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Suggestions for Writing


Important Conventions
Give your essay an interesting and meaningful title.

Comparative Paragraph
The American Dream: Dismantling Preconceived
Notions of Success

Important Conventions
Double space the essay. Leave a 1-inch margin on all sides.
Type in 12pt font, Times New Roman.
Include your last name and page number in a header at the

top right of every page (ex: Mackenzie 2).

On the first page, include the following information in the left
hand corner, typed, double-spaced, 12pt font:
Course Code
Teacher Name

Important Conventions
Hand in prewriting and process work.
Introduce the name of the work and its

author early in the introductory paragraph.

Be crisp and precise. Avoid vague
terms such as things.
Be very cautious with
The pronoun it,
Which can easily
become ambiguous.

Important Conventions
Be aware of your reader, who cannot

see into your brain. Do not let

quotations and examples
speak for themselves. Your main
task is to articulate your
interpretations and explain
the thought process that led
to them.

Important Conventions
Write your essay using objective tone and formal

diction. Traditionally, scholarly essays create an

authoritative, objective tone through the use of the
third person (he, she, it).
Avoid the pretension of one, and the informality of
the first person (I, we) or the second person (you);
especially do not use you to mean people in
general. Do not use contractions (doesnt, cant).

Important Conventions
Use present tense verbs when discussing works of


Example: Jack determines to eliminate Piggy. Golding

frequently alludes to a corrupted Garden of Eden in the text.
Piggy finds a beautiful sea shell in a lagoon. The boys
develop their own version of social authority.

Important Conventions
Use transitions (words and phrases) to guide your

argument and to keep your reader engaged.

First, both Wallace and Paul lack parental affection.
Furthermore, each character is overwhelmed with obsession.
Lastly, both characters develop an unstable mindset in their quest for

Important Conventions
Use in-text citations for ALL references, paraphrases,

summaries, and direct quotations.

At the end of the essay, write a Reference List that
includes ALL primary and secondary sources
consulted (Works cited).

Style Considerations
is trying/ is demonstrating => weak progressive

change to "tries" "demonstrates

get => colloquial diction
in which vs. which
to find the kind of life WHICH he has been seeking
the bowl IN WHICH the soup floats
dangling participle:ing words in an introductory phrase
Having finished the steak, the potatoes grabbed my attention
avoid writing in the passive voice.
perfect example : the preceding is a perfect example of a clich
demonstrative pronouns cannot stand alone; always include a
proper noun
Following this.
This shows ..... This change in behaviour shows ...

Paraphrase vs. Analysis

Paraphrase says if I had written this line it would

have said x. (restating an idea in your own words)

Analysis says this line implies x or suggests x
because: (examining the implications)
in the context of the section
the connotation of words and images
part of a pattern developed throughout the work

Inferences vs. Speculation

Do not speculate when analyzing literature; do make

Speculation suggests a different way the text could have

If he had taken notice of the supernatural messages, Macbeth could

have avoided wading deeper into blood.
If he had let his fate come naturally, none of this unnecessary chaos
and disorder would have happened.

Inference is detective work: putting textual clues together

to arrive a likely unstated event or meaning. When

analyzing the work, focus on what can be found in the

Using quotations
Quote phrases (two to three words) not sentences.
Highlight and discuss significance of the WORDS,

not the actions described by the words.

Explain HOW the quotation supports the argument,
what YOU see in the quotation.

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(1) Quotations are the authors words that you use; citations

are the sign posts to where you found the authors words.
(2) If you are working with a single text, include the author's
name the first time you cite a work, but there is no need to
repeat the name later in your paperas long as your context
makes clear what work you are citing.
(3) Do not change the size, style, or font of the quotation to
make it stand out on the page.
(4) Choose quotations carefully and sparingly.
(5) Use the smallest number of words possible in each
quotation. Remember that in a critical literary analysis, you
are supporting interpretations based on a writers diction,
style, patterns of imagery, elements of contrast. Long
quotations obscure the significant words.

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(6) Quotations are used to support your interpretation, not to

establish basic facts. The quotation in the first example below

merely restates the information in the introductory phrase. In the
second example, the quotation supports the claim.
Incorrect: Penelope and Josiah play cruel pranks on the new girl in
school: The new girl would soon be the victim of several cruel tricks
initiated by Penelope and Josiah (185).
Correct: The author builds a negative impression of the two main
characters through a series of unappealing actions, including their
treatment of the new girl: The new girl would soon be the victim of
several cruel tricks initiated by Penelope and Josiah (185). The
author emphasizes the characterization through the word cruel,
which is repeated again in his description of their treatment of the
English teacher: Josiah laughed and Penelope sneered cruelly at
the teachers enthusiasm (226).

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(7) A quotation should never be the last item in a

paragraph. Quotations are springboards to

discussion. You cannot assume that the reader of
your essay will have read a quotations or incidents
significance as you have done. When you use a
quotation, you must show the reader how you have
arrived at your conclusions based on the words in the
quotation. Your explanation/ discussion of the
quotation should reproduce your train of logic.

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(8) Never let a quotation dangle. Do not leave a

quotation as its own sentence. Blend the authors

words with your own introductory and explanatory
(9) Use paraphrase or summary when identifying
patterns of events or other patterns
(10) It is not necessary to quote exact words when
the authors language is not the focus of your
argument. You must, however, provide page (in
poetry, line) references to direct the reader to the
pertinent parts of the text.

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(11) Do not refer to quotes as quotes, but as words

spoken by characters or written by narrators.

Maximize the argument in every word in your essay.
The intro phrase here adds another emphasis on the
characterization which is the point of this quotation.
Incorrect: The quote, Howl, howl, howl,
demonstrates the animal depths to which Lear has
been reduced by the loss of his child (5.3.256).
Correct: Lears desperate cry, Howl, howl, howl,
demonstrates the animal depths to which he has
been reduced by the loss of his child (5.3.256).

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(12) The North American convention for punctuation

in quotations is that punctuation is set inside

quotation marks, so that no end punctuation is left
dangling. See the period inside the quotation
mark? The same holds true, by the way for dialogue:
When, said the teacher, are you ever going to hand
in that assignment?

Quotations: purpose and formatting

(13) Alter quotations to ease integration. Use square

brackets to indicate a change you have made in the

original. If necessary, change quoted verbs to keep
all tenses in the literary present.
Incorrect: While the legislators cringe at the sudden
darkness, "all eyes were turned to Abraham
Correct: While the legislators cringe at the sudden
darkness, "all eyes [turn] to Abraham Davenport."

Grammar and Punctuation Conventions for

Run-in when quotation fits into your sentence

grammar (no punctuation needed). Scarlett chooses

to be the lady her mother always meant her to be
Run-in with short introductory phrase -- comma
separates speech tag and quotation. Scarlett wept, I
want to be loved (155).
Colon with introductory clause (short quotation).
Scarlett wants to fit the ruling idea of womanhood: I
want to be noticed in everything - my clothes, my
home, my parties, and my jewels (83).

Grammar and Punctuation Conventions for

Colon with introductory clause (long quotation, 4

lines or more): quotation is indented 1 inch on the

left and right margins. Note: no quotation marks.
Georges inability to make a decision is clearly indicated in his long conversation
with Sarah:
Should I work at McDonalds? Should I work at Burger King? Should I
work at all? Should I spend my time on homework? Should I spend more time
on sports? Should I start taking guitar lessons again? Oh, Sarah, what should I
do? (38)
Georges questions reveal an inability to make a choice. Clearly, he does not have
the necessary decision-making skills.

Grammar and Punctuation Conventions for

Three or fewer lines of poetry: Roses are red/ Violets are

blue/ Sugar is sweet (1-3) Note the slash to indicate the

ends of the lines and the citation includes line numbers
rather than page numbers.
More than four lines of poetry: The quotation is
reproduced with the same page layout as in the original.
The left margin is indented 1 inch from the pages left
margin. Use a colon to introduce:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so are you. (1-4)

MLA Citation Resources

Refer to the following website for works cited:

Another resource: The MLA Handbook for Writers

of Research Papers