefor accidental plagiarism. However, in order to correctly cite your sources, you first need to know which citation format to use.

There are numerous citation styles, although MLA format, APA format and Chicago/Turabian are the most commonly used.

The bottom line, when deciding which citation format to use, ask your teacher or professor. They’re the person best placed to advise you, as the preferred style often depends on the subject in question. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect a university or college to ask for the same citation format across the board. You should also be careful not to assume that assignments for your major and minor subjects require you to use the same style of citations. If in any doubt, ask!

To give you a general idea, here’s a breakdown of citation formats and the subjects that they’re usually used for:

Popular Formats

APA Format (American Psychological Association) – Used for social science subjects such as psychology, criminology, business and journalism.

MLA Format (Modern Languages Association) – Used for literature and humanities subjects such as literature, philosophy, religion, theater and communications.

Chicago Manual of Style – Used in humanities and social sciences such as anthropology, art history, business, computing, criminology, history, philosophy and religion.

Turabian Style – A variation of Chicago Manual of Style used across humanities, social sciences and natural science subjects such as art history, history and music.

Less-Commonly Used Formats (single subject specific)

Harvard Business School — business

ACS (American Chemical Society) — chemistry

AIP (American Institute of Physics) — physics

ALWD (Association of Legal Writing Directors) — law

AMA (American Medical Association) — medicine

AMS (American Mathematical Society) — math

APSA (American Political Science Association) — politics, international studies

ASA (American Sociological Association) — sociology

AP (Associated Press) — journalism, PR

Bluebook — legal studies

CSE (Council of Science Editors) — biology

LSA (Linguistics Society of America) — linguistics

Maroonbook — legal studies

NLM (National Library of Medicine) — medicine

As you’ll note from the above list, there’s some subject crossover with the popular citation formats. Others are very subject specific. Whichever subject you’re studying at your college or university, check your teacher’s preference before undertaking the task of creating your citations — time is precious as a busy student, and the last thing you want is to have to complete the same task twice, or lose marks unnecessarily.

Once you know which citation style you need to select, head over to the BibMe’s citation generator for help with their creation.

New: Check Any Paper for Grammar and Plagiarism with BibMe Plus

We’re excited to announce the release of our brand new BibMe Plus grammar and plagiarism tool! It’s simple to use and provides you with the writing help you need, when you need it.

We’ve all been there. Those strenuous hours, pouring over research assignments, compiling notes, creating APA or MLA style citations, and writing until our fingers throb. We feel for you! That’s why we’ve made the research process significantly easier for you with BibMe Plus’s new grammar and plagiarism checker!

Wondering how to use our newest tool? Get a grammar check for free! Just copy and paste your paper or upload it into our smart proofreader. In just a few clicks, BibMe Plus instantly analyzes your paper for grammatical errors. Up to 20 errors are free to review, or you can see them all with a subscription.

BibMe grammar and plagiarism checker
Our grammar check evaluates spelling, punctuation, writing style, verb tense, sentence structure, and more. In fact, it is capable of checking for 1600+ grammatical rules! With our personalized grammar suggestions, you’ll be on your way to keeping your paper free of those dreaded red error marks. The first 20 suggestions are complimentary, though you can get unlimited checks and suggestions with a BibMe Plus subscription.

BibMe Plus’s plagiarism check is included in that subscription. It scans your paper and helps to flag for any missed or inaccurate citations. Create properly formatted MLA or APA in-text citation and reference list citations for multiple source types, directly in your paper. Let’s face it, showing you’re an ethical student who cites their sources accurately is important to exhibit to your teacher, but it also makes you feel like an honest and responsible citizen too! Win win!

Try BibMe Plus’s grammar and plagiarism checker now and see how simple and easy it is to get the writing help you need to succeed!


What’s the Difference Between an Abstract, Summary, and Annotation?

With so many different terms related to citations (e.g. MLA format, footnotes, abstract, etc.), it can be difficult to understand how each one could fit into your paper. Let’s take a look at a few of the most commonly confused citation terms, and ways that you can properly use them in your work.

What is an Abstract? When do I use it?

An abstract is a condensed overview of a paper that usually includes the purpose of the paper/research study, the basic design of the study, the major findings, and a brief summary of your interpretations of the conclusions. Abstracts are usually used in social science or scientific papers, and are generally 300 words or less.

What is a Summary? When do I use it?

Like an abstract, a summary is just a condensed write-up on the topic discussed in your paper. However, summaries are more open ended than abstracts, and can contain much more varied information. They can be included in virtually any type of paper, and do not have a specific word count limit. Always check with your instructor for those types of guidelines before handing in your summary and paper.

What is an Annotation? When do I use it?

Annotations, otherwise referred to as annotated bibliographies, are contextual blurbs that are placed underneath the citation that they refer to within the bibliography of a paper. Each annotation is usually about 150 words, and is a descriptive and evaluative paragraph. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of each source cited.

Before including any of these options in your paper, be sure to check with your instructor about their specifications for your assignment. It might also be beneficial to run it through a grammar checker in case there are any errors you may have missed in the abstract, summary, or annotation.

If you need to create APA citations, learn how to cite a book, or are looking to for a way to review your paper, try BibMe Plus’s plagiarism and grammar checker.



Is it Effect or Affect?

Writing a paper has many challenges. You may wonder, what should my topic be? Are my sources credible? Should that be an APA or MLA website citation? How’s my grammar?

Have you ever faced the dilemma of whether to choose “effect” or “affect”? Perhaps you thought you selected the correct one but were informed it was the wrong choice after all. Or perhaps you didn’t even realize you made an error in the first place.

Whatever your concern over these two very similar words, it’s important to understand the difference. After all, their correct usage can improve your credibility with your reader, whether that means a fellow classmate or an instructor. Let’s take a look at these commonly confused words by first defining them.

Defining “Effect”

The word “effect” is a noun that means “a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.” The word “effect” is used in the phrase “cause and effect,” which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever been asked to write that type of essay. In general, “effect” can be singular or plural, sometimes changing its definition when plural.

When it appears as singular, it may be used like this:

The young woman was dizzy from the side effect of the medicine.

In this example, you can see that “effect” functions as a noun–a thing that, in this sentence, occurs because of medicine.

When it appears as plural, “effects,” there may be several definitions. In one usage, the definition remains the same and there is simply more than one effect, such as “side effects.” In another usage, “effects” are someone’s personal belongings. You may have heard people talk about their “effects”; this probably  included things like their hats and briefcases. In yet another usage, “effects” are devices used to enhance a stage or film performance, such as special effects.

No matter how you use the word “effect,” make sure you’re using it to match the sentence where it’s used. (If any of your sentences contain a quote, don’t forget to cite your sources.)

Defining “Affect”

Think about how “effect” is a noun—this is important for understanding the main distinction between it and “affect.” “Affect” is a verb (not a noun) that means to “have an effect on; make a difference to.” The word “affect” can be used to show how one thing creates change in something else.

For example, you might write:

The hot sun affected the sunbathers in such a way that they soon had to go inside.

In this example, you see how the sun caused a change for the sunbathers—they had to go inside. “Affect” can be a very handy word when composing.

What’s the Difference?

As we have discussed, these words have both different definitions and parts of speech. As mentioned above, “effect” usually functions as a noun, and “affect” usually functions as a verb. The bottom line is this: knowing whether you need a verb or a noun in a sentence can help you determine which of these words to choose for your next piece of writing.

Here is an example of these words used correctly in the same sentence:

The effect of the rain was that I caught a cold, which affected my singing performance in the evening.

Which One Should I Use?

When you’re faced with the decision between “affect” and “effect,” think about what your sentence says. If you need a noun, use “effect” in most cases. If you need a verb, use “affect” in most cases. Either way, these words are important for clear communication, something that gives your reader confidence in your words.

——

Check your paper before turning it in! Use BibMe Plus’s grammar check and plagiarism check feature to receive editing suggestions, search for unintentional plagiarism, and build a bibliography in MLA or APA citation format. BibMe Plus also has advanced citation features that allow you to create a citations for several source types, create Chicago style in text citation, or format your citations in thousands of citation styles. Try it today!

Writing for Fun & Money: Spring 2018 Essay Contests

As 2018 gets underway, students may be looking to bolster their resumes or earn some extra cash. For students who enjoy writing, essay contests offer the perfect opportunity to hone those writing chops, get work published and even win prize money.

Although sorting through the many online writing contests and determining your eligibility can be challenging, we’ve got you covered. Below, find a handy-dandy list of essay contests you can enter this spring, complete with deadlines, eligibility guidelines and information about prizes.

*This is not an endorsement for any specific event. Details of the events are subject to change, therefore please check with each event’s individual website for further information. Thanks!

When you do write your essay, don’t forget to use BibMe as a MLA formatter, resource for citation guides, bibliography maker, APA in text citation creator, or tool with thousands of citations styles.

Jane Austen Society of North America (JANSA) Essay Contest

Deadline: May 20
Age Range: High school through graduate school students
http://www.jasna.org/programs/essay-contest?
Students are to submit essays addressing Jane Austen’s novel, “Persuasion.” First prize is a $1,000 scholarship, while the second-place winner gets $500 and the third-place winner gets $250. Winners (and their mentors, if named) earn a year-long submission to JANSA, and the winner receives a set of Norton Critical Editions of Austen’s novels.

New York Times Student Editorial Contest

Deadline: April 5 (opens Feb. 28)
Age Range: 13 to 19 year-olds
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/learning/announcing-our-2017-18-student-contest-calendar.html
Students are tasked with writing a 450-word editorial and submitting it to the New York Times for judging by the paper’s editorial staff. Individual and team entries are both acceptable. Winners have their work published to the New York Times’ website.

AFSA High School Essay Contest

Deadline: March 15
Age Range: 9th-12th graders
http://www.afsa.org/essay-contest
In a 1,000-1,250 word essay, students are to address questions posed by the AFSA on important international issues. The first-place winner will earn $2,500, a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the Secretary of State and a semester’s paid tuition for Semester at Sea. The runner-up gets $1,250 and full tuition for the NSLC International Diplomacy Summer Program.

American Society of Human Genetics Essay Contest

Deadline: March 9
Age Range: 9th-12th graders
http://www.ashg.org/education/dnaday.shtml
In honor of National DNA Day, which will be celebrated on April 25 this year, the Society of Human Genetics will announce the winners of its essay-writing contest. Entries must answer the question of whether consumers should have direct access to predictive genetic testing. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, while second place comes with a $1,200 prize and third place comes with $800.

The Norton Writer’s Prize

Deadline: June 15
Age Range: College students
http://books.wwnorton.com/books/norton-writers-prize/?mid=145
Undergraduate students are encouraged to submit 1,000 to 3,000 word essays to this contest. Essays must come with a letter from a nominating instructor. Students can write their essays on a wide range of topics and in several different styles. First place comes with a $1,500 cash award, while the runner-up gets $1,000.


Trying to figure out how to cite? Do you need a works cited? Maybe an APA citation? How about an annotated bibliography? Or creating citations that adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style? BibMe can help you do all of that and more!