Writing AidsThe Four Purposes for Writing
Your Audience Affects Your Writing
Scoring Guide for
Board Questions and Paragraphs
The Art of Styling Sentences for Sophomore English
The Art of Styling Sentences for those who know grammar
The New Strategy of Style
More Powerful Tools of
Rhetoric (Style) from the Web
Good Essay Writing
Sample Essay with Labels
Essay Structure Explained
Introductions and Conclusions --one method
Writing Introductions and Conclusions with many examples
Sample Graduate School Introduction from a Paper Written by Yours Truly
In a drawing class, thirty students drawing the exact same tree create thirty different versions of that tree. That is the nature of art; writing shares that quality. That is why teachers say "language arts" instead of "language science." Conseqently, the techniques for good writing differ from teacher to teacher since their tastes differ. What follows is one good way to approach writing, and, of course, others do exist. However, this method should insure a good grade in any class that requires writing and on the all-important MAP test.
Good Paragraph WritingRead the writing prompt carefully. Make sure you know exactly what it's asking. The prompt dictates which of the four purposes of writing you will use and who your audience is. A very common mistake is not reading the prompt closely and writing something that completely off the mark.
2. Brainstorm. Don't be satisfied with a sprinkle when a flood of ideas and choosing the best ones means an A. Brainstorming makes writing easier. Brainstorming takes many forms. Do a web search to see examples of mind maps and other brainstorming.
3. Use some or all of the key words from the question/prompt to write your topic sentence. A topic sentence is the promise you make to the reader regarding your paragraph's content. It promises the reader you'll write about the idea or topic you present as the paragraph's main idea in its first sentence. If the question reads, "What effects did the setting have on the character's actions?" then a possible topic sentence would read, "The setting had several striking effects on the character's actions." If you actually use words from the question in your topic sentence, you're probably going to write about it.
4. Write strong supporting sentences and separate them from the topic sentence. Supporting sentences are the bulk of your paragraph. They prove the point you made in your topic sentence by giving specific examples, details, reasons, descriptions, steps, causes and effects, definitions, etc. Don't combine the topic sentence with the first supporting sentence. If you write "The setting had several striking effects on the character's actions such as making him moody" then you're promising the reader that the paragraph will only address the moodiness factor, a promise you won't keep. Stop with actions.
a. Use quoted phrases and MLA documentation when you write about something you have read. It shows you read the assignment and makes sure you're on target.
5. Use transitions, repetitions, synonyms, and pronouns to show the connection between ideas. If you don't already have a nice list of transitions, ask for one. Refer to your subject by name or synonym or pronoun often. A paragraph about any subject will mention that subject often. These techniques tie a paragraph together.
6. Use stylistic sentences from your worksheets. Too often students in high school write like students in the fifth grade unless they make a conscious effort to use some real style. You'll impress a college instructor with your mature style by using these patterns well.
7. Vary the beginnings of your sentences. Variety is important. Starting all your sentences with the same part of speech or, even worse, the same word is borrrrrrrring. Some of your style sentences target this.
8. End your paragraph with a clincher. A clincher sentence uses key words from the question again to convey the same basic idea as your topic sentence, but it says it in a fresh, new way. For example, "Obviously, the setting affected the character in many ways." It has the same idea as the sample topic sentence in step three, but not exactly the same wording.
9. Use descriptive adjectives and figurative language where possible.
10. Inject your writing with personality--the Wow! factor. The EOC test especially requires this and refers to it as individiual perspective, freshness of thought, and complexity. Basically, let some of your personality jump in with humor (where apppropriate) and your voice. The reader should get a sense of who you are as you write. Take it from a writing teacher, personality makes the difference.
11. Avoid thesecommon mistakes. I created this list as I graded a stack of papers.
1. Write attention-getting introductions. In a stack of essays, it's the one with a creative introduction that makes the best impression. You have eight types from which to choose-don't use the same one every time!
Introductions and Conclusions
Introductions and Conclusions--One method
2. Don't focus too much on the general-to-specific structure. When you consult my handout on introductions and conclusions, you'll see that while each sample introduction has the general-to-specific structure, that structure is not created with short, choppy, simplistic sentences. Your introduction shouldn't look like you discovered three or four ideas that gradually get more specific and wrote short sentences about them to get the points for structure. Discover these ideas, yes, but write high school level sentences about them, and make their ideas flow smoothly from one to another.
3. Make sure your thesis specifically lists your three topics when it's possible or covers them when it's not. Usually, it's a simple task to mention the topics of your body paragraphs in items in a series. However, sometimes these topics are complex enough that they can't easily be listed this way (that's seldom the case in my assignments). In this case, write a sentence that covers all three topics without mentioning them specifically.
4. Follow all the criteria for good paragraphs in your body paragraphs.
5. Use transitional phrases. Transitional phrases are placed in the topic sentence of body paragraph two and each subsequent body paragraph. These phrases mention the topic of the previous paragraph before stating the current paragraph's topic. In this way transitional phrases make changing ideas easier. Transitional phrase explanation
6. Write good conclusions. Don't make any new points in your conclusion. Restate and reword your thesis first. Again, don't get so careful about the specific-to-general structure of the conclusion that you begin writing short simplistic sentences. State the thesis and get more general as you continue to lead the reader out of your essay and to a good last sentence. If you used a special technique in your introduction, make a reference to that story, statistic, question, etc. in your conclusion. You may choose to use the same general subjects from your introduction in a reverse order in your conclusion to achieve the correct structure, but don't simply repeat the same ideas from the introduction. Again, consult my examples from the worksheet.