Writing Support

Need help with your papers? We have an English editor, a style guide, a paper template, and a citation tool to make your work easier.

English and Writing Assistance for PRTS students


Kim Postma

Submit papers no later than three days before an assignment is due and ideally a week and a half before the due date.  Sign up to schedule English conversation practice sessions.

Contact: kim.postma@prts.edu | 616-977-0599, ext 158

Writing Tools

Zotero is a citation-tracking tool enabling you to organize your research and insert footnotes and bibliographies with a click of the mouse!

“ Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ”

Benjamin Franklin

PRTS Writing Style Guide

I. Introduction

In the interests of keeping this document as brief as possible, the student is referred to two other, more detailed resources, that will help  improve writing or offer clarification on some point of punctuation or usage. The first is usually referred to as “Turabian.” This document always refers to the 8th edition. The second reference, Hudson and Townsend, provides additional information specifically for works dealing with the Bible and Christian subjects. These books are available in the reference section of our library. In addition to these print materials, wikipedia is an excellent online source for finding definitions and rules for grammar and writing. When it comes to creating bibliographies and adding footnotes to a written assignment, Zotero is a free online tool that will easily create Turabian-style bibliographies and footnotes from material gathered online, from subscription databases, library catalogs, etc. For a brief tutorial, see link above.

Turabian Quick Guide

II. General layout

Use the PRTS Paper Template (linked above) for all written assignments unless otherwise directed by your professor. Paper templates for MACs and PCs with embedded macros that work in conjunction with Zotero are also available (See Populi>Files>Shared).
The title page should conform to the guidelines on page 377-78 of Turabian.
All pages, except for the first, should be numbered. The number should be located center bottom
All papers should be double-spaced, unless the professor indicates otherwise.
Use a common, sans serif font such as Times New Roman.
Set right and left margins of 1 inch. Top and bottom margins of 1 inch.
All quotes longer than five lines should be made into single-spaced, block quotes. (cf. Turabian 25.2.2)
Left margins should be justified; right margins should be unjustified.
Footnotes and the bibliography should be single-spaced, double-spaced between entries

III. A Thesis

Understand the difference between a thesis and a topic. Assume that all papers written for PRTS require a thesis, in addition to your topic. The only exception to this is if your professor explicitly states otherwise.

IV. Citations

Do not use endnotes.
In formal academic writing, footnotes serve more than just to identify bibliographic information for a quote or paraphrase. They can provide additional infromation or references for further research that may be of interest to the reader but are not essential or central to the text discussion.
Use the style of citation laid out in Turabian 15.3.1 or here.
It is assumed that every major paper you write will have a bibliography. Consult Turabian chapter 17 or our website for the accepted format.
Do not use abbreviations like, loc. cit., op. cit., or ibid.
Scripture citations should follow this format: “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Acceptable abbreviations for Bible books are:

Gen. Ex. Lev. Num. Deut. Josh. Judg. Ruth 1 Sam. 2 Sam. 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chron. 2 Chron. Ezra Neh. Esth. Job Ps. (plural Pss.) Prov. Eccl. Song Isa. Jer. Lam. Ezek. Dan. Hos. Joel Amos Obad. Jonah Mic. Nah. Hab. Zeph. Hag. Zech. Mal. Matt. Mark Luke John Acts Rom. 1 Cor. 2 Cor. Gal. Eph. Phil. Col. 1 Thess. 2 Thess. 1 Tim. 2 Tim. Titus Philemon Heb. James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Rev.

V. Quotations

When to use direct quotes: Direct quotes should not make the point, i.e. the argument of the paper should not advance with direct quotations. Source material has no significance without your commentary to provide the context and meaning. Source material should support the point being made (i.e. serve as evidence), contradict the point being made, or become the proposition / thesis about or against which the paper is arguing. Refer to Turabian, p. 42 for further clarification of when to summarize, paraphrase, and quote.
Where to put direct quotes:

In the text body when the quote is essential to the proposition (or thesis); for example, if the paper is addressing a particular position or person, primary evidence would be appropriate in the text since that becomes the basis for your analysis. For the most part, these quotes are limited to the topic (primary evidence) and not what others might say about the topic.
In footnotes when the quote is to provide authority or support for the argument being made in the text
In footnotes when the quote provides a contrary opinion that may be recognized but not essential to the flow of thought in the text.

VI. Capitalization – See chapter 22 in Turabian.

VII. AbbreviationsTurabian 21.1.

For a list of Latin theological terms and their meanings see Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms.
For a list of Latin abbreviations and their meanings, see wikipedia.
In footnotes, use the 2-letter Postal code abbreviation for states found on Turabian, 337

VIII. Punctuation

Commas – There are detailed instructions on when to use commas in chapter 21 of Turabian. If you can’t master all these, please do observe the following basic rules:

Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, clauses (Turabian 21.2.4).
Separate the independent clauses in a compound sentence with a comma and a coordinating conjunction.
Appositives always get commas.
Do not use a comma to separate the predicates in a sentence with a compound predicate.

Quotation marks – The only time you should use single quotation marks is if you have a quote inside another quote. Otherwise, you should always use the regular quotation marks “…”.

Other marks – As much as possible, avoid using punctuation marks like dashes, slashes, parentheses, and hyphens.

IX. Outline

To ensure good flow and organization, create an outline for your paper and use it as a framework for your ideas. Your professor will be able to understand your paper’s aim and structure better if you show him your outline. Generally, you will include this outline with your paper when you submit it for grading.

X. Paragraphs

Please consult chapters 12-13 in Strunk & White and Turabian 9.3 for information on the importance and use of paragraphs.

Your paper should always be organized into paragraphs which follow the flow of reasoning you laid out in your outline.
Each paragraph should center around a single thought.
A portion of a paragraph should have at least two lines on any page (avoid “widows”).

XI. Editing

Be sure that your introduction and conclusion are clearly delineated (Turabian 9.1). Your thesis should be in both.
It is inconsiderate to hand in a paper that has numerous and/or obvious proofreading errors. Read your paper at least twice to avoid embarrassing yourself and inconveniencing your professor. It is not sufficient merely to run a spell-check.
For additional help on writing style, you can consult chapter 16 of Strunk and White. In general, you should try to write in simple and unadorned diction. Do not try to imitate the writing style of your favorite Puritan, preacher, or author. Simple, concrete, and definite language is always to be preferred over complex, abstract, and vague. In general, write sentences that conform to one of the four standard sentence types. If you can’t classify your sentences into one of these four types, then it probably needs to be re-written.
Do not multiply figures of speech and metaphors. (Strunk p. 80)

Questions regarding Turabian formatting or use of the paper template?