Basics of Good Writing

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The Basics of Good Writing

D. Langley © 2009

D. Langley – The Basics of Good Writing
Latest Revision – 04/25/06

The Basics of Good Writing
Table of Contents Part 1 – Introducing the Essay................................................................. 3 Part 2 – Choosing Appropriate Words .................................................. 12 Part 3 – Creating Clear Sentences......................................................... 15 Part 4 – Composing Effective Paragraphs............................................ 23 Part 5 – Using Logic and Evidence [unfinished].................................. 40 Part 6 – Finding, Recording, and Using Sources in a Research Paper ................................................................. 44 Part 7 – Writing the Literary Research Paper and Avoiding Plagiarism ................................................................... 57 Part 8 – Using the Internet to Do Academic Research ....................... 68 Part 9 – Basics of Grammar ................................................................... 81 Part 10 – Basics of Punctuation and Mechanics.................................. 82 Part 11 – Exercises.................................................................................. 94 Appendix 1 – Dictionary of Commonly Confused Words ................. 103 Appendix 2 – Commonly Misspelled Words....................................... 109 Student Suggestions Page................................................................... 112

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D. Langley – The Basics of Good Writing
Latest Revision – 04/25/06

Part 1 - Introducing the Essay
Defining the Essay An essay is a relatively short piece of nonfiction that tries to make an interesting point. • Relatively short – means that an essay generally runs between two and twenty typed, double-spaced pages, so the essay can be read in one sitting. Essays in English 101 should run two to four full, typed, double-spaced pages. • Nonfiction – means that the essay is not a poem, short story, or similar piece of imaginative writing. The essay discusses actual people, places, and events. If writers include imaginative material—that is, fiction—they clearly identify that imaginative material in the context of the essay, and that material serves to some point about the actual material of the essay. • An interesting point – means that an essay contains a thesis—that is, a main point or a central assertion and that the author then supports by making an emotional appeal, by using logic and evidence, or by using both. It tries to give readers a sense of the author’s perspective about those topics.1 Finally, an essay tries not only to say something but also to say it well. That is, the essay tries to arouse the reader’s curiosity, to convince readers that its topic is worth discussing, or to prove that the audience can benefit somehow from having the knowledge contained in the essay or by adopting the opinion expressed in the essay. To build a stable, long-lasting house, you must start with a solid foundation. Creating an attractive sweater requires knowing major knitting techniques and knowing how to assemble the knitted pieces of the overall garment. Similarly, you should know several strategies for creating a strong foundation on which to build a finished essay: 1. Distinguish among a subject, a topic, and a thesis. 2. Know how to focus a subject to a thesis. 3. Identify your purpose and your audience. 4. Use idea-generating techniques such as freewriting, brainstorming, “clustering,” and asking reporters’ questions. 5. Take notes and/or keep a journal, especially when preparing to write about literature. Subjects, Topics, and Theses • A subject is a broad category of information. Subjects would cover large areas of discussion such as colleges and universities, teenage experiences, the writings of James Baldwin, or games and sports. • A topic is a narrow area of discussion, such as the open admissions policies of community...
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