Check to make sure your report meets the guidelines on each topic.

Punctuation

Lists

  • Use bullets for unordered lists (when order does not matter, such as with a list of equipment).
  • Use numbers for ordered lists (when order DOES matter, such as with procedures).

Equations

  • Italicize symbols (e.g., a for area) unless they are abbreviations (e.g., LMTD for log-mean temperature difference).
  • Do not italicize units.
  • Number each equation, which appears at the right and is right justified.

Capitalization

  • Reference a figure as a proper noun (e.g., Figure 1).
  • Capitalize proper nouns but not common nouns, such as chemical names (e.g., "urea" NOT "Urea").

Parallel Construction

If two or more ideas are parallel, they are easier to grasp when expressed in parallel grammatical form. Single words should be balanced with single words, phrases with phrases, clauses with clauses. The reader expects to see the same grammatical pattern. When the pattern is broken, the reader is distracted and the meaning may be lost. Consider the following obvious examples and revisions:

Incorrect This morning I ran out of cereal, couldn't find my notebook and the bus came too early.
Revised This morning I ran out of cereal, couldn't find my notebook and missed the bus.
Incorrect The French, the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese . . . .
Revised The French, the Italians, the Spanish, and the Portuguese . . . .
Incorrect Most people are listening to their iPods, talking on a cell phone, or test preparation.
Revised Most people are listening to their iPods, talking on a cell phone, or studying for a test.

More complicated sentence structures also need to follow parallel construction.

Incorrect Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the laboratory method is employed.
Revised Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now it is taught by the laboratory method.
Incorrect On the bus, being rowdy can result in suspension or even being permanently removed from riding privileges.
Revised On the bus, being rowdy can result in suspension or even permanent removal of riding privileges.

Be aware that each element in a list must have the same structure: if you start using noun phrases, use noun phrases throughout the list; if you use sentences, use sentences throughout. For instructions, use imperative mood or commands to state each step. This idea of parallel form also affects the use of headings and subheadings.

Incorrect Headings Instructions for Succeeding in College
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Revised Headings How to Succeed in College
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Incorrect Steps 1. Research a variety of schools.
2. Complete applications long before the deadlines.
3. The best course of action involves preparation.
Revised Steps 1. Research a variety of schools.
2. Complete applications long before the deadlines.
3. Be prepared to reapply at a later date if you do not receive immediate admission.

Notice how the third step in the revised version is not only parallel, it is more precise.