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Writing a Winning Scholarship Application

The fall term has barely started, and already graduate students are writing to me for advice on how to craft their scholarship applications. This blog provides some advice on how to prepare a successful application.

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“This” what? Pairing “This” with a Noun

Have you ever read a sentence starting with “this” that perplexes you because you don’t know what “this” refers to? Sentences starting with “this” often confuse readers. The ambiguity occurs when the reader can’t identify the noun “this” replaces. I call “this” with no clear antecedent noun an orphaned “this.” Technically it’s known as a dangling demonstrative pronoun.

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Decluttering Your Writing

Do you want to express hard ideas in crisp, powerful sentence? Even better, do you want to engage your readers? In this blog, I want to show you how to “declutter” your sentences, ejecting excess words and stripping the writing of unnecessary complexity. There once was a time when convoluted sentences and long words were the hallmark of academic sophistication. No longer. Writing plainly is the new requirement.

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Revealing Your Argument

Students often ask me what the most common problem is in academic writing. They are surprised when I don’t say subject-verb agreement, comma splice, or some other grammatical error. To be sure these mistakes can be annoying—and they will be topics of future blogs—but they are not the biggest problem. That distinction belongs to a paper’s argument or, more precisely, to the lack of it.

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What Clients Are Saying

There is simply no other person I would recommend.

- Vince Bruni-Bossio, University Professor

Heather is outstanding! Her patience, attention to detail, and insightful feedback on my writing was the best I have ever received.
Martin Boucher
I was at a standstill with my dissertation. Heather helped me to get going again.
Giustino Garcea
The quality of Heather’s work is top shelf, adding grace to places that were lacking and pointing out better ways of communicating.
Rebecca Major
Thanks to Heather, I won three Canadian graduate scholarships.

- Olexa Pimenova, PhD student

I‘m now a much more confident writer.
- Petergaye Gilliard, Master’s student
Heather is a terrific technical editor.
- Salma Hobbi, Master’s student
Heather is the best academic editor I have ever had.

- Haizhen Mou, University Professor

I've benefited enormously from Heather's knowledge. She is a superb editor.

- Joseph Asomah, University Professor

I cannot speak enough on how exceptional Heather's editing skills are. Heather can bring your research skills and writing to their full potential and consistently has your best interests at heart.
Curtis Chester, master’s student
With Heather’s guidance, I polished my dental school applications and gained acceptance to my dream dental school.
Sameer Bajaj, former master’s student
Heather's technical skills combined with her carefulness, creativity and gentle guidance make her an outstanding editor.
Carin Holroyd
Heather Jane McWhinney

Portrait of Heather McWhinney

For my entire career, I’ve been immersed in academic writing and editing. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English and a Master of Arts in Library Science, I worked in academic publishing, where I was Acquisitions Editor and later Publisher and Editorial Director for a large textbook publisher in Toronto. In 1999, I established my own business as a project manager and editor of nursing textbooks. In 2012, I completed my credentials for teaching English as a Second Language and then began teaching academic and scientific writing to graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan. Later, I became the university’s Graduate Writing Specialist. In this role, I coached individual students and gave numerous workshops across campus on how to craft theses and dissertations, journal papers, grant and scholarship applications, and statements.

I currently work part time at the University of Saskatchewan as Student Writing Advisor for the School of Environment and Sustainability. I am also Student Writing Advisor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, where I teach academic and professional writing courses.