The Bare Basics of Writing

I. Structure
 A. Thesis--this is the idea or set of ideas that you are trying to sell to your reader, it should always be clear and it should appear at the forefront of your essay
 B. Topic Sentences--are the thesis statements of each individual paragraph, and like the thesis statement, they should be clear and they must appear at the head of the paragraph
 C. Organization--essays are usually divided into three basic sections: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
  1. Introduction--tell me what you what you are going to tell me--thesis
  2. Body--tell me, in a series of paragraphs or sentences--the facts
  3. Conclusion--briefly remind me of your thesis and what you just told me

 D. Mechanics
  1. Margins--left and right margins should be 1" top, bottom, and sides
  2. Pagination--all pages except the first should be numbered at bottom center
  3. Pitch and Fonts--essays will be printed in readable fonts with a pitch no greater than 12 and no less than 10
  4. Spacing--all essays will be double spaced
  5. Cover Sheets--all essays will have a cover page with a title and name
  6. Citations--all quoted material or specific information derived from a secondary source must be cited in footnotes or endnotes according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
II.Matters of Style, Grammar, and Punctuation
 A. Style--making the essay easy to read
  1.Voice--when possible, use active rather than passive voice
    Example:  Passive: "The dog was run over by the car."  Active: "The car ran over the dog."
Remember, write simply: actor–action–object of action.
  2. Expression
   a. use positive over negative forms--avoid "not"
   b. avoid doubtful or conditional expressions--perhaps, may, might, could, would
   c. avoid obvious expressions--doubtless, obviously, of course
   d. avoid unnecessary and simplistic modifiers--nice, pretty, very, much
  3. Vernacular--refrain from using slang, trite colloquialisms, or overused cliches..."History shows..."
  4. Long and Run-on sentences--lookout for sentences that run over two lines
  5. Be Concise
  6. Beware of overstating your case--be cautious with superlatives
  7. Perspective--always write in the third person, as an objective witness, never use first or second person in a scholarly or academic essay
  8. Quoting secondary sources: avoid this unless it is absolutely necessary to make a point about the author's style or argument, or unless you are comparing two or more author's specific language.  In all other cases, paraphrase the material and cite with a footnote or endnote.  When you are quoting, include the name of the author and title of the work within your text, either before or directly after your qoute.
Avoid extended quotes, unless they are primary sources with direct relevance to your thesis.  If you must include a quote that is over three lines, include it as an extended quote by single-spacing it, and indenting it one inch on the right and left side as in this example.  No quotation marks are necessary for extended quotes.
Be careful not to quote too much.  Don't make YOUR paper simply a collection of OTHER people's work.
 B. Grammar
  1. Verb tense agreement--do not flip between past and present tense--use past tense to write about history, past events.  You may use present tense to discuss an author: "James Ronda contends that John Eliot was a dedicated missionary."
  2. Subject-Verb agreement--verb tense mus match subject number
  3. Keep subject confined--avoid dividing subject with other phrases
  4. Avoid split infinitives--I was really flying.
  5. Don't use contractions like I just did
  6. Prepositions
   a. Cut down on the number of prepositional phrases by using apostrophes, elimination of passive voice
   b. Refrain from ending a sentence with a preposition
 C. Punctuation
  1. Apostrophes--used to create the possessive form, and they are always followed by an s--the possessive of it needs no apostrophe--its;  it's means it is
  2. Quotation marks--used to encapsulate quoted material, "and all end of sentence or phrase punctuation should fall within them."  Quotation marks are unnecessary for extended quotes.
  3. Never use Exclamation points for scholarly or academic essays!  They are to be use exclusively for narrative storytelling.
III. Revision
 A. Read essay out loud--your ear will catch many errors and awkward expressions that your eyes will glance over
 B. Read each word individually for spelling--even after the spell checker
 C. Check for passive voice by scanning for "to be" verbs
 D. Have a friend, roommate, or hated enemy read and critique the essay