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Writing Advice for Position Papers

Fine tuning Grammar and Usage

Position papers can be tedious to read, especially for the leadership of a General Assembly committee. The biggest favor you can do for your chair before the conference is spending the smallest amount of time proof-reading your paper to make sure it’s grammatically correct.

The purpose of this tutorial is to walk you through the process of organizing and structuring a position paper, not teach writing technique. Still, the subject warrants attention.

Here is a list of common grammar, syntax, and usage mistakes commonly found in position papers:

1.) Overuse and Misuse of the Passive Voice: In general, you should stride to use the active voice when writing academic papers.

Passive Voice: Great Britain is a supporter of human rights.
Active Voice: Great Britain supports human rights.

One of the easiest ways to avoid the passive voice is to avoid the verb “to be.” In English, the infinitive “to be” takes the form of: am, are, is, was, were, being, and been. [For a full conjugation chart, visit:http://conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-english-verb-is.html.] The passive voice is an effective summarizer but lousy at making an argument.

More Examples of How to Correct the Passive Voice:

Passive: It is truly a universal problem, affecting all people on the globe.
Active: This problem affects all people on the globe.

Passive: Japan has been combating the climate change by investing in renewable energy.
Active: Japan combats climate change by investing in renewable energy

Passive: Violence against women is appalling. The General Assembly should address the issue.
Active: Noting the appalling nature of violence against women, the General Assembly should address the issue.


2.) Incorrect or Confusing Usage of State, Nation, and Country: In political science, under which international relations falls, the terms ‘nation,’ ‘state,’ and ‘country’ cannot be used to mean the same thing. Use the following definitions when writing your position paper.

State– a state is a political entity and may or may not be a nation. Examples of states are Poland, Nigeria, China, and the United States.

Nation– a nation is a people that share a common heritage and culture. Example of nations include: Kurdistan and Native Americans.

Nation-State– nation states exist when the population of a state can be considered homogenous. Examples of nation-states include: Italy and Japan.

Country– an ambiguous term mainly used synonymously with “state,” usually referring to a political entity.

3.) Incorrect Usage of the terms Third World and First World: This is one the most common mistakes in position papers. The terms “third world” and “first world” are antiquated terms that refer to a state’s system of economy. The first world includes capitalist and market economies; the second world was made up of socialist economies; and the third world composed of developing countries.

While not technically incorrect verbiage, I encourage students to use more apt terminology. Instead of “third world” describe states as developing. A common term is “Lesser Developed Countries” or LDCs. For the developed world, use the term More Developed Countries or MDCs.

Continue to Lesson 6: Position Paper Strategies