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English III AP

J. Keen

Keen’s Holy Handout of Writing

Writing Tips for General Essays/Prose Essays

General Writing Notes:

 Use Present Tense when writing about literature or prose. (Historical
 No symbols (&)! Write it out!
 No empty sentences/No fluff!
 Don’t praise. Unless you have doctoral degree as an expert on the
author, you are not qualified to have an opinion on greatness, skill, or
 First time – author’s full name. From then on – author’s last name.
 Woman/women
 No 1st or 2nd personal pronouns. No “I think, I feel, I see…” It is your
essay – the reader knows it is your idea! These personal pronouns
make your tone less formal and less objective.
 When writing an academic paper, avoid making philosophical
generalizations. For example: The novel shows that people are very
judgmental and when you judge others you are not looking at your
own shortcomings. Instead: The novel shows that judging others is
easy while judging oneself is difficult. Chillingworth, a diabolical
character, obsesses over his wife’s sin while ignoring his own.
 A good writer avoids excessive use of adverbs. Adverbs clutter your
writing. Mark Twain once wrote: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time
you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the
writing will be just as it should be.” In his book On Writing, Stephen
King says, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
 The theme of a text is not one word: sin, hypocrisy, guilt, etc. A
theme is what the author is conveying about that word. Examples: Sin
is a natural aspect of the human condition. Hypocrisy prevails in a
culture of ignorance. Guilt kills the human spirit.
 Eradicate this, these, it whenever possible
 Length matters!
 Make the characters commit the action in a sentence. Avoid passive
voice. For example: NOT: Hester is convicted of adultery. YES: The
town convicts Hester of adultery and requires her to wear the scarlet
 Skim through for passive voice, overused verbs, empty words.
 The English mantra is “Show. Don’t tell!” In other words, don’t
write: In this essay, I will explain how the need for revenge fuels the
antagonists in The Scarlet Letter. Instead: The need for revenge fuels
the antagonists in The Scarlet Letter.
 Punctuate correctly – titles and foreign words
 No contractions are allowed in a formal paper/essay.
 Be careful when using pronouns. When you write, Hester is the only
character that is fully redeemed. What you really mean is: Hester is
the only character who is fully redeemed. Hester is a who, not a that.
 Use better verbs they should be strong and active!
 Write out words less than 100. Three, not 3.
 Avoid using the word a lot. Use many or another synonym.
 I am banning: “This shows” “This uses” “This is.” These sentence
constructions are weak.
 Effect is almost always used as a noun. Affect is used as a verb.
 Plot summary is NOT ok. You may need to introduce and connect
things, but simply giving a summary of the plot is a waste of time,
space and grade. PS is the twin sister of BS – neither is acceptable.
 Avoid overused transitions such as In conclusion, first, second, last…
 Tone – use only one word (unless it shifts or changes). No laundry
list. Even if it shifts/changes should still be only 2 words.
 Think about proving yourself as if you are a lawyer in a trial.

 Intros should introduce. Don not jump in too abruptly.
 Intros should be quick, dirty, and interesting if you are writing a timed
in class or test essay.
 For an out-of-class paper where you have time, it should be longer
and polished. This is the first thing the reader sees. Have a hook, use
the full title, the author’s full name. Make me want to read your
 Have the right amount of context in intro. Go ahead and comment on
purpose or whatever the main point of the prompt is. BUT, try and
stay away from the 3 point thesis. Do not be basic in your thesis
construction. In an out-of-class paper/essay, you can certainly have
thesis statements that are multiple sentences.

 Do NOT write “In conclusion…”
 Conclusion – should be new! Do not rehash what you have already
said – it should answer “So what?” It should elevate the paper. Do not
simply restate the introduction.

 Use quote marks when using pieces of the passage/source. Even if it
is only one word.
 Use pieces of quotes, not whole sentences. Only use what you are
going to analyze.
 If you use a quote, you must explain/analyze/connect it! ACE!
 Quotes must work into your sentences properly. Quotes should
almost always be embedded. Introduce – quote – explain/analyze.
See handout.
 Do not just pull out stuff from the passage/source and list it. This is
called a “Dropped quote.” Do not just “drop” a quote in without
proper introduction, connection, and analysis. That is not analysis.
No “drive-by quoting!”
 Do NOT start or end body paragraphs with quotes. The only times it
is acceptable to start a paragraph with a quote is when you use one as
a hook for your introduction. There is really no acceptable time to
end a paragraph (even a conclusion) with a quote.

Research Paper Specifics:

 MLA format *Use Purdue Owl Website if you have questions.
 Block quotes
 -----.
 ” (Faulkner 2).
 Active voice and strong verbs.
 No extra spaces in the essay.
 5 sources must be used in the paper.
 Works Cited is in alphabetical order.
 No cover page, no covers, MLA format only.
 One paragraph does not equal one point
 Do not allow paragraphs to be too long!
 Dates for the header in MLA format should be: Day Month Year: 13
April 2015
 Always write in Times New Roman, 12 point font, and double space.

AP Prose Essay Notes:

 Pay attention to what the prompt asks – AP stands for ANSWER the
PROMPT! Use the words from the prompt in your essay.
 Length matters
 Use terms when you know them, but
 If you don’t know how to talk about it, DON’T.
 Don’t define terms. Readers know the terms.
 A little background knowledge is ok, but not too much! It is about the
passage – analyze the passage.
 Annotate the prompt and sketch out a little plan. 5 minutes to read,
annotate, plan. Then, write for 35.
 Massive writing mistakes drop your score. Spelling is important
 Misreading the prompt massively drops your score.
 More complexity and better writing needed for an 8/9
 DO NOT bring in outside lit! (Except maybe in the conclusion.)

Argument Essay Tips

 Pay attention to what the prompt asks – AP stands for ANSWER the
PROMPT! Use the words from the prompt in your essay.
 Always use history and literature examples to prove your point. Use
both if you can.
 Use current event examples if you know enough details to use them.
(Try not to use pop culture examples.)
 Personal examples are to be used only as a last resort.
 Use “I” sparingly. EX: I believe God exists. vs. God exists. The
second sentence is much stronger.
Argument Outline Tips

1. State premise or thesis; define issue(s)

a. provide details about the nature of the issue
b. articulate how your definition differs from the opposition,
analyze their argument carefully
c. define by denotation, connotation, and/or cause and effect
2. Offer reasoning and evidence
a. provide readers with logic that led to your position
b. offer supporting evidence (lit, history, current events,
comparison, analogy, authority, quotation, stats…)
c. check your reasoning for fallacies
3. Cover opposition’s objections to your position (conceding and/or
4. Offer a solution or alternative (solution or possible conclusion to
reassert your point of view) if you can.