• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Buried in cloud files? We can help with Spring cleaning!

    Whether you use Dropbox, Drive, G-Suite, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, Notion, or all of the above, Dokkio will organize your files for you. Try Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) for free today.

  • Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) was #2 on Product Hunt! Check out what people are saying by clicking here.



Page history last edited by Matt Peterson 12 years, 3 months ago

Writing the Essay

If you have the patience this site is excellent.


Improving Sentences

Download this .pdf to study common errors students made on the close reading commentary.

I fully expect I will not see these errors when you turn in your commentaries this Wednesday.

     Improving Sentences.pdf

This handout includes improvements on the use of GIVES, EMPHASIZES, USES, THE READER, and WORDY, WEAK or AWKWARD PHRASING.

The handout below will help too.


Avoiding "gives us" and "emphasizing"

     Analytical Vocabulary for Commentary and Essay Writing.pdf

     Analytical Vocabulary for Commentary and Essay Writing2.pdf



The Art of the Analytical Paragraph


Begin your paragraph with a topic sentence. This should be your first or second statement. We really should call it a purpose sentence, but that sounds dumb, so we'll stick with topic sentence. Understand that it does more than establish the paragraph's topic. It may transition from the last paragraph; it will advance your argument as it focuses your paragraph. Therefore, it is specific, not general. It will connect with your thesis statement by echoing an important word or idea.


Build your paragraph around textual evidence. These specific examples will be quotations or your own paraphrases. Cite these specifics. These may be whole sentences, phrases, or individual words that fuel your argument. If you don't have evidence, you ain't got nothin'.


Own that evidence. Weave it into your prose. You are its voice. Your language and thinking must dominate your paragraph, but your evidence is paragraph bedrock. Strike a balance between multiple examples and ample analysis. Too much of either emaciates your argument.


Set up your evidence appropriately; no blind dates. Evidence comes from somewhere, and context matters. Mention important details that say where your evidence comes from, but be careful not to give too much information; nobody likes a rambler. Just the juicy stuff.


Craft tight paragraphs and sentences. Maintain clear, logical connections between your topic sentence and the ideas that follow. 


Craft fluid paragraphs and sentences. Your ideas must progress logically. If you break the logical stream, your paragraph is dammed. Write clear sentences, and help the ideas flow from phrase to phrase, sentence to sentence. Use explicit and implicit transitions—transition words, echoes, and threading.


Less is more. We've been talking about paragraphs and sentences, but good writing comes down to the words you choose and the order you put them in. Good writing is not pompous, it's vigorous; it's clear, not glitzy: fewer syllables, prepositions, adverbs and adjectives; more active verbs and concrete nouns.


Enjoy your sentences and make them enjoyable. Vary their structure. Play with language. Pun, alliterate, turn a phrase, and draw parallels.


Art of the Paragraph.rtf (download) 


A Writer’s Checklist


1. Title of essay

  • original and catchy
  • capitalized properly (lower case: prepositions, conjunctions, and articles
  • Do not underline, bold-face, or italicize title.
  • same font and size as rest of paper 
    • 12pt, Times New Roman, Garamond, Palatino, or Georgia


2. Thesis

  • clear, thought-provoking, and properly formed
  • includes author and Title or Title (not Title, never bold)
  • only one sentence
  • a debatable opinion supported by text


3. Introduction

  • lead is stylish and zingy - hooks your reader
  • firm handshake: sets tone and establishes trust
  • movement toward thesis is intersting and demonstrates insight
  • includes author and Title or Title (not Title, never bold)
  • thesis is last sentence in intro. paragraph.


3. Body paragraphs (1-3 depending on assignment) 

  • topic sentence
    • 1st or 2nd sentence of paragraph 
    • clear and specific 
    • states purpose of paragraph
    • connected to thesis
  • context
    • sets up quote with insightful, necessary details
    • ensures that evidence doesn't come out of nowhere.
  • Analysis
    • dominates paragraph
    • supports thesis and topic sentence
    • rooted in textual evidence


4. Conclusion 

  • more than a summary
  • does not begin with “In conclusion”
  • likely ends with a witty connection to essay's title or revisits ideas in intro paragraph in a new way, affected by the insights the paper reveals


6. Transitions

  • paper employs transition words, echoed words, or “threading” of related ideas (never: “In conclusion”)


7. Miscellaneous

α) NO “you,” or “I” 

β) NO “This quote proves that/shows that...” 

χ)Formal language - no “In my opinion,”  “I think,” or “just”

δ)Confident language - no “maybe,” “it seems” or “probably”

ε)Exacting diction and phrasing

φ)Varied sentence structure

γ)No contractions – it's, isn't, don't

η)Few passive constructions. Tom was seen by him. vs. He saw Tom.

ι)Apostrophes instead of “of”

ϕ) Active Verbs instead of helping or linking verbs (is, are, have, seem)

κ)Few -ing verb constructions, i.e., “is carrying” vs. “carries”

λ)minimize prepositional use, especially “of,” “by,” and sometimes “for”

μ)its=possessive (its bone)

ν) Maintains present tense


Writer's Checklist.doc (download)


Stories and Models


Copy of Roman Fever.doc (full story) (download) 


Model of "Story of an Hour" essay via web, here (wiki page) or Story of an Hour Model.rtf (download)

The story:  Story of an Hour.doc 



Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.