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Paragraphs have beginning, middle, and ending sentences.

English 101/ENG 101

This page is a compilation of information for a college English 101 Course (Composition I)

Some colleges may classify Composition I by a different course number!


Its versus It's

Its is a possessive pronoun, whereas it's is a contraction of the phrase it is. The term its, like the possessive pronouns his, hers, yours, and theirs do not use apostrophes under any circumstances. What sometimes makes it seem unusual is that possessive nouns are formed by adding an apostrophe and an s (in most circumstances); possessive pronouns do not use apostrophes for any of their forms. The quickest way to identify whether one should use the apostrophe is by identifying whether it is a contraction or not by seeing if it can be substituted with it is. For example, if we say, "Its color is white," we could try to see if it sounds right with it is. If we substitute it and say, "It is color is white," it sounds like we are stammering, and we know it is not correct. On the other hand, if we say, "It's very nice outside," we can substitute it with it is and see what we get. In this case, if we say, "It is very nice outside," we sound formal and professional, and we know it is right.

Recognizing Fallacies

Faigley (2010) mentions some of the different fallacies in reasoning that people use to manipulate the emotions and perspectives of others (pp. 18-19). What I noticed on page 26 of the book, however, is that the to-be writer plans to use some of these techniques regarding nanotechnology (Faigley, 2010, p. 26)! Honestly, I think it can be described much better in a positive way; why do scientific commentators need to make it sound like unidentified elite individuals are going to somehow manipulate scientific discoveries and use them to enslave the world?


Faigley, L. (2010). Writing: A guide for college and beyond (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Slippery Slope Fallacies

One possible example I recall with the "slippery slope" technique (Faigley, 2010, p. 19) was a situation where some non-Muslim Middle Eastern women were saying that polygamy for Muslims would probably soon be legal in the United States. Looking online, I do not quite know where they got the idea, but it seems that the closest thing to it were mentions Fox News made about Sharia law. What it appears is that Muslims can use Sharia Law to settle disputes between one another in court if they both want to do so, and people are getting all worried and insisting that Muslims might want to force it on individuals who do not want to use it (Fox News, 2010). Another website (although not as authoritative) I found explained that this is nothing abnormal, and that two parties can choose to go by any set of law from any country on the planet if both choose to do so (Zasloff, 2010). In no case, however, are they bound to use it unless they both agree to do so or they both agree to a contract governed by that law (Zasloff, 2010).


Faigley, L. (2010). Writing: A guide for college and beyond (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Fox News (Producer). (2010, June 21). Oklahoma lawmaker wants Shariah law banned. Retrieved from,2933,595026,00.html

Zasloff, J. (2010, September 20). Sharia law is enforced in the United States. Retrieved from

Taking notes

Usually I take notes on my computer or in a notebook. I guess I usually try to keep my textbooks intact in case I ever want to sell them, but I will occasionally use the either the highlighting method or underlining and circling for printouts. Usually I write down page numbers and the reference if I want to refer to something later, and then give myself a quick overview of what it was so I do not forget. When I type documents, however, I like to use highlighting, italicizing, underlining, bolding, and other forms of emphasis to help myself and other readers identify the key points in a document. I guess the prohibition in this regard when using the APA format is the most depressing part for me when I use it.

Idea Mapping

There are some examples of the idea mapping method on pages 11 and 17 of our textbook. Mapping is where one draws circles (or other shapes) with a distinct idea in each, and then connects them with lines to show how they relate to one another (similar to a flow chart, a hierarchical diagram, or a network map). Frequently, one makes a circle in the middle of the sheet, and then writes one's central idea or a main topic inside it. One then makes other circles surrounding it (but next to it, not creating concentric circles), and then fills each one with a different idea related to the central topic. One can then make circles for ideas surrounding these secondary ideas, and fill them with information relating to these secondary ideas. For example, we could use the mapping method for dog breeds. In the center circle, we would write "Dog Breeds" or "Breeds of Dogs." We would then create circles around the main circle, and fill them with the names of different distinct dog breeds, such as "German Shepherd," "Collie," "Golden Terrier," etc. After that, we would create circles next to each of these secondary circles and describe some of the characteristics of each of these dog breeds, such as "Energetic," "Used in law enforcement," "Hunting," etc.

Creating a thesis

For me, it is easiest to look at my thesis as a "point I want to prove." I ask myself what I am trying to prove, and then create the rest of my paper to support the topic. My difficulty with theses is when there is (a) no real point of interest to prove or (b) one is trying to create a mere summary of a topic. Looking at the theses on page 24, I noticed all of them are statements that have a form of vitality. That might be the difference between a "topic" and a "thesis"! Actually, I just looked on Merriam-Webster's site, and it is the difference! A thesis is "a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and offers to maintain by argument" ("Thesis," n.d.). So, when creating a thesis, try to find a point you want to prove!


Thesis. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. Retrieved from

Note: the following content is mostly from a public domain book; it might not be up to date!


I basically use the same style, although I often also tend to type out my supporting ideas first, and then enlarge these supporting ideas into paragraphs. Originally I began using this style because I did not want to forget what I had on my mind, but I found that typing at full speed without checking grammar or spelling worked very well and helped me create original content easily during my "creativity surges." (Sometimes I will even turn my screen off while I work; it eases the strain on my eyes too.) After I run out of ideas or content, I will inspect what I have typed and fix any major spelling or grammar errors. I then begin revising the paragraphs in the body of the paper and adding placeholder citations. After revising them until they are "rough draft quality," I then create a rough draft of my beginning and ending paragraphs. This is followed by additional revisions and finalization for the body paragraphs, revisions and finalization for the beginning and ending paragraphs, insertion of the appropriate in-text citations, and a final proofreading.

I will typically create a "template" that has all the basic APA formatting for my paper, perform the brainstorming for my outline in the "body space," and then brainstorm under each outline heading. Not having to transfer the outline saves me time, and using a template that already has the appropriate default formatting ensures I will not miss any APA style requirements. I may eventually find that I need to have a separate outline for large papers, but the style I currently use works well with at least six body paragraphs.

Finding the meaning of words

Usually I find it is faster for me to just use or, rather than find the books and search through them. Moreover, I also use Microsoft Word and Google frequently when I want to verify the spelling of a word or the hyphenation of a phrase. When I use one of these resources, I know the information is current. It has probably been at least a month since I used the book format; the only times I do so are usually when my internet connection is down, when I do not have access to the internet or my computer, or when there is a thunderstorm that requires me to shut down my computer.

Educating oneself while creating a research paper

Doing the research can help one form an opinion on a situation when one sees the data that presents itself; moreover, one may find that one's opinion changes when one does research on a topic due to new data one discovers. For instance, I will be doing my thesis on a particular topic. I have heard a lot of rambling from both sides in the past, and after having switched my opinion back and forth multiple times, I looked at this as a good opportunity to form an appropriate opinion once and for all. It has been, and the research has shaped my opinion in ways I did not originally expect. I thought the issue would be clear-cut; I realized that the best approach is to not try to make a comprehensive direct political approach, but to either take effective direct and indirect political measures to address true complaints and fears or to refer the entire matter directly to the ballot box in the form of a well-formed proposal to express the true wishes of the country's citizens.

Thinking about one's audience

Normally I try to write in a relatively professional manner at all times anyways, but I will usually determine how much effort I should invest in the document and how much professionalism I need to convey by who my audience will be. If I am writing a document for corporate management, I will spend a lot of time ensuring that the outline is clear, professional, and not containing anything that might have repercussions against me. I will also use bullets for almost everything, and keep narratives to a minimum when possible. For operators, I do not need to be as careful with the presentational style, but I need to ensure that the technical descriptions I give are precise, or else something might be done improperly. When communicating in a more social environment, however, I will usually not spend as much time revising and ensuring that it is precise or professional, as it is typically not necessary.

One way I try to do this is to use explain terms or situations that some readers might not understand in parentheses. One can also state things in a professional way, but say them simply enough that people who do not have comprehensive knowledge of the topic will still be able to understand it. We see this method frequently put into practice by the news media. They will explain things that are technical in nature, but they do it in a manner that the average person will be able to understand, while still retaining a professional character. The secret to the success of this strategy might be that the news media communicates in a formal manner, cites its sources clearly yet simply, and provides definitions of the technical terms in the context of what is said.

Big and fancy words sometimes have their place; it greatly depends on the intended purpose of the writing style and the intended audience. When one is writing for the purposes of entertainment, the use of big and fancy words often contributes to the literary style, and sometimes creates its own form of entertainment. In poetry, it will often vivify the content and lift it from monotony, while in narratives it will often serve as a form of identification for characters whom the author wants to portray as bright and extremely intelligent. For documents that are meant to inform or persuade others, however, it is best to use these big and fancy words only when necessary, and to provide definitions of them for those who might not know their meanings. Readers will get lost, get confused, and lose interest if they cannot decipher the content in these latter types of documents.

Reviewing material a second time

Going over the material two or three times can help one understand the material better, even though one has already read it. When one reads something the first time, one often does not understand all the connections between the content topics. When one reads it the second or third time, one can begin to see and form connections between the content which one did not originally recognize when one first began reading. For example, I went through my Microsoft Access book the first time and did the practice projects mentioned in the book, but I could not comprehend how the commands were grouped on the "ribbon." After revisiting the "ribbon" again after I finished reading the book, I began to see the correlations between the commands that were available on certain tabs and their applications in the program.

A bold thesis

The inspiration for this thesis came to me after listening to the history of the framing of the Constitution:

If the states in the Union had approached their disagreements with the intention to collaborate, they have might still had the privileges that the Constitution took from them.

I noticed that the main reason for the failure of the Articles of Confederation was not the lack of a federal government, but the lack of collaboration between the states. They were so determined to "safeguard" their "rights" that the Constitutional Congress decided that the best way to work around their attitudes was to take many of the rights away from the states altogether.

Providing the right amount of information for one's audience

Sometimes one can provide more information than is necessary to describe the topic, and it can either get redundant or hide the information one actually needs to convey. On the other hand, providing additional information is often helpful for those who do not understand the topic as well. One way to take care of this is to use parentheses and footnotes for additional information, or to structure the document in an "inverted pyramid" format (where the additional information is explained toward the end of the document for those who want more information). Newspapers use this style regularly.


Outlines are one way to overcome this tendency to get off track. By organizing the subtopics in a logical sequence, one can see if it follows the train of thought established by the outline. Rather than look at a paragraph and feel remorse that one has to delete all that work, it is much less emotionally challenging to look at a list of categorized points and remove a sentence or two.

An author's failure to arouse interest

I guess I have gotten accustomed to listening to people who do not seriously try to keep one's attention; moreover, I have also gotten accustomed to looking for information in places that only indirectly describe the information I seek. I certainly would not give them any special appraisal (except possibly in the latter case in some instances), but I try to not let myself get frustrated when authors do not describe the topic well. After all, if authors are trying to prove a point, they hurt themselves and their own reputation by not conveying the information in a manner that their audience can understand. To keep the attention of the audience, I will often try to incorporate visual effects, such as images, borders, bolding, italicizing, and underlining. I also try to use varied sentence structures to prevent a sense of monotony. Finally, I usually try to address a specific topic in a direct manner; I often have a specific point I want to prove, and because of this I usually take the most effective route to try to prove it, which is to state it clearly, concisely, strongly, authoritatively, and in a somewhat novel manner.

Do good writers read well?

Honestly, it would "seem" that those who write well also read well, and that those who read well will soon write well. The strange thing is that it is often not the case. For myself, I was never really liked writing as a child, but I was an avid reader. Additionally, some of my friends were (and still are) the same way. Moreover, I know several individuals who are avid writers, yet they do not seem to read instructions carefully at all and regularly misunderstand clear instructions and statements.

I have noticed that there is a frequent tendency for frequent (and sometimes professional) writers to misread information and then write prolifically about what they (mistakenly) conclude. I am not sure if this is a matter of not effectively comprehending the information, though; it seems more likely that it is a trait that belongs to people who do not spend the time researching the matter properly. Sadly, many of these prolific writers with bad fact-checking skills become "successful," even though they take the wrong approach.

Seeing things through another's eyes

When I write instructions, I will often try to "see" the situation through a different view, but it is typically through someone else's view. I will sometimes observe while a person tries to understand what the instructions say or what they experience when following them, and then modify and enhance my instructions based on what I noticed the person did or did not see.

In-text citations

In-text citations can be grouped into two categories: those that are direct quotations, and those that are paraphrases and summaries. The first category requires the name of the author (or the title if there is no author), the year of publication, and the page numbers for the quote. The latter category only needs the author (or the title if there is no author) and the year of publication. If one likes, however, one can also include the page numbers where one got the information, which is sometimes beneficial to use, as I will explain later.

There are two different styles for direct quotes depending on the length of the quote; one is for forty words or more, and one is for less than forty words. Houghton & Houghton (2009) mention that if it is forty words or more, one needs to indent the quotation and place it in a separate paragraph, and then include the in-text citation information at the end (after the punctuation). Houghton & Houghton (2009) also mention that if it is less than forty words, one places the quote in quotation marks, and then includes the appropriate in-text citation information (usually inside the punctuation marks).

When one paraphrases or summarizes, one can choose to place the in-text citation information at the end of the sentence, or to include it as part of the sentence. The following sentence would be an example of the former:

Nanotechnology is not the great threat that conspiracy theorists portray (Smith, 2008).

An example of the latter would be:

Smith (2008) argues that nanotechnology is not the great threat that conspiracy theorists portray.

One may indeed use the standard in-text citation over and over redundantly if there are multiple sentences that paraphrase or summarize a source, but it is much better to use the required in-text citation information with the optional page numbers to create a citation style that spreads multiple sentences like this:

Smith (2008) argues that nanotechnology is not the great threat that conspiracy theorists portray. Due to the prohibitive cost of treatment, it is absurd to believe that those who have slight skin blemishes will somehow be alienated from society (pp. 29-30).


Houghton, P. M., & Houghton, T. J. (2009). APA: The easy way! (2nd ed.). Flint, MI: Baker College.

Writing a rough draft

I typically no longer print my reports (I do all the work on my computer to save paper), but I typically leave several blank lines between paragraphs while I am typing it so that I can move information around easily and visually group it together. After my brainstorming, I will sometimes have several sentences or paragraphs that describe the same thing; I will combine these into a cluster, and then merge them into the form I actually want.

Definitely, though, I see the advantage of using the triple spacing. When I was a kid, I never really understood why people used double spacing; I always liked to save paper (I was trying to be economical and environmentally conscious). Eventually I learned: I had asked someone to critique a paper I had written, and the person was not particularly thrilled when he saw that I had single-spaced my lines and used quarter-inch margins!

Originally I did it the "old school" way. Eventually I began doing it only on my computer to save paper, and I soon found I was doing all my assignments totally on the computer. Although it has worked out very well for me until now, I can see that I am starting to have a hard time organizing my rough draft on my computer due to its size and complexity. When one has it printed, one can spread it out and see it all at once; on a computer, one can only see what displays on the screen.

Establishing a thesis statement

Rosa & Eschholz (2008) recommend using a beginning such as "I will discuss ..." when creating a thesis, as it helps one clearly identify in one's mind the topic one wishes to discuss. After doing this and formulating one's thesis, one can remove the "I will discuss..." phrase, which will leave the writer with the appropriate thesis statement (p. 12). Normally I do not use this technique myself, but I can see that it would be helpful for some writers who are experiencing difficulty in pinpointing their theses.


Rosa, A., & Eschholz, P. (2008). The writer's brief handbook (7th ed.). Crawfordsville, IN: Pearson Education, Inc.

Essay endings

In real-world applications, it is often beneficial to see if one can create an attractive ending without using these phrases. On the other hand, it can help a reader identify the summary for the paper. One helpful workaround for this is to use a heading that identifies the conclusion or summary. If one uses a heading like this, one certainly should avoid using the phrase in the summary itself, as it is sorely redundant.

In academic situations where one is expected to have a concluding paragraph and one cannot use headers, it is sometimes acceptable to use an ending like this. Indeed, it would probably be acceptable in most courses. Nonetheless, if one can find a way to integrate a form of "conclude" or "summary" without using these phrases, it will certainly exhibit a more refined and captivating style.

APA style and Microsoft Word 2007

The reference function for Microsoft Word 2007 can be accessed by using the "References" tab on the "Ribbon." One can designate whether one wants to create citations in MLA, APA, or a number of other formats. Additionally, one can use the header and footer functions to create headers and footers for the pages. The easiest way to create the headers and footers is to double-click near the top or bottom of the page (right-clicking is also an option). One can then use the Design tab to select the "Different First Page" option, which is something one will need to create the running header properly on the first page.

Making a paragraph flow

Usually I will try to use transitions like moreover, additionally, however, nonetheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, and finally. I also try to rearrange the sentence structure so that I use more variations, particularly by transposing the sentences so that they begin with dependent clauses and phrases. Sometimes I will also use descriptive adverbs to help transition sentences or introduce alternating points. Normally, however, the most integral part is to organize the sentences chronologically or systematically so they can flow, which is something I typically do by rearranging the sentences in my Word documents.

Peer Review

Honestly, I did enjoy doing the peer review. It gave me the opportunity to read someone else's insights into a topic and see the uniqueness and creativity that can be expressed in conveying information about it. Sometimes I also try to go a bit beyond the call of duty, and help the other students identify other things they might find helpful regarding their essays (in my case, I uploaded a "commented" copy of the essay too that noted some things the review questions did not discuss). Overall, I really enjoy helping others, so engaging in peer review is a fulfilling activity for me, in a sense.

I recognized several things about my own paper. The style of the paper I reviewed had a much better style than mine and seemed much more interesting for the reader, which gave me some insight for my own paper. I also noticed a fitting way to incorporate the names of the title and the author into the context of the essay; I had difficulty with it in my rough draft. Finally, by reading the directions for critiquing another's essay, I was able to understand the general expectations for the assignment better and see how these expectations were applied toward our assignments.

Critiquing versus composing

It is not particularly surprising that it is easier for you to critique a paper than to write it (it is for me too). Critiquing typically requires us to compare the writing in front of us with standardized grammar rules, whereas true composition requires both the creation of new ideas and the verification that the expression of these new ideas conforms to the appropriate grammar rules. The real reason mere critiquing is easier than "composition" is because we are also critiquing when we compose! Honestly, if we did not have to ensure that our compositions met the majority of rules for writing, it would probably be easier to compose than critique.

There are some things illustrating this point that come to mind. It typically takes us several hours (at least) to create an essay; it typically only takes a fraction of that time to grade it. On the other hand, if we submitted our brainstorming material and had someone try to modify the material into something, you can probably imagine how much longer it would take the person.

Critiquing another's paper

It is difficult to critique someone without making it sound like one is trying to be harsh or picky. I guess the important thing to emphasize when we are critiquing essays for our Peer Review is that we are trying to help others with their work. After all, it is better to highlight potential problems now and remedy them than to submit it without being informed of the situation and get lower grades. In my case, I highlighted a couple things I though might need to get fixed in the essay I checked, and I then explained them and told the writer to check whether the changes actually need to be made. Rosa and Eschholz (2008) remind us that it is the writer who makes the changes and decides what the essay should say, not us; we are just there to help give ideas and provide another set of eyes (p. 25).


Rosa, A., & Eschholz, P. (2008). The writer's brief handbook (7th ed.). Crawfordsville, IN: Pearson Education, Inc.

Creating one's title

I typically save the creation of the final title for the end. Usually, though, I create a generalized "draft" title when I am about halfway done with my paper (and most of my ideas are organized in some semblance of order) to help me consolidate information and serve as a placeholder, but I typically do not create it before then, as it may inadvertently limit the scope of my essay. I often find that I change the information I include in my essay as I revise it, so I want complete flexibility in determining that (which a finalized title does not provide). Then again, I typically type more than I need and then narrow it down, rather than creating a little and trying to expound on it.

My title will usually be based on my thesis; it is often a shortened form of it. Normally I will try to make a title that clearly states the topic of my paper. Usually I try to refrain from using a title that is biased, too generalized, or likely to make the reader anticipate more in the paper than I present.

When to create one's title

I guess in regards to creating a title at the beginning or end of the essay project, it depends on the significance of the title to the essay itself. Sometimes the writer really wants to use a specific title; in that case, creating the title first and building the essay off it is the right way to go. On the other hand, if one has a strong thesis or has specific content one definitely wants to include, it is better to leave the creation of the title for later so that it does not get in the way.

Unless I have a specific title I want to use, I find it easier to create the finalized title at the end. I will typically put a placeholder in the spot when I begin my document (such as "The Title!!!!!"), and I will usually create a rough draft of my title when I am about halfway through the writing assignment. I will typically do my final revision of the title shortly before I finish the paper.

Rhetorical techniques

In regards to rhetoric, I will try to incorporate a complete analysis of the opposing viewpoints into my writing. I then follow this thorough analysis with a thorough logical dismantling of those arguments. This effectively squelches any opposing viewpoints and prevents any additional arguments from surfacing (rather than trying to "cover up" or brush off arguments).

Another technique I use for rhetorical purposes is to compare an issue to something that is extremely similar to show that it is not a unique issue and that a solution to this similar problem already exists. In PSY 101 a question arose regarding whether a person should steal an expensive medicine for one's spouse if it might help the person overcome cancer. The answer was already obvious by the fact that it might help, not that it would, but I also explained that millions of other individuals face the same situation where they cannot afford the medical treatment they want or need. Even when this treatment is necessary and would be a definite success, it does not mean one can steal to obtain this treatment.

Writing rhetorically

The first step to writing rhetorically is to find something where there may be an objection, a dispute, or a disagreement. For instance, in a paper on aging baby boomers you might identify some force trying to pressure the baby boomers to retire sooner than they want (such as mandatory retirement ages). You then challenge this force or opinion in a professional, dignified, and logical manner to prove it wrong. Rhetorical writing is similar to verbal household arguments in many ways, but it is done in a dignified, organized, and rational way (or at least it should be). Just like a verbal argument, you find facts that prove your point. You highlight conflicting points and then shatter them with evidence to the contrary. You identify reasoning fallacies in the opposition's argument and then expose them for what they really are.

Creating an informative title

There are a couple methods I use. Sometimes I will try to create a title that is extremely catchy and then modify it so it is accurate. It stretches one's creativity a bit. For my diagnostic assignment, I wrote an article on a history book I read. It has a lot of dry reading, but it is a scholarly book. I had "Analyzing Magill's History of Europe" as a title, and I knew I needed something better than that. I "stretched" the title a bit to something catchy: "European History for Those Who Think They Know It." If they had done a better job of writing the book, it might have been worthy of that title, but one would be disappointed to read the book if they thought it was actually good enough to deserve that title. I was able to the fix it to "European History for the Scholar," a much more appropriate title.

One other method I use is to make a title that is bigger than what I want and then shrink it. After I have it "on paper," I can then identify what is redundant and shorten it.

Rephrasing awkward sentences

Usually I try to see if I can replace some of the words with synonyms and improve the meaning in that way. If I cannot, I will try to find verbs or nouns that might replace several words (such as replacing get out of there with flee or escape). If I find this does not resolve it either, I will try reorganizing the order of the phrases and clauses. If I cannot do this or I have no success, I will then try to split sentences or delete some of the content in the sentence.

Using (or not using) commas

I remember something similar to this in grade school also. Although it was not mandatory that one included commas any time one wanted to stop to take a breath, it was considered a gauge for identifying whether one needed to include commas between phrases, clauses, and appositives. The appositives would often get me tripped up on this because they would frequently require a pause in one's breath. I noticed a section in The Writer's Brief Handbook about the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive appositives which will hopefully help me distinguish between the two uses (Rosa & Eschholz, 2008, pp. 185-186).


Rosa, A., & Eschholz, P. (2008). The writer's brief handbook (7th ed.). Crawfordsville, IN: Pearson Education, Inc.

Quoting others' texts for rhetorical effect

Outside academic circles I like to directly quote other articles to prove my point and silence people who try to distort the meaning of what I would have typically paraphrased. Inside academic circles we are supposed to refrain from using direct quotes as much as possible, so I will try to either paraphrase or use only the facts and ideas. Sometimes, though, one can create one's argument without referencing other references, and in these cases it is not necessary to find other sources. When deciding if one needs external sources, it primarily depends upon how strong the argument must be; the argument is always stronger with references since one has evidence to support one's position.

Reviewing another's essay

Probably the best thing one can do is look for things one does not understand from the context of the paper. Is a technical term foreign to you? Does the person not clearly specify the actual impact of a situation (I noticed this in an article about the Haitian refugees last night: the story made it sound like thousands of Haitian refugees were getting locked up at Guantanamo for HIV when in reality it was only about 280)? Sometimes informing the writer (in writing or verbally) what one understands the essay to be can be an eye-opener (if the writer is arguing for less job discrimination and the reader thinks the article was about harassment, it is very likely that something in the paper is causing this). Identifying information that seems irrelevant can help the writer recognize it. Noting formatting errors can aid the writer also.

When reviewing another's work, it may be good practice to use an electronic copy rather than a physical copy. One can use the comments feature in Microsoft Word to highlight specific areas that could use improvement. Additionally, the spell check feature will help alert one to any misspellings.

Choosing which statistics to include in an essay

There is more than one type of non-research essay. If you are trying to prove a point, facts and statistics often form the best evidence; if you are just narrating a personal story, academic facts and statistics often interfere with the storyline. The main thing to ask oneself is whether these facts and statistics are necessary to prove a point. If you are trying to argue that Americans do not have adequate health care, you need at least a few facts to show that it is a problem (such as the number of citizens who lack health insurance). Facts that do not contribute much to the argument (such as the number of uninsured individuals by gender) may not be necessary to include, however, as the other facts already support your point adequately.

Imagination and Rhetoric

In The Advancement of Learning, Sir Francis Bacon says, “The duty of rhetoric is to apply Reason to Imagination for the better moving of the will.” It is interesting Sir Francis Bacon mentions that the imagination is used in rhetoric to that extent. If one analyzes arguments that attempt to make a point in a somewhat biased or sensational manner, one will often find that much of the emphasis is not on what happened: it is on what might happen or what might have happened. If one looks at pages 25 and 26 of Writing: A Guide for College and Beyond, one can see that many of the arguments that the writer is about to prepare for the essay on nanotechnology are going to prey on people's sense of imagination (Faigley, 2010). It may be that sensationalism cannot thrive in the same way off facts people already know and can accurately verify.


Faigley, L. (2010). Writing: A guide for college and beyond (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Using rhetoric with those who are uninformed

Rhetoric is typically used to persuade; rhetoric is helpful but not usually required when trying to interpret something people misunderstand (the facts speak for themselves). For rhetoric to have its full effect, however, it is necessary that the readers or listeners be able to understand what the writer or speaker is discussing. If they do not understand what the person is saying, they cannot be persuaded.

The sad situation with many people's use of rhetoric is that they try to take advantage of people who understand the circumstances but are not completely informed. In this case, they try to distort the information and sometimes even give their audience a false understanding of the situation. The best way to combat this is with solid information arranged in a comprehensible manner.

Rhetoric and thinking outside the box

I guess I have seen a lot of applications where rhetoric is used to make people think inside the box and remain biased in their current beliefs. I would not surprise me if more than 50% of rhetoric usage is to stimulate the "me too" mentality rather than actually promote deep thinking (the majority of politicians would probably fit this category).

Definitely, though, rhetoric can be used to make an audience think outside the box and receive a different side of the story. When doing this, however, it is often better to let the rhetoric be more subtle and the facts themselves be more pronounced (the audience will be alienated if you use too much sensationalism). If, however, one experiences a situation where the audience is hostile, it may be necessary to use rhetoric to its most extreme extent to "force" them into guilt and submission.

Rhetoric versus Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical analysis can be used to analyze the rhetoric used in a essay; one can examine either its effectiveness or the meaning it is trying to convey. Rhetoric itself is typically not used to analyze a work, but it is possible to use it when one is making a public presentation regarding the analysis one has done of another's rhetorical work. An example of this would be a public critique of an opponent's work where one "analyzes" a speech made by the opponent and eloquently condemns the hidden facts and fallacies within it.

Becoming a better writer through rhetorical analysis

Joseph: Rhetorical analysis does make one a better writer as it gives us an opportunity to see another's work and identify the components that would work out well in one's own writing in a hands-on manner. When we analyze and critique another document rather than merely read it, we look at it in an entirely different way and take special note of the rhetorical effects which we would otherwise take for granted. When I was looking at one of the articles in Writing: A Guide for College and Beyond, for instance, I noticed one of the articles frequently restated the same thing or a similar thing twice to add emphasis; normally I would not have noticed it if I was not analyzing the rhetorical style intentionally (Faigley, 2010, pp. 279-280).


Faigley, L. (2010). Writing: A guide for college and beyond (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pinpointing your audience

Much of this pinpointing is determined by the avenue you use to publish your composition. Are you writing for a financial newspaper or for the financial section of a newspaper? If so, the audience reading your composition will probably have a basic understanding of key economic principles and want information primarily directed toward helping them save, gain, or prevent the loss of money. If you are writing for a home improvement section of a magazine, the audience usually wants to know the necessary materials and steps for a project you describe. The readers of a children's magazine will usually be children; using simple language and providing definitions for larger words would be a great selling point.

Being well-informed before writing

It is best to research before one invests a lot of time into the writing process. For example, if one wants to write an argument on government-funded health care, one should identify whether the government could actually be trusted to properly handle heath care before one plans to write an essay proposing government-run health care plans. If one finds out later that the government regularly mismanages operations like this, it could damage or destroy one's thesis and require one to do a lot more work to incorporate this new information into one's essay.

Writing for all audiences

Usually I think it would be easier to write for a broad spectrum of readers, but when I analyze my writing I often find my writing is tailored to a specific audience anyhow. When one writes for a general audience, one must ensure that one provides additional background information for those who might not have as much knowledge of the subject while not boring those who are knowledgeable in the matter. Moreover, one must also be prepared to address the thoughts of those who disagree with one's point. Those who are already likely to be open to one's point typically do not require as much evidence to prove a point as those who are not open to it.

Unintended audiences

One thing for which one must be prepared when one writes for groups outside academic circles is the possibility that others outside one's intended audience may also receive and analyze one's work. How many times do we find situations where politicians draft statements specifically directed toward only their supporters that get analyzed (and thoroughly criticized) by the mainstream media? One may also have situations where a person in an audience forwards it to a friend who is not part of that audience. To overcome situations like this (outside academic circles), it may help to refrain from even slight bias and exaggeration while including footnotes or endnotes that clarify the information.

Visual analysis versus verbal analysis

For me, it is easier to write verbally (verbal analysis). I guess that is probably because I am more accustomed to writing about things in a factual manner than in the way I "personally" view them. If I was more art-oriented, that situation might be different. Definitely, though, visual analysis of a visual "text" does lend itself to a lot more analysis if one is creative. For a verbal analysis, one is often restrained by the extent to which the original author wrote: if the analyzed document itself is not very descriptive, there is not much upon which one can elaborate. On the other hand, the size of a visual "text" analysis is mostly determined by the creativity and competence of the analyzer: a person who looks with a shallow outlook will see little, but a person who regularly elaborates will be able to create a spectacular and original analysis.

Teaching using one's learning style

As a visual learner myself, I found it was also often easier to describe something visually. One interesting thing I noticed was that my learning style also affected the way that I explained things to other people. Most of my fellow lineleaders would train operators once or twice either verbally or in a hands-on manner; I would go over it once with them and show them how to refer to the manual in case they forgot. (When the operators actually used the manuals, they learned a lot faster and a lot more reliably than when they were trained the other ways.) I also saw a lot more value in accurate and easy-to-read diagrams for the operators than the other lineleaders did.

Literature for purposes other than utility

Much of literature is not specifically oriented toward one's actual obvious needs. The odd thing is that the pieces of literature that are actually important often get ignored in favor of works that have much less intrinsic value (if any). How many people have read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but not their states' constitutions? Then again, it can also be noted that the style of literature is a big key in this. Many individuals experience no difficulties reading a novel with a hundred pages but get bored reading an owner's manual.

Understanding rhetorical writing

Have you ever had to argue a point with an agency but had to do it in writing (bill dispute, filing a complaint, etc.)? When writing rhetorically, one uses techniques similar to those used in an argument. You first identify what you are disputing (your thesis). You then find evidence that supports your point. After this, you organize it in a logical fashion for its presentation.

Since we are writing to persuade, inform, and sometimes mildly entertain with rhetorical writing, we can also include some of the techniques used for these circumstances. One can emphasize the prestige and authority of one's sources. Including additional information that supports the evidence one presents helps make people consider the writer's work an actual source of information rather than a mere source of opinion. Using descriptive words and providing interesting insights can appeal to people's desire for entertainment and prevent the loss of interest.

Rhetorical analysis thesis versus research paper thesis

Oddly enough, the final results for a rhetorical analysis thesis and a research paper thesis are quite similar. Both of them are designed to prove a point, so they need to be created from a "lone" viewpoint. For instance, my thesis would be weak if my research paper said, "Some people think government-run heath care would be beneficial, but others are worried about the government taking a totalitarian role in citizens' lives." I need to have a strong statement; it would be better for me to say, "Although some people think government-run heath care would be beneficial, the government may begin to take a totalitarian role in citizens' lives if this happens."

One key difference is that analysis papers in general (rhetorical, visual, and verbal) permit the thesis to make multiple contrasting points because the topic is the work itself (the thesis for a research paper is usually limited to similarly related points). For instance, I could say, "Smith used a powerful vocabulary and persuasive rhetoric in his speech, but he utilized fallacious reasoning techniques on multiple occasions." This would be acceptable since it centers around the specific topic of analyzing the methods he used in his analysis.

Including opponents' arguments in one's thesis

It is not necessary to include the arguments of others in one's thesis. After all, the thesis is something you own and want to prove, and it is not something that needs to reflect all the opinions others have about it. In the body of one's essay, however, it is beneficial to mention the opposing arguments. The primary reason one includes the opposing arguments is to refute them, however. By doing this, one strengthens one's position and squelches the opposition. For instance, if someone wanted to argue that a wall along the border of Mexico would be beneficial, it would be important to address the cost of the wall and refute arguments that claim it would be too expensive.

Rhetorical, Visual, and Critical Literary Analyses

A rhetorical analysis generally analyzes the arguments and the persuasion techniques used in a written text that is trying to prove a point. A visual analysis generally analyzes two-dimensional and three-dimensional non-literary objects and evaluates their style and significance. A critical literary analysis generally analyzes the style, effectiveness, and significance of a text.

Although some things lend themselves to certain types of analyses better than others, it is occasionally possible to perform multiple types of analyses. One can evaluate the claims made in the Declaration of Independence with a rhetorical analysis. Likewise, one can examine its literary style and its significance in history. In some cases, one may also be able to find depictions of it on monuments and visually analyze why it is befitting that it appears there.

A Source's Credibility

Is the article from a reputable newspaper or magazine? That often suffices for the "credibility." One other thing one can do is see if one can locate any other articles or books the author has written (one can always say they have been a journalist for more than so many years or involved with the subject at least so many years).

Creating a schedule

Is the article from a reputable newspaper or magazine? That often suffices for the "credibility." One other thing one can do is see if one can locate any other articles or books the author has written (one can always say they have been a journalist for more than so many years or involved with the subject at least so many years). You can mention how you deduced this as a response to the "how can we know" question.

Gauging credibility

I gauge credibility by several factors. I analyze its use of pathos: if it uses it a lot, I typically distrust it. I examine its ethos: I try to find if it is from a reputable source (large newspapers or government websites). I then test its logos: I see whether its arguments have any logical weight, utilize fallacies, or cite authoritative references accurately. I will often find sources that have information that I believe is pertinent, but the source will not be particularly authoritative (such as minority newspapers and blogs). Usually I will try to trace the information to a more authoritative source and then cite the more authoritative source. For example, I found an organization by the name of Food First. It had a newsletter article that said farmers could not get enough workers even though they offered high wages. Rather than quote the article itself, I checked its references and used the original references instead (which were from authoritative newspapers).

Using Microsoft Word to track bibliographic citations

One thing I learned about Microsoft Word 2007 is that it already has a bibliographic manager one can use to automatically generate the APA citation (although one should verify it is accurate). It can be accessed on the "Ribbon" using the "References" tab. I guess I got accustomed to doing it the hard way initially, so I normally use the book for my citation style. One technique I like to use with Microsoft Word is the comment function (accessed on the "Ribbon" using the "Review" tab). Since most of my citations are from online sources, I will list the source's URL or some other source information in the comment so I remember where I got it.

Studying during one's downtime

I also found that it is helpful to take one's work along so one can work on it if one has spare time. Normally I will try to take a book with me when I am going to an appointment or I think I will have to wait somewhere. When one can study on lunch break, that is very helpful also (although sometimes that is not always possible either, particularly in management positions). One other thing I try to do is accomplish my online work while I can and save by bookwork for the times when I do not have access to my computer.

Establishing the credibility of one's argument

One way one can establish credibility is by using authoritative resources to reinforce one's position. For example, one can insist that the importation of Chinese goods is a major problem on one's own authority, but it might enhance one's credibility further by citing that a major government organization or a distinguished analyst believes it is a major problem. Of course, the use of this also depends upon the requirements of originality. In normal non-academic papers this would be the preferred way to cite the importance of the topic. On the other hand, if one needs to meet certain originality expectations, one may find that one needs to merely state that it is important on one's own authority.

Being sensitive while conveying one's point

Faigley (2010) mentions several ways one can be more sensitive while still getting one's point across. One should refrain from name calling the other side. Likewise, one should avoid trying to polarize the issue. One should avoid any fallacies that might appeal to those who are sympathetic to your opinion but would be obviously fallacious to those who are critical (pp. 18-19). One should also refrain from making personal attacks on those who hold conflicting opinions with oneself. For instance, if you are trying to argue against genetic engineering, do not try to argue that scientists are evil test tube lovers who want to see the world mutated. Instead, point out that they have made a lot of scientific advancements but should experiment with "safe" genetic modifications first (such as fixing deformities and mutations) and use their creations for non-consumed products (such as ethanol).


Faigley, L. (2010). Writing: A guide for college and beyond (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Textual analysis versus contextual analysis

The primary way one would identify whether an analysis is textual or contextual is by noting the comparisons the writer makes and the facts the writer references. A textual analysis will refer strictly to the document. A contextual analysis compares the document to the situation surrounding it and the events that followed because of it. For instance, if one was doing a textual analysis of a speech by Cicero, one would examine its rhetorical appeals and see how convincing and logical they were. If one was doing a contextual analysis, one would analyze the situations and threats facing the Roman Republic at the time of its writing and note the reaction that took place because of his speech.

Persuading critical readers

It gets much more difficult when one is trying to persuade someone on the other side. People do like to hear what they want to hear, but what they often want to hear is something that reaffirms what they already believe. For instance, conservatives and liberals often like to hear about how rotten the opposite side is. To say that the other side has some insights which we should consider also endorsing would probably not be what people "like to hear." In this case, it is often a good idea to try to be considerate, logical, and sympathetic toward the audience's values when attempting to say this.

When bias is acceptable

Even with things we like or prefer it is still a good idea to avoid bias if there is a significant opposing opinion. For instance, it might not be a problem to exhibit one's love for gardening in an article about tulips, but it would not be a good idea to exhibit one's preference for a specific brand of car in a Consumer Reports article. If readers think the writer is biased they will be much more distrusting of the author. Have you heard of Wikipedia's "Neutral Point of View" policy? Although it might not be appropriate for a thesis (since one is supposed to present and argue in favor of a point), it does help one get a concept of what unbiased information is supposed to be.

Emotional attachment to one's beliefs

People will always have some form of emotional attachment to the positions they hold. (That is the main reason people are so hard to convince!) Nonetheless, it is important to neither let oneself be swayed by it nor try to overtly sway others using it. What we can do, however, is identify what causes our emotional attachment to the positions we hold and explain these causes in a manner that is vivid and descriptive but not emotionally charged. For instance, rather than ranting about how rotten discriminating organizations are, we can portray the motives and dreams behind the hard work many of their employees do and the different ways that organizations betray and abuse the trust of their hard-working employees.

APA References Page Citations

There are a couple basics for the formatting. Each entry is in a separate paragraph and has a "hanging indent" (the first line is against the left margin, while the lines after it are indented half an inch; this can be controlled in the individual paragraph properties in Microsoft Word). Like the rest of the article, they are done in 12 point Times New Roman and double-spaced. The entries are organized alphabetically.

The citations are usually organized in the following fashion: author, date, title, publisher, and web location (if applicable). That might be a little simplified, but that is the general format APA is trying to use.

Sometimes there will be no author for some of the articles on the database. Since we want to be able to organize it alphabetically, we will list the title before the date in these cases.

Here are some examples of the reference entries with authors that I am using for articles from the academic databases:

Deparle, J. (2010, October 9). Hard on illegal migrants, haven for refugees. New York Times, p. A11(L). Retrieved from InfoTrac Custom Newspaper.

Karaim, R. (2008, September 19). America's border fence. The CQ Researcher Online, 18, 745-768. Retrieved from CQ Researcher.

Preston, J. (2010, September 2). Study finds the number of illegal immigrants has fallen to 11.1 million." New York Times, p. A20(L). Retrieved from InfoTrac Custom Newspaper.

Here is an example of the reference entries without authors:

Update: Immigration. (2007, March 23). Issues & Controversies On File. Retrieved from Issues & Controversies.

APA References Page Format

The entire page is done in 12 point Times New Roman and double-spaced. The word References (or Reference if there is only one source) is centered at the top of the page. It is formatted as a Level 1 heading in the paragraph properties. If there are other bolded headings in the article it is also bolded; if there are not it is not.

The citation entries then follow. They are left-aligned with "hanging" indentation. To change a paragraph to this, select and right-click the paragraphs that are citations. Press "Paragraph..." on the menu that appears. A dialog box will appear. Make sure the "Indents and Spacing" tab is selected. Under the "Indentation" heading you will see an option that says "Special:" with a drop box underneath it. When you press on the arrow next to the drop box you will see that it has the option for a hanging indentation.

Identifying an author's bias

One can often notice an author's bias by the way the author describes the positions discussed in the article. If the author uses emotionally charged language or a significant number of superlative adjectives and adverbs, it is quite likely that the author is biased. Moreover, one can identify an article's bias in favor of a position if it does not attempt to also identify alternative solutions or opposing viewpoints. A third way to identify potential bias is to note whether the author succumbs to using fallacies to try to prove a point.

Critical judgment

To me, a critical judgment means forming a determination about the effectiveness, quality, and suitability of the object, idea, or literature. For instance, in our assignment we will be evaluating different sources. We will evaluate them and see if they are effective in making the point they need to make for us to include them. We will identify whether they have the quality necessary for inclusion in college-level essays. We will also compare their content to our intended theses and see if they are relevant and suitable for our research.

Interpreting texts

Interpretation of normal texts is normally not too difficult when one is writing in an informative manner; poems are an entirely different story. In most cases the author attempts to inform the reader about the topic and tries to explain points so the reader will understand; some poets often get a thrill out of being completely unintelligible. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I do not even bother myself with those kinds of "writers"; if they cannot make comprehensible points in their writings, their points are not worthy of my consideration.

Staying on track while writing a research paper

Normally I have decided upon a point I want to investigate or prove. Once there is evidence that the point can be proven (through research or experimentation), I create a brainstormed draft of what can be proven, organize it, find references to support or elaborate upon what I said, and polish it up to be a masterpiece. Normally the attempt to prove a point keeps me on track. Sometimes I get sidetracked, but I will remind myself to get back on track by reminding myself of the deadline for the assignment and my progress checkpoints for completing it within the appropriate time frame.

Compiling one's sources

On my desktop I have a document I am using to keep track of the different articles that might be useful for my assignment. When I find an article of interest that I think I might use, I copy its locator URL and citation information and place it in my document. If there is something specific I want to remember about it, I also add a note that says what I wanted to use from it. One can also bookmark pages on the Internet that have important points about one's topic.

Systems used when creating a paper

Different systems work for different people; people generally use what worked best for them on previous occasions. For instance, I used to create my outlines and record my notes in the way you did when I was in high school. At that time, the majority of my references were books; there was not a lot online that I could use. Rather than carry my information back and forth to a computer, it was easier for me to write it all down instead.

The change for me came gradually. I found that there were particular aesthetic advantages to submitting a typewritten copy; likewise, I soon found that the spell check function was invaluable. I began typing most of my finished drafts; typing my rough drafts came shortly thereafter when I realized the time savings. As I began finding references online, I slowly began using printed resources less and less. Within a short amount of time, financial and environmental concern quickly snuffed out the last traces of my paper-oriented writing process and made me into a computer-oriented writer.

In some circumstances I do use both techniques, but it is not very common. Much of this has to do with the fact that I have a computer at home and that I almost never go to the local libraries (my old work schedule of eighty hours a week probably helped cause that tendency). If I did not have my own personal computer, that would be an entirely different story. Additionally, if I only had a dial-up connection or I had a limited amount of time that I could be online, I would probably change my writing habits to reflect these inconveniences.

Outsmarting writer's block

I guess I find that trying to do all the planning and research before the writing will contribute to the writer's block problem. Normally I find that really good ideas will come to mind in spurts. If one puts them off, one will often forget what one wanted to say. Normally I will work around this by doing a brainstormed draft of my paper (sometimes I will even turn off the computer screen while I type so that I keep going). When I feel I have nothing else I can type about my topic, I will go find resources that verify the information I typed or find additional sources about the topics I was unable to describe in my brainstorming. When I feel I can type more, I resume my rapid typing until I feel that I have reached a point where I cannot type any more, and then I resume the research process. I must admit that I have a lot of extra writing that I discard when doing this (up to 50%), but I find that typing more than one needs is more efficient than coping with writer's block (although if I was writing everything by hand that might be a different story).

Summarizing material

To generate my own words and sentences when summarizing a paragraph, I will sometimes read the article, close it, wait a few minutes, and then try to type what I remember of it in my own words. After I have done this, I will match it against the original and see if I need to still paraphrase a few phrases that are too close to the original. For instance, I read the sections of the article pertinent to my explanation of the article's structure, minimized the article, typed what I remembered, and checked to make sure I had not duplicated any of its passages.

Using notes to ensure one does not plagiarize

To prevent possible plagiarism, I like to take verbatim notes so that I can ensure my paraphrases and summaries do not duplicate the originals. It might not always be possible, but I will usually try to save copies of the original sources or links to them to ensure I am not plagiarizing. For instance, I will be summarizing a significant number of articles for Essay 3. Rather than trying to write paraphrased notes, I will write notes that highlight the main points and save them with a links to the original articles. When I type the actual points in my essay, I will review the articles, type the basic ideas I have of them, and then review them to ensure I have not plagiarized any passages from the originals.

Revising one's essay

Usually I will review and revise my work multiple times. I will typically fix my spelling errors the first time I revise my text and use the Microsoft Word comment function to note any passages that need grammatical restructuring. I will typically go through it a second time and ensure that I have appropriately explained everything that I need to explain. I will then go through it a third time and ensure that my transitions are in place and that it flows well. I will go through it a fourth time and do a total review of my paper to ensure that everything is stated properly, clearly, and in an interesting manner. Depending on the length of my essay, I will typically go through it one or two more times and shorten it until it is within the specifications.

Choosing a little-known topic

There are benefits and difficulties associated with choosing a topic that is not well-known. On the one hand, one can formulate an original opinion, learn about the topic, and reveal something others probably do not know. On the other hand, information sources are typically scarce. For instance, in high school I had to select a famous person in history and write a large report about that person. I selected someone who was not well-known. I was able to find one book, one chapter of a book, two encyclopedia articles, and one journal article about the person. That was it. I was still able to create the report with those sources, but making it comprehensive was extremely difficult (much of my work was relying on the one book; the information in the other sources was essentially the same).

Effectively representing oneself without showing bias

To effectively represent myself as a rational individual (rather than a stubborn opinionated individual), I will usually try to create a logical path to a conclusion by providing the possible positions that can be taken and the necessary facts for evaluating them. To create the proper tone, I will usually try to refrain from using superlative word forms that imply that one is opinionated (such as worst, best, most terrible, stupidest, etc.). To effectively represent myself without showing an opinion, I will sometimes try to highlight the potential positive traits of other positions but eventually place enough evidence in front of the reader that the reader arrives at the conclusion without having the conclusion imposed on the reader by me.

Displaying one's opinion in one's essay

One can inadvertently exhibit one's opinion even though one is trying to remain balanced. For instance, I tried to write an assignment about an article that made a poor argument on behalf of amnesty (in my opinion). I wrote the rough draft for the essay in a manner I thought was "balanced"; the reviewer informed me that she got the impression that the original paper was lousy and not even worth reading.

One can also portray one's personality and character without presenting an opinion. This is primarily done through one's writing style. One may use a lot of statistics and appear as one that is knowledgeable; likewise, one may use poetry frequently and be perceived as someone who is artistic and creative.

Appropriate tones for informative essays

Since it is an informative essay, using a mild tone is preferred. Even when we write papers advancing arguments, it is important that our tones are professional, educated, fair, and do not belittle our opponents. Even so, we do not need to make our reports look like they were automatically generated. Showing a little bit of emotion with emotional matters is acceptable provided there is no reason to assume that one's audiences will disagree with the topic about which one is emotional. For instance, an informative essay about the damage wrought by a hurricane can display some emotion about the loss caused if one is merely discussing the damage wrought by it. On the other hand, the use of emotion to argue on behalf those who did something stupid (such as those who continue to build houses in hurricane zones and do not properly insure them) can annoy those who might be critical of one's position.

Using semicolons

Usually I try to ensure that I use the semicolons properly when I first insert them. I will ensure that all semicolons are outside quotation marks; moreover, I will ensure that I use them when I want to group sentences as a pair without using conjunctions. Most of the time I use the semicolon properly with transitional expressions and conjunctive adverbs, but in some cases I have been unsure about how to use it. Looking at The Writer's Brief Handbook on page 192, I noticed that the semicolon is in fact operating like a period; the two independent clauses could technically use a period between them (Rosa & Eschholz, 2008). I had been particularly worried about using expressions like "in fact," "on the other hand," and "on the contrary" with semicolons before them and commas after them, but now I see that it is completely acceptable to do that.


Rosa, A., & Eschholz, P. (2008). The writer's brief handbook (7th ed.). Crawfordsville, IN: Pearson Education, Inc.

Backup drives for assignments

An external hard drive is typically about 15 to 20 cubic inches. The actual drives are manufactured in a manner very similar to the drives on a computer, and can store an enormous amount of information (250 GB is common, and much larger sizes are available). They typically cost between $50 and $200. I have several of them; the easiest one for me to use has been one from the HP Personal Media Drive series; one can basically plug it in and it works (but it needs both a USB cable connection and an electric outlet connection).

Definitely, though, if you are merely looking for a quick backup of a few files, a USB flash drive is the easiest and least expensive way to go. They are about one cubic inch, typically cost between $10 and $40, do not require any cables or wires (plugs directly into the computer's USB port), and are much more durable in my opinion. Best Buy has a 16 GB for less than $40, and I assume that Walmart would probably have one for even less.

If you are an avid photographer, you might find it beneficial to get a memory card that can also be used for digital cameras and smartphones. I personally use CompactFlash, but there are one or two other styles available. They are significantly more expensive than USB flash drives, however, and may require an adapter for your computer (depending on the style of computer; a lot now have the appropriate slots for them).

In the case of the USB flash drives and memory cards, I would recommend that you use a reputable manufacturer. SanDisk has been excellent for me; I usually shy away from the smaller brands, particularly with the memory cards (I had a Kodak memory card fail on me once). If you use these, however, you need to make sure that you do not accidentally leave them in your pocket; they typically will not survive the laundry!

CD-ROM's for file backups

Usually I only use CD's for information that I do not intend to modify and that I plan to use for a long time. Then again, most of my photographs and files get enhanced and modified with time. I also upload a lot of my files online (and dedicate them into the public domain), so I already have a backup, in a sense. If my livelihood depended on the safety of my files or if I was a professional photographer, I could certainly see the value in regularly using CD's to back up my files, however. If I needed to regularly back up files, though, I might consider using a backup hard drive instead, as a fully accessible and rewritable external hard drive is no longer cost-prohibitive and is much more efficient for most purposes.


Note: the following content is mostly from a public domain book; it might not be up to date!



177. By the term Whole Composition or Theme is meant a composition consisting of a number of related paragraphs all dealing with one general subject, whether the composition be a narration, a description, or an exposition.

The following general principles applying to the construction of the whole composition are stated for the guidance of the inexperienced writer.

178. Statement of Subject. Care should be used in the statement of the subject. It should not be so stated as to be more comprehensive than the composition, but should be limited to cover only what is discussed. For a small essay, instead of a big subject, take some limited phase of that subject:

Too broad: College, Photography, Picnics.

Properly limited: A College Education as an Aid to Earning Power, Does College Life Make Loafers? Photography as a Recreation, How Picnics Help the Doctor.

179. The Outline. Just as in the building of a house or of a machine, if anything creditable is to be attained, a carefully made plan is necessary before entering on the construction; so in the writing of an essay or theme, there should be made some plan or outline, which will determine what different things are to be discussed, and what is to be the method of developing the discussion. By the inexperienced writer, at least, a composition should never be begun until an outline has been formed for its development. As soon as the material for the composition is in hand, the outline should Page 175 be made. It should be an aid in the construction of the composition, not a thing to be derived after the composition is completed. Only by the previous making of an outline can a logical arrangement be gained, topics properly subordinated, and a suitable proportion secured in their discussion.

In the previous chapter on the paragraph the following different subtopics, were discussed:

Definition of Paragraph. How to Secure Unity.
Length of Paragraph. How to Secure Coherence.
The Topic Sentence. Too Frequent Paragraphing.
Unity in the Paragraph. Paragraphing of Speech.
Coherence in the Paragraph. Paragraphing for Emphasis.
Examples of Unity. Examples showing how Unity is Destroyed.
Purpose of the Paragraph.
Emphasis in the Paragraph. The Paragraph Theme.

If the topics had been taken up in the above irregular order, a sorry result would have been obtained. Compare the above list of topics with the following arrangement of the same topics in a logical outline.


  1. Its definition and purpose.
  2. Its length.

Paragraphing of speech.
Paragraphing for emphasis.
Too frequent paragraphing.
  1. Its essential qualities.A. Unity.

Examples showing how unity is destroyed.
How to secure unity.
The topic sentence.
Development of topic sentence.
Examples showing unity. Page 176

B. Coherence.

How to secure coherence.
Examples showing coherence.

C. Emphasis.

Places of emphasis in the paragraph.
  1. Practical construction of the paragraph.
  2. The paragraph theme.

180. Use and Qualities of the Outline. The use of the outline is not restricted to an expository composition, as above, but is also necessary in narration and description. Usually, in a narration, the order of time in which events occurred, is the best order in which to present them, though other arrangements may frequently be followed with very good reason.

In a description different methods may be followed. Often a general description is given, and then followed by a statement of various details. Thus, in describing a building, one might first describe in a general way its size, its general style of architecture, and the impression it makes on the observer. Then more particular description might be made of its details of arrangement and peculiarities of architecture and ornamentation.

The whole object of the outline is to secure clearness of statement and to avoid confusion and repetition. To secure this end the outline should present a few main topics to which all others either lead up or upon which they depend. These topics or subtopics should all bear some apparent and logical relation to one another. The relation may be that of chronology; that of general statement followed by details; that of cause and effect; or any other relation, so long as it is a logical and natural one.

The outline should not be too minute and detailed. It should be sufficient only to cover the various divisions of the subject-matter, and to prevent the confusion of subtopics. Page 177 A too detailed outline tends to make the composition stiff and formal.

The outline should have proportion. The essential features of the subject should be the main topics. Minor subjects should not be given too great prominence, but should be subordinated to the main topics.

181. The Beginning of the Composition. To choose a method of beginning a composition often causes trouble. Usually a simple, direct beginning is the best. But sometimes an introductory paragraph is necessary in order to explain the writer's point of view, or to indicate to what phases of the subject attention is to be given. Examine the following methods of beginning.


Oddly enough, hardly any notice is taken of an industry in which the United States towers in unapproachable supremacy above all other nations of the earth. The census does not say a word about it, nor does there exist more than the merest word about it in all the literature of American self-praise.


No other metal is put to so many uses and is so indispensable as iron.

The opening sentences of a composition should be able to stand alone; their meaning or clearness should not depend upon reference to the title.

Page 178 Bad:


There is a rapidly growing belief that this study has too large a place in our high-school courses of study.



There is a rapidly growing belief that Latin has too large a place in our high school courses of study.

182. Unity in the Composition. Unity is an essential element of the whole composition as well as of the paragraph, and its demands here are in general the same. Nothing must be brought into the composition which does not fall well within the limits of the subject. In the different subdivisions, also, nothing must be discussed which properly belongs to some other division of the topic.

As in the paragraph, a definite point of view should be adopted and adhered to. There must not be a continual changing of relation of parts of the composition to the subject, nor of the writer's relation to the subject.

A consistent point of view is especially necessary in a narrative. If the writer is telling of events within his own experience, care must be taken not to bring in any conversation or occurrence, at which, by his own story, he could not have been present. A continual changing back and forth between present and past tenses must also be avoided. One or the other should be adopted consistently.

183. Coherence in the Composition. A composition must also be coherent. Its different parts must be closely knit together and the whole closely knit to the subject. Just as in the paragraph, words of reference and transition are needed, so in the composition, words, or sentences of reference and transition are needed, in order to bind the whole together and show the relation of its parts.

Page 179 For this purpose, the beginning of a new division or any definite change of topic should be closely marked, so as to prevent confusion. There should be transition sentences, or sentences which show the change of topic from paragraph to paragraph, and yet at the same time bridge the thought from paragraph to paragraph. These transition sentences may come at the end of a preceding paragraph, or at the beginning of a following one, or at both of these places.

Examine the following parts of paragraphs in which the words or phrases showing transition from part to part are italicized:

(Last sentence of first paragraph)

... The American War was loaded with misery of every kind.

(Second paragraph)

The mischief, however, recoiled on the unhappy people of this country, who were made the instruments by which the wicked purposes of the authors were effected. The nation was drained of its best blood, and of its vital resources of men and money. The expense of the war was enormous—much beyond any former experience.

(Third paragraph)

And yet, what has the British nation received in return for this expense....

... I was now enabled to see the extent and aspect of my prison. In its size I had been greatly mistaken....

(Beginning of paragraph following one on Unity in the paragraph)

The second of the essentials of the paragraph, coherence, demands that....

Frequently, in the longer compositions, a separate paragraph is devoted to accomplishing the transition from part to part. Observe the following:

(Paragraph 7)

... The only other law bearing on this matter is the Act of Assembly of last year authorizing the receipts from the automobile Page 180 taxes to be used in the construction of roads. This then completes the enumeration of what has already been done toward building good roads.

(Paragraph 8. Transitional paragraph)

There are, however, several promising plans for the securing of this important result, which are now being seriously discussed.

(Paragraph 9)

The first of these plans is ...

The following are a few of the words and phrases often used to indicate transition and to show relation between the paragraphs: So much for, It remains to mention, In the next place, Again, An additional reason, Therefore, Hence, Moreover, As a result of this, By way of exception.

Examine the selection under §187.

184. The Ending of the Composition. In a longer composition, the ending should neither be too abrupt, nor, on the other hand, should it be too long drawn out. It should be in proportion to the length of the composition. Usually, except in the case of a story, it should consist of a paragraph or two by way of summary or inference. In a story, however, the ending may be abrupt or not. The kind of ending depends entirely upon the nature and the scheme of development of the story. Examine the following endings:

Ending of a theme on The Uses of Iron:

Only some of the more important uses of this wonderful metal, iron, have been mentioned. There are hundreds of other uses to which it is constantly put—uses which no other metal could fill. Gold may once have been called the king of metals, but it has long since lost its claim to that title.

Ending of a story:

John heard her answer, and began to move slowly away from the gate.

"Good-bye," he said.

And then he was gone, forever.

Page 181 Suggested subjects for the making of outlines and compositions.

  1. How I Spent my Vacation.
  2. Shall Final Examinations be Abolished?
  3. The Subjects Which Should be Taught in High Schools.
  4. My Qualifications for a Position.
  5. The Uses of Iron.
  6. Paul Revere's Ride.
  7. The City Park.
  8. My Town as a Place of Residence.
  9. The Value of Railroads.
  10. Why I Believe in Local Option.
  11. A Winter's Sleigh Ride.
  12. Shall Foreign Immigration be Restricted?
  13. My Youthful Business Ventures.
  14. Why I Belong to the X Political Party.
  15. Various Methods of Heating a House.

185. Below is given in full Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech. It is perfect in its English and its construction. Study it with especial reference to its coherence, unity, and emphasis. Some of the words of coherence have been italicized.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers, brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as the final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished Page 182 work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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