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The Basic Principles of Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is writing that sets out to influence or change an audience's thoughts or actions.

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You are subjected to persuasion every day from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. When you turn on your
radio, are you listening to the CBC or some local station? Which paper do you read while drinking your morning coffee? The
National Post, The Globe and Mail? The Vancouver Sun?
Whenever you buy a product or use a service, your choice has likely been influenced by a persuasive marketing ad. There
are, of course, many occupations where persuasion is a skill used on an everyday basis. Lawyers, teachers, clergy
members, and journalists are just a few.
The point is that understanding persuasive strategies can help you in two very important ways:
1) Knowing the strategies helps you analyse the strategies other people are using to persuade you. This way you can
protect yourself when, for example, unethical marketers are trying to take advantage of you.
2) Knowing the strategies helps you to choose which is the most effective way to persuade an audience.

How do we get others to accept our point of view?


by appealing to their reason
by appealing to their emotions
by the appeal of our good character
1) Appealing to Reason:
Remember that an argument is an appeal to a person's sense of reason; it is not a violent fight, dispute, or disagreement.
It is a measured, logical way of trying to persuade others to agree with you.
One critical thing to remember that there are at least two sides to every issue. If you take the attitude that there is only
one side--your side--you will quite likely alienate your reader.
You need, then, to choose one side of an issue clearly in an effort to persuade others. If you're unsure of your own stance,
how can you expect other people to assess, understand, and be convinced by your position?
Example:
Issue: Should my father stop smoking?
Position: Yes
Questions you may ask (Your reasoning skills often depend on what we call "common sense"):
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have enough evidence? (Is it sufficient?)
Will my audience believe my evidence? (Is it trustworthy?)
What are the assumptions built into my argument, and are those assumptions fair? (Is it verifiable?)
Does my conclusion follow logically from the claims I make?

There are two basic types of reasoning processes: Deduction and Induction

DEDUCTION: begins with a general principle or premise and draws a specific conclusion from it.
ex. All people who smoke endanger their health. (major premise)
My father smokes. (minor premise)
Therefore, my father is endangering her health. (conclusion)
Is this a strong argument?

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you need to offer evidence in support of your claims
it may be impossible to prove a cause-effect link between my father's smoking and his declining health
Other issues you may bring in to support your argument:
2nd hand smoke / impact on family and friends
the staggering number of people over 60 years old who die from lung cancer

INDUCTION: supports a general conclusion by examining specific facts or cases.


Ex. If I was to argue that my father was endangering his health, I might cite specific symptoms:
His teeth are yellowish and he's lost a considerable amount of weight.
He's no longer able to cycle his 25km every morning.
Whenever he exerts himself physically, he ends up coughing extremely hard.
Other Logical Appeals?
You could cite smoking/cancer statistics, authority in the form of the Surgeon General, financial costs etc...
2) Appealing to Emotion:
The logical appeal is certainly an extremely persuasive tool. However, our human nature also lets us be influenced by our
emotions.
One way of evoking emotion in your reader is to use vivid images.
Ex. (to my father who smokes): "I remember when Grandma died of lung cancer. It was the first time I had ever seen you
cry Dad. I remember that you also made me promise not to start smoking."
You could also offer vivid examples in support of your argument. Use language and/or images that are emotionally
charged:
You might detail the pain of going through chemo therapy.
You could use Xrays of diseased lungs, or photos of cancerous gums.
Be careful, however, that when you use emotional appeal, you use it "legitimately." You should not use it as a substitute
for logical and/or ethical appeals. Don't use emotional appeals to draw on stereotypes or manipulate our emotional fears.
Don't use emotional appeal to get an automatic, knee-jerk reaction from someone. If you use emotionally charged
language or examples simply to upset or anger an audience, you are using emotion illegitimately. Your use of emotional
appeal shouldn't oversimplify a complicated issue.
3) Appealing to our good character:
The appeal of your ethics can occur on one or more of the following levels in any given argument:
Are you a reasonable person? (That is, are you willing to listen, compromise, concede points?)
Are you authoritative? (Are you experienced and/or knowledgeable in the field you are arguing in?)
Are you an ethical/moral person (Is what you're arguing for ethically sound/morally right)
Are you concerned for the well-being of your audience? (To what extent will you benefit as a result of arguing from
your particular position?)
The ethical appeal is based on the audience's perception of the speaker. Therefore, the audience must trust the speaker in
order to accept the arguments. Don't overlook ethical appeal, as it can be the most effective of the three.

Elements of a Good Argument:


Remember to identify any unfamiliar or uniquely used terms in your argument.

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If you forget to define your terms (or choose not to define them) you run the risk of alienating your audience, confusing
them, or causing them to come to inappropriate conclusions.
For example, before making the argument that teachers should "monitor" their students, the word monitor should be
defined. Does "monitor" include eavesdropping on their group discussions? Does it include accessing their registrar's files
to see how well (or how poorly) the students are doing in their other classes? Does it mean reading their e-mail in an
online course without their knowledge? You would want to be clear about such a term so that someone wouldn't
misinterpret its usage in a particular context.
You Must Ensure that Your Evidence is Convincing:
Convincing evidence will satisfy the following questions:
Is the evidence sufficient in volume? That is, is there is enough evidence to present a strong, indisputable case.
Is the evidence trustworthy? Does it come from reliable, informed sources.
Is the evidence verifiable? That is, can you corroborate it through other sources. Is the evidence factual, or does
it rest solely on opinion?
Appeal to authority:
If you are drawing on an authoritative, expert figure to back up what you say, is the authority actually reliable? When
trying to determine whether someone is an authority, consider the following elements:
Is your expert a current authority on the specific subject in question?
Is your expert up-to-date on the most current procedures, statistics, testing programmes etc.
Is your expert viewed favourably by their peers? Is he/she respected in the field?
Is your expert associated with reputable organizations?
Is your expert as free of bias as possible?
Remember that when quoting a source you must be careful that you don't accidentally (or intentionally) take the quote out
of context, changing the original meaning.
Keep in mind, as well, that your authority should be knowledgeable about the subject; he/she should not simply be
someone famous. A celebrity endorsement is not quite the same as expert opinion (unless the celebrity is endorsing a
product that she/he uses.)
Canadian Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati may be an expert when it comes to endorsing snowboard wax, but he's not
necessarily an expert when asked about the national unity debate. Bryan Adams' celebrity status does not make his an
expert authority on the national economy, but he would be a reliable, trustworthy source if you asked him about building
recording studios.
In addition, you want to ensure that the authority you are using is still current in the field. For example, you might not
want to use a long-retired politician like Pierre Trudeau as your focus expert on the state of the unity issue in Canada today.
Remember that the most successful arguments often combine the three appeals. With that in mind, be very careful about
relying solely on logic in an argument. Use a combination of appeals to allow for a more balanced argument. An audience
may readily become resistant to your argument if you rest solely on a particular line of reasoning that they fundamentally
disagree with.
Improper Evaluation of Statistics:
Using statistics, studies and surveys can be very persuasive if they are used ethically and accurately.
Ask yourself the following questions before using this kind of evidence:
Were the survey questions as objective as possible?
Was the sample pool representative or biased?
Are the statistics accurately tabulated?

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Have the statistics been taken out of context?
Is there enough context provided so that the reader gets a clear view of any pre-existing bias?

Other Important Terms for Argument:


Concession: When you concede a point in an argument, you are saying that you actually agree with your opponent on a
particular issue. Remember that this is not a sign of weakness. In fact, you are strengthening your ethical appeal
because you are coming across as a reasonable person who is willing to see more than one side of the argument.
Refutation: When you deliberately, directly attack an opponent's argument, point by point, you are said to be "refuting"
the argument.
Anticipating and Addressing Counter-Arguments: When you are making your argument, you must remain aware of
what points your opponents will likely take exception to. If you can anticipate what the likely objections will be, and then
address them in your argument, you'll likely strengthen your position.

Five Ways of Looking At a Thesis


by Erik Simpson
1.

A thesis says something a little strange.


A: By telling the story of Westley and Buttercup's triumph over evil, The Princess Bride affirms the power of true love.
B: Although the main plot of The Princess Bride rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting
sticks (baseball bats, tree branches, and swords) link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being
trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.
Both of these statements, I would contend, are perfectly correct. Only the second one says something, well, weird. Weird is
good. Sentence A encourages the paper to produce precisely the evidence that everybody always talks about in The Princess
Bride; sentence B ensures that the paper will talk about something new.
Women are oppressed in Maria. Frankenstein warns society against taking science too far. The creature starts out good and
becomes bad because of society. Yup. How can you make those things unusual?
Many good papers start by pointing out something that seems not to make sense and then making sense of it.

2.

A thesis creates an argument that builds from one point to the next.
A: The Rules and Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey both tell women how to act.
B: By looking at The Rules, a modern conduct book for women, we can see how Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is itself like a
conduct book, questioning the rules for social success in her society and offering a new model.
This applies mostly to comparison/contrast papers. If the components of your argument can be rearranged without changing the
thesis, your thesis has a problem.

3.

A thesis fits comfortably into the Magic Thesis Sentence (MTS).


The MTS:
By looking at _____, we can see _____, which most readers don't see; this is important because _____.
Try it out with the above examples. I think it will please you.

4.

A thesis says something about the text(s) you discuss exclusively.


Back to the first example:
A: By telling the story of Westley and Buttercup's triumph over evil, The Princess Bride affirms the power of true love.

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B: Although the main plot of The Princess Bride rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting
sticks (baseball bats, tree branches, and swords) link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being
trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.
Try substituting other works:
A: By telling the story of Darcy and Elizabeth's triumph over evil, Pride and Prejudice affirms the power of true love.
Sure. Bad sign.
B: Although the main plot of Pride and Prejudice rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting
sticks (baseball bats, tree branches, and swords) link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being
trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.
Um, nope. Good sign.
5.

A thesis makes a lot of information irrelevant.


One more time (so sue me, I like this example):
A: By telling the story of Westley and Buttercup's triumph over evil, The Princess Bride affirms the power of true love.
A plot summary of The Princess Bride would support this thesis. Bad sign. A strong thesis excludes most of the text in order to
make a specific claim.
B: Although the main plot of The Princess Bride rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting
sticks (baseball bats, tree branches, and swords) link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being
trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.
This excludes most of the text. Good sign. Your reader knows precisely which parts of it you'll be talking about and why.
BRUCE THOMSONS Fallacy Page
On this page you will find...
(Click on the blue letters to go to each part of the page.)
1. A DEFINITION of the term "fallacy," and a discussion of the nature of fallacious reasoning.
2. A brief HISTORY of the study of fallacies, from the ancient Greeks to the present. (Currently in preparation.)
3. An explanation of the PRINCIPLES that I use to classify and organize fallacies.
4. A table on which the FALLACIES themselves are organized according to their classification. Click on the class name for a list of
fallacies included in that class. Click on each fallacy to see an explanation of that fallacy, a couple pithy examples, a discussion
of why we sometimes find that fallacy to be persuasive, and in most cases a source indicating who first described and/or named
the fallacy.
5. Lots of EXERCISES to give students practice in identifying fallacies, broken into two convenient units.
6. A BIBLIOGRAPHY of print sources and websites.
7. An INDEX in which fallacy names and other terminology are listed in alphabetical order, with appropriate hyper-links.
About this Site:
This page was created for the use of my General Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 110), Critical Thinking (PHIL 125), and Logic
(PHIL 130) students at Cuyamaca College. Naturally, other visitors are also welcome.
Since it is increasingly important to judge the quality of information on websites, and since one criterion of quality is the
credentials of the author, I have attached a copy of my resume.
Another mark of reliability of a website is that the webmaster invites criticisms and corrections. I am pleased to offer that
invitation. Anyone who wishes to contact me about the contents of this page is welcome to do so at bruce.thompson@gcccd.net.
Indeed, I would like to thank the many people who have contacted me already. As the quality of information on this site
improves, it is they who deserve the credit.

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FAIR USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE:
The material on this page is not under copyright; and I hereby give permission for this material to be used by others. Note,
however, that permission to copy and use material has nothing to do with the concept of plagiarism, which results from failing to
adequately cite the source of ones information, or from claiming authorship of material of which one is not the author. As author,
I can grant permission for this material to be used by others, but even I cannot grant permission for the material to be
plagiarized. No one has that power.
Speaking of plagiarism, some of the examples and exercises may, accidentally, have been taken from other, half-remembered
logic books. If so, it is certainly not my intention to claim authorship of material of which I am not the author. It is just that I have
used some examples so often over the years that I no longer remember whether I wrote them myself, or borrowed them from
another author. Please let me know if you notice any flagrant plagiarisms. I will be glad to remove them, or at least to provide an
adequate citation.
A NOTE ON SPELLING:
Alert readers will notice that on this website I use the spelling "premiss" and "premisses" rather than "premise" and "premises."
If correctness is to be measured by etymology rather than common practice, these spellings are preferable to the more common
spellings. According to Charles S. Peirce (and the Oxford English Dictionary appears to back him up on this), the word "premiss"
is derived from a medieval Latin word that refers (just as one would expect) to the portion of an argument in which justification
and reasons are offered in support of a conclusion. The word "premise" is derived from a French legal term meaning "aforesaid,"
and in English has come to be used (usually in the plural) to refer, rather legalistically, to property (and its appurtenances), in
such phrases as "to occupy the premises" and "to vacate the premises." I imagine that the custom on legal documents - eviction
notices and the like - was to begin with a description of a certain property, and end with a phrase such as "The resident is
hereby ordered to vacate the aforesaid." With the French word used regularly in place of "aforesaid," one would soon get the
idea that "premises" was a lawyers' term of art meaning "real estate."
It was recently brought to my attention that the two words may actually be etymologically related. The premisses of an
argument are traditionally laid down before the conclusion, so they are also "aforesaid," in the same sense as the description of
property on a legal document. However, (if Peirce is correct) this etymological connection pre-dates the entry of the two words
into English. Hence I still think it is appropriate to consider them to be separate words, sharing only coincidentally the same
pronunciation. However confusion over the spelling of the two words is also long-standing. Even a hundred years ago Peirce felt
he had to explain his preference for the older (and in his view more correct) spelling, just as I am doing now.
This page last revised 4/29/2008.
Bruce E. R. Thompson
Instructor of Philosophy, Cal State University San Marcos
Instructor of Philosophy and Reference Librarian, Cuyamaca College
Instructor of Philosophy, Southwestern College

Logical Fallacies or Fallacies in Argumentation


There are different kinds of logical fallacies that people make in presenting their positions. Below is a list of some of the major
fallacies. It is a good idea to be familiar with them so that you can point them out in a discussion thereby focusing the issues
where they belong while exposing error.
It is true that during a debate on an issue, if you simply point out to your "opponent" a logical fallacy that he/she has just made,
it generally gives you the upper hand. But then, merely having the upper hand is not the goal. Truth is. Nevertheless, it is
logical fallacies that hide the truth. So, pointing them out is very useful.
1.

Ad hominim - Attacking the individual instead of the argument.

1.

Example: You are so stupid you argument couldn't possibly be true.

2.

Example: I figured that you couldn't possibly get it right, so I ignored your comment.

2.

Appeal to force - The hearer is told that something bad will happen to him if he does not accept the argument.

1.

Example: If you don't want to get beat up, you will agree with what I say.

2.

Example: Convert or die.

3.

Appeal to pity - The hearer is urged to accept the argument based upon an appeal to emotions, sympathy, etc.

1.

Example: You owe me big time because I really stuck my neck out for you.

2.

Example: Oh come on, I've been sick. That's why I missed the deadline.

4.

Appeal to the popular - the hearer is urged to accept a position because a majority of people hold to it.

1.

Example: The majority of people like soda. Therefore, soda is good.

2.

Example: Everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn't you?

5.

Appeal to tradition - trying to get someone to accept something because it has been done or believed for a long time.

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1.

Example: This is the way we've always done it. Therefore, it is the right way.

2.

Example: The Catholic church's tradition demonstrates that this doctrine is true.

6.

Begging the Question - Assuming the thing to be true that you are trying to prove. It is circular.

1.

Example: God exists because the Bible says so. The Bible is inspired. Therefore, we know that God exists.

2.

Example: I am a good worker because Frank says so. How can we trust Frank? Simple. I will vouch for him.

7.

Cause and Effect - assuming that the effect is related to a cause because the events occur together.

1.
2.

Example: When the rooster crows, the sun rises. Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.
to run out of gas.

Example: When the fuel light goes on in my car, I soon run out of gas. Therefore, the fuel light causes my car

8.

Circular Argument - see Begging the Question

9.

Division - assuming that what is true of the whole is true for the parts.

1.

Example: That car is blue. Therefore, its engine is blue.

2.

Example: Your family is weird. That means that you are weird too.

10.

Equivocation - The same term is used in an argument in different places but the word has different meanings.

1.
2.

Example: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Therefore, a bird is worth more than President Bush.
Example: Evolution states that one species can change into another. We see that cars have evolved into
different styles. Therefore, since evolution is a fact in cars, it is true in species.

11.

False Dilemma - Two choices are given when in actuality there could be more choices possible.

1.

Example: You either did knock the glass over or you did not. Which is it?

2.

Example: Do you still beat your wife?

12.
1.
2.
13.

Genetic Fallacy - The attempt to endorse or disqualify a claim because of the origin or irrelevant history of the claim
Example: The Nazi regime developed the Volkswagen Beetle. Therefore, you should not by a VW Beetle
because of who started it.
Example: Frank's just got out of jail last year and since it was his idea to start the hardware store, I can't trust

him.
another.

Guilt by Association - Rejecting an argument or claim because the person proposing it likes someone is disliked by

1.

Example: Hitler liked dogs. Therefore dogs are bad.

2.

Example: Your friend is a thief. Therefore, I cannot trust you.

14.

Non Sequitur - Comments or information that do not logically follow from a premise or the conclusion.

1.
2.

Example: We know why it rained today, because I washed my car.


Example: I don't care what you say. We don't need any more bookshelves. As long as the carpet is clean, we

are fine.

15.

Poisoning the well - Presenting negative information about a person before he/she speaks so as to discredit the person's
argument.

1.

Example: Frank is pompous, arrogant, and thinks he knows everything. So, let's hear what Frank has to say
about the subject.

2.

Example: Don't listen to him because he is a loser.

16.
1.

Red Herring - The introduction of a topic not related to the subject at hand.
having problems.

2.

Example: I know your car isn't working right. But, if you had gone to the store one day earlier, you'd not be
Example: I know I forgot to deposit the check into the bank yesterday. But, nothing I do pleases you.

17.

Special Pleading (double standard) - Applying a different standard to another that is applied to oneself.

1.

Example: You can't possibly understand menopause because you are a man.

2.

Example: Those rules don't apply to me since since I am older than you.

18.

Straw Man Argument - Producing an argument to attack that is a weaker representation of the truth.

1.

Example: The government doesn't take care of the poor because it doesn't have a tax specifically to support
the poor.

2.
19.

Example: We know that evolution is false because we did not evolve from monkeys.
Category Mistake - Attributing a property to something that could not possibly have that property.

1.

Example: Blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.

2.

Example: Saying logic is transcendental is like saying cars would exist if matter didn't.

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False Dilemma: two choices are given when in fact there are three options

From Ignorance: because something is not known to be true, it is assumed to be false

Slippery Slope: a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences is drawn

Complex Question: two unrelated points are conjoined as a single proposition


Appeals to Motives in Place of Support

Appeal to Force: the reader is persuaded to agree by force

Appeal to Pity: the reader is persuaded to agree by sympathy

Consequences: the reader is warned of unacceptable consequences

Prejudicial Language: value or moral goodness is attached to believing the author

Popularity: a proposition is argued to be true because it is widely held to be true


Changing the Subject

Attacking the Person:

1.

the person's character is attacked

2.

the person's circumstances are noted

3.

the person does not practise what is preached

Appeal to Authority:

1.

the authority is not an expert in the field

2.

experts in the field disagree

3.

the authority was joking, drunk, or in some other way not being serious

Anonymous Authority: the authority in question is not named


Style Over Substance: the manner in which an argument (or arguer) is presented is felt to affect the truth of the
conclusion
Inductive Fallacies

Hasty Generalization: the sample is too small to support an inductive generalization about a population

Unrepresentative Sample: the sample is unrepresentative of the sample as a whole

False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar

Slothful Induction: the conclusion of a strong inductive argument is denied despite the evidence to the contrary

Fallacy of Exclusion: evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from
consideration
Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms

Accident: a generalization is applied when circumstances suggest that there should be an exception

Converse Accident : an exception is applied in circumstances where a generalization should apply


Causal Fallacies

Post Hoc: because one thing follows another, it is held to cause the other

Joint effect: one thing is held to cause another when in fact they are both the joint effects of an underlying cause

Insignificant: one thing is held to cause another, and it does, but it is insignificant compared to other causes of the
effect

Wrong Direction: the direction between cause and effect is reversed

Complex Cause: the cause identified is only a part of the entire cause of the effect
Missing the Point

Begging the Question: the truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises

Irrelevant Conclusion: an argument in defense of one conclusion instead proves a different conclusion

Straw Man: the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition's best argument
Fallacies of Ambiguity

Equivocation: the same term is used with two different meanings

Amphiboly: the structure of a sentence allows two different interpretations

Accent: the emphasis on a word or phrase suggests a meaning contrary to what the sentence actually says
Category Errors

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Composition: because the attributes of the parts of a whole have a certain property, it is argued that the whole has that
property

Division: because the whole has a certain property, it is argued that the parts have that property
Non Sequitur

Affirming the Consequent: any argument of the form: If A then B, B, therefore A

Denying the Antecedent: any argument of the form: If A then B, Not A, thus Not B

Inconsistency: asserting that contrary or contradictory statements are both true


Syllogistic Errors

Fallacy of Four Terms: a syllogism has four terms

Undistributed Middle: two separate categories are said to be connected because they share a common property

Illicit Major: the predicate of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of
the term in the predicate

Illicit Minor: the subject of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of the
term in the subject

Fallacy of Exclusive Premises: a syllogism has two negative premises

Fallacy of Drawing an Affirmative Conclusion From a Negative Premise: as the name implies

Existential Fallacy: a particular conclusion is drawn from universal premises


Fallacies of Explanation

Subverted Support (The phenomenon being explained doesn't exist)

Non-support (Evidence for the phenomenon being explained is biased)

Untestability (The theory which explains cannot be tested)

Limited Scope (The theory which explains can only explain one thing)

Limited Depth (The theory which explains does not appeal to underlying causes)
Fallacies of Definition

Too Broad (The definition includes items which should not be included)

Too Narrow (The definition does not include all the items which shouls be included)

Failure to Elucidate (The definition is more difficult to understand than the word or concept being defined)

Circular Definition (The definition includes the term being defined as a part of the definition)

Conflicting Conditions (The definition is self-contradictory)

Writing an Argument
What is an argument?
An argument is much less than most people imagine. It is usually not
--An absolute truth.
--A revelation or brand new insight.
--The last word.
--Bad-tempered complaining.
--An exercise in pure logic.
--A chance to prove that youre smarter than everyone else.
And, most emphatically, it is not necessarily about some grand issue of concern to humankind in general.
An argument is merely an essay that has a thesis, which a substantial part of your audience may disagree with
and that seeks to convince them youre right. Thats all, and thats not much. To know your essay is an
argument, look for three things:
An opposition
An implied should
A call to action
OVERCOMING ARGUERS BLOCK
You must convince yourself that writing an argument is something you can do without becoming someone
youre not. Do that in four steps:
Notice that you make arguments all the time.
Shake the fallacy of the absolute and exclusive truth.
Shake the fallacy of the final word.
Begin with arguments that are easy to make.

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Avoid three logical fallacies.


1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after it, therefore because of it) The fallacy of assuming that just because y
follows x, x causes y.
2. Either/Or thinking, also called the fallacy of the false dilemma. This reduces complex situations to two
alternatives, one black and one white.
3. False Analogy, fallacy in which x and y are alike, but not in the features that matter to the argument.
Writing Exercise:
Spot the flawed logic in the following statements:
Herbert Hoover single-handedly created the depression.
FDR caused World War II.
Surveys showed that married men are happier than unmarried men.
Many people who go to the dentist have a lot of cavities.
Marijuana use should remain illegal because its a first step toward the more serious drugs; most heroin addicts
started with marijuana.
If youre not for recycling laws, you dont care about your environment.
In the coming election you have a choice between voting for me or voting for fiscal irresponsibility.
People trapped in the ghetto have two choices in life: be a menial laborer and starve or take to crime.
Its incredible to me that in a culture that bans cockfights and bear baiting, we permit the same sort of thing
with human beings.
Gun control is wrong because the Constitution guarantees our right to keep and bear arms.

Revision Steps

Revision is the process of going over the essay to correct any problems in the first draft.
It is best to do this a few hours (or even a day) after you write the first draft. You will have a fresh perspective on the essay, allowing you
to spot problems more easily.

During revision, check your essay for the following:


As you read through the essay, think about the purpose of your writing. Does your essay reflect the purpose? Is it a narrative
(story); descriptive; persuasive or expository essay? Make sure you have made the topic the type of essay you needed to do.

Check your paragraphs. Does each one have one topic or idea being developed? Does it seem to be clearly stated or have you
confused the issue you are discussing? If your essay is descriptive, did you develop the writing using your senses and/or spatial
development? If the essay is a narrative, have you told the story in order?

Check your sentence structure. Is each sentence a complete thought? The only time you may have a fragment is when you
have dialogue - one person talking to another. For example:
"Mom, may I go to the store," Jon said, "and buy some ice cream?"
"Sure."
Otherwise, every sentence should be complete and make sense by itself.

Have another person read your essay. Does it make sense to them? What do you need to clarify?

14

When you are finished with the revision, go on to proofreading.


(Revision and proofreading are really the most important parts of the writing process.
ALWAYS revise and proofread your draft...then, create a clean final copy to hand in.)

How to Write an Essay

1. Think about the topic of your essay.


If your teacher has not already directed you to write a narrative, descriptive, persuasive or informative essay, then you must decide how
you will approach the topic.

Narrative: Tell a story about a topic

Descriptive: Describe something connected with the topic

Persuasive: persuade the reader to agree with your point of view on the topic

Informative: Tell the history of the topic

So, first you need to know not only the topic, but how you will approach that topic.
2. Make an outline or webbing of the topic, including what you will bring out in your essay.

If you are writing a narrative, who are the characters? What is the setting, plot, climax and conclusion?

If it is a descriptive piece, in what order are you going to describe the scene? Are you going from outside to inside, left to right,
background to foreground, most noticeable to least noticeable?

If it is a persuasive essay, what is your position? Give support for your position; explain why the reader should agree with you.

If it is an informative essay, what main points do you want to include?

3. Write your first draft


Write an introductory paragraph that will make the reader want to read on. Include a thesis statement (that is, a clear, direct statement
of what your essay is about.)
Write the body of the paper. This is where you will take each item and support it with details, examples and so on. (Use F.R.I.E.D - facts,
reasons, incidents, examples and details).
Write a concluding paragraph. Summarize what you said, maybe by rewording the thesis statement or by commenting upon it in some
way.

4. Revise your paper


Read it over and cross out or add ideas, use more specific nouns or verbs, or add adjectives or adverbs. Make sure that the order or
coherence of your paper is well done. Use of transitional words or phrases will help to connect your ideas and paragraphs. Finally, read
your essay to make sure you have said exactly what you wanted to say. Having another person or two read your essay will also let you

15

know if you have made yourself clear.

5. Proofread your paper


Read it carefully and check it for grammar, punctuation and spelling errors.

6. Write your presentation (final) copy.


Be sure to check this over after you have written it, because you might still find errors. If you do, rewrite it so that your final copy is the
very best you can do. (Note: If you are using a computer, the revision and correction process is much easier because you do not have to
rewrite the whole thing.)
When you have done all of the above, you'll be very proud of what you have written!

Qualities of Good Writing

Content and Organization:


Conveys a message related to the prompt (topic or description of a situation).
Includes supporting ideas or examples.
Follows a logical order.
Conveys a sense of completeness.
Language:
Exhibits word choice appropriate to the audience, the purpose and the subject..
Includes clear language.
Writing Conventions (rules):

Contains complete sentences and may contain purposeful fragments. (example: when someone is
speaking, they may not talk in full sentences.)
Exhibits subject-verb agreement
Contains standard forms of verbs and nouns.
Exhibits appropriate punctuation.
Exhibits appropriate capitalization.
Contains correct spelling.
Is legible.

Transitional Words and Phrases

Use transitions in the following ways:

16

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

To
To
To
To
To
To

introduce examples
add another point
signal results or effects
show time relationships
show comparison or contrast
connect ideas

Examples of transition words or phrases...

To introduce examples:
for example
for instance
to illustrate
in one example
to begin with
in one instance

To signal results or effects:

To add another point:


in addition (to)

as a result

also

because (of)

another

therefore

besides

thus

furthermore

consequently

moreover

due to

a second (third, fourth, etc.)

for this reason

a further

in response to
in conclusion

in one case
in fact
as proof

To show comparison and contrast:

To show time relationships:

To connect ideas:

similarly

before

yet

like

after

however

unlike

next

though

just as

then

so

the same as

finally

nevertheless

as well (as)

soon

moreover

different from

since

in contrast

meanwhile

on the other hand

eventually

on the contrary

at last

equally important

afterward
at this point
in the meantime
to begin with
at the same time
not long after
as time passed

17
first, second, third, etc.

Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

1. If the subject is singular (one), use a singular verb. (Generally, a singular verb ends in "s" or "es")
2. If the subject is plural, use a plural verb.
3. If the subject is compound joined by "and," always use plural verb.
4. If the subject is compound joined by "or" or "nor," look at the subject closest to the verb and follow rules #1 and #2. Examples:
The book or pencils are on the desk.
Neither the children nor Dad knows where the bank is located.

Practice:
1. A kitten (was, were) for sale.
2. Kittens (is, are) playful animals.
3. Ollie (is, are) black and white.
4. His paws (is, are) tiny.

Rule #_____
Rule # _____
Rule # _____

Rule # _____

5. Once Ollie (was, were) up on the roof.


6. He (was, were) scared.

Rule # _____

Rule # ______

7. The goats and the cow (eats, eat) hay.

Rule # _____

8. A truck and a car (stops, stop) by the barn.

Rule # _____

9. Neither Peter nor Maria (hears, hear) a noise.

Rule # ______

10. Either Nickoll or the other children (hears, hear) the noise.
11. Neither the tomatoes or the cucumbers (was, were) ripe.
12. The man or the children (erases, erase) the blackboard.

Rule # _____
Rule # ______
Rule # ______

Check Your Answers

Indefinite Pronouns

Singular Indefinites: another, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody,
no one, nothing, other, one, somebody, someone, something
Plural Indefinites: both, few, many, ones, others, several
The following indefinites can be either singular or plural, depending on what the pronoun refers to in the
sentence: all, any, most, none, some

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Examples:
Most of the food - most is singular
Most of the passengers - most is plural

Punctuation Rules

Commas

1. Use a comma to separate items in a series. A series is three or more related words, phrases, or clauses.
Ex: He aimed, focused, and took the picture.

2. Use a comma between two or more adjectives that come before a noun. Do not use a comma if the adjectives express a single idea. To
decide whether to use a comma, try reading the adjectives with the word "and," or reverse the adjectives. If the sentence sounds awkward,
do not use a comma.
Ex: Leon photographed the dilapidated, rusty jalopy.
Ex: Leon uses an expensive Japanese camera. (use the test above)

3. Use a comma before the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.


Ex: We wanted a picture of the sunrise, but it rained that day.

4. Use a comma after words, phrases and clauses that come at the beginning of a sentence.
Words: Oh, I need a sharper pencil.
Phrases: During the long meeting, he fell asleep.
Clauses: After the session ended, I spoke to Hal.

5. Use a comma to separate interrupters, nouns of direct address, and unnecessary appositives in a sentence.
Interrupters (words that break up a sentence and add emphasis:
You know, of course, the purpose of this meeting.
Noun of Direct Address (name of a person or persons spoken to directly):
Come into my office, James, for a few minutes.
Appositive (adds information about the noun that directly precedes it) - Use a comma ONLY if it is NOT necessary to identify the
noun.
Ex: The president, Harold White, will present the award.
Ex: The documentary "Space Exploration" won an award.

6. Use a comma to separate month and day from a year. Use a comma to separate year from the rest of the sentence. Do NOT use
commas to separate month and year.

Ex: July 4, 1776


Ex: January 12, 1987, is the date of the banquet.
Ex: Haley's comet appeared last during April 1986.

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7. Use a comma to separate city and state. If the address is within a sentence, use a comma after the state as well. Do NOT use a comma
between the state and zip code.
Ex: Does Chicago, Illinois, have the world's largest building?
Ex: Denise lives at 10 Palm Court, Lima, OH 45807.

8. Use a comma after the greeting in a friendly letter and after the closing in ALL letters.
Ex: Dear John,
Ex: Sincerely yours,

9. Use a comma to separate a quotation from the rest of the sentence. Place commas and periods inside quotation marks.
Ex: "Please open your books now," said Mr. Smith.
Ex: "Here," Kim replied, "is Tasmania."

Punctuation Rules

Quotation Marks

Direct Quotation: A speaker's direct (exact) words.


Indirect Quotation: Tells what someone says without using exact words.
1. Use quotation marks to set off a speaker's words from the rest of the sentence. Always begin a direct quote with a capital letter.

Ex: "Here is Tasmania," she said. "It is off the south eastern coast of Australia."

Ex: "Please reply," said Mr. Smith, "if you know the answer."

2. Use quotation marks around titles of short works: short story, articles, poem, chapter of a book, song, etc. Capitalize important words.
Do not capitalize any unimportant words, such as: the, a, an, and, of, for, or, etc., unless they are the first or last word of the title.

Ex: "Jug of Silver"

Ex: "How to Ask for a Raise"

Ex: "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Punctuation Rules

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Colons and Semicolons

Colons:
1. Use a colon after the greeting in a business letter.

Ex: Dear Sir:


Ex: Dear Mrs. Smith:

2.Use a colon before a list of items in a sentence. Words like "following" or "these" often signal the use of a colon.

Ex: In music we study these composers: Copeland, Ives, and Barber.


Ex: Bring the following: your book, a notebook, and a harmonica.

3. Use a colon between the hour and the minute in time.

Ex: 8:15 P.M.

Semicolons:
Use a semicolon (;) in place of a conjunction in a compound sentence, if the independent clauses are closely related.

Ex: I practiced for three hours; now I am ready.

Punctuation Rules

Abbreviations and Numbers

Abbreviations:
1. Most abbreviations are followed by a period.
2. Organizations (e.g. PTU) use capitals, but no periods.
3. State abbreviations by the United States Postal Service are 2 capital letters - no period. (e.g. OH for Ohio)
4. You CANNOT abbreviate the months of May, June, and July.
5. Do NOT use capitals or periods after units of measure, except to inch.
6. If you use an abbreviation for a unit of measure, use numerals with it. (e.g. 1 ft)

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Numbers:
1. Spell out numbers under one hundred and numbers at the beginning of a sentence.
2. Use numerals over one hundred and for sections of writing. (e.g. Chapter 6, Unit 13, Line 5)

Punctuation Rules

Apostrophes

1. Use an apostrophe and the letter s on singular nouns and plural nouns NOT ending in s to show possession. Add just an apostrophe to
plural nouns ending in s to show possession.

2. Add an apostrophe and s to form the plural of letters, numerals, symbols and words that refer to themselves.
Ex: Dot your i's.
Ex: Make your 4's and 9's correctly.

3. Use an apostrophe in contractions to replace missing letters.


Ex: it's (it is)
Ex: you're (you are)
Ex: doesn't (does not)

Punctuation Rules

Hyphens, Dashes, Parentheses

Hyphens:
1. Use a hyphen to divide a word (between syllables) at the end of a line.

2. Use a hyphen to join the parts of compound numbers and to join two or more words that work together as one adjective before a noun.

Ex: thirty-two
Ex: one-half teaspoon
Ex: long-range plans

Dash:
A dash is longer than a hyphen. Use dashes to show a sudden change of thought.
Ex: Tom and Alex are very close --- most brothers are.

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Parentheses:
Use parentheses to enclose unnecessary information or information that the readers may already know.
Ex: Charles Lindbergh (1902 - 1974) was a pioneer in aviation.
Ex: The president (Cooper Smith) presented the award.

How to Write an Introductory Paragraph

The introductory paragraph serves many purposes, including:


It will attract the reader's interest, encouraging him/her to go on and actually read the essay.
It will supply any background information needed to understand the essay. Such information is sometimes needed so that the
reader has a context in which to understand the ideas presented in the essay.
It will present a thesis statement. This clear, direct statement of the main idea that will be developed in the paper usually
occurs near the end of the introductory paragraph.

Common Methods of Introduction


Use any one method, or combination of methods, to introduce your subject in an interesting way to the reader.
Method #1: Begin with a broad, general statement of your topic and narrow it down to your thesis statement. Broad, general
statements ease the reader into your thesis statement by providing a background for it.
Method #2: Explain the importance of your topic to the reader. If you can convince your readers that the subject in some way applies
to them, or is something they should know more about, they will want to keep reading.
Method #3: Use an incident or brief story. Stories are naturally interesting. They appeal to a reader's curiosity. In your introduction, a
story will grab the reader's attention right away. The story should be brief and should be related to your main idea.
Method #4: Use a quotation. A quotation can be something that you have read in a book or an article. It can also be something that
you have heard....a popular saying or proverb ("Never give advice to a friend"); a current or recent advertising slogan ("Reach out and
touch someone"); a favorite expression used by friends or family ("My father always says...."). Using a quotation in your introductory
paragraph lets you add someone else's voice to your own.
Method #5: For narrative writing, start with an action or dialogue of the characters that will draw the reader to want to read on and read
your story.

How to Write a Concluding Paragraph

The concluding paragraph is your chance to remind the reader of your thesis idea. It also brings the paper to a natural end, sometimes
leaving the reader with a final thought on the subject.

Common Methods of Conclusion


Method #1: End with a summary and final thought. After you have stated your thesis and supported it in the introduction and body of
your paper, you restate the thesis and main points in the conclusion. However, don't use the exact wording you used before. The
summary is accompanied by a final comment that "rounds off" the paper and brings the discussion to a close. This combination of a
summary and a final thought is the most common method of concluding an essay.
Method #2: Include a thought-provoking question or short series of questions. A question grabs the reader's attention. It is a direct
appeal to your reader to think further about what you have written. A question should follow logically from the point you already made in

23

the paper. A question must deal with one of these areas:


Why the subject of your paper is important
What might happen in the future
What should be done about this subject
Which choice should be made
You may provide your answer to your question in the conclusion. Be sure your question is closely related to your thesis.
Method #3: End with a prediction or recommendation. Like questions, predictions and recommendations also involve your readers. A
prediction states what will or may happen in the future.
Method #4: End a narrative writing with the conclusion of the story. Don't leave the reader wondering what happens.

Narrative Writing

Choosing A Topic
Most of the time, it is best to tell a story about something that has happened to you. Why? Because you will be able to tell it well
because you remember what happened. If you want to write about something that happened when you were a child and you don't
completely remember it, find someone who does remember the event. However, the story can also be fictional....sometimes using
normal things in unusual ways.

Here are a few ideas for narrative writing:


Write a story about an achievement in your life. (Personal Narrative)
Write a story about a wrapped gift that is found on your porch.
Write a silly story about a shark that is able to talk
Write a children's story about a dog who has human feelings.
Write a mystery story about an empty mailbox.
Think about these topic ideas and you may even come up with one of your own!

Other Things to Remember When Writing an Essay....


1. Introductory Paragraph
Start with an action or a dialogue of characters. This will draw the reader
in and encourage him/her to keep reading.
2. Show the Story (don't tell it)
Dialogue is very important in a story. For example, don't say Mom said I
could go to the movies. Instead, show it with dialogue (example at
right). Remember to start each character's voice with a new paragraph.

"Mom, may I go to the movies on Saturday?"


"It depends on who is going with you."
"John is."
"Ok, you may go, but be home by 10pm."

3. Always use quotation marks to show someone is talking.

1. Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks.

24
Rules for quotation marks:

2. Colons and semicolons go outside the quotation marks


3. Question and exclamation marks go inside the quotation if the
question or exclamation is part of the quotation. If the question
or exclamation is not part of the quotation, the mark will go
outside the quotation.

4. Make sure your story has the following:

Plot - The story line leading up to the climax and then to the
conclusion. Be sure to put events in sequence. This includes
characters and setting(s).
Point of view - Who is telling this story? First person: you as
the author and character in the story (use of "I" in the story).
Third person: you are a "witness" to the story, but not in the
story (use of "he, she, it" in story).
Climax - The high point of the story.
Conclusion - Brings the paper to a natural end and reminds
the reader of your thesis statement.

Persuasive Writing

Definition:
Persuasive writing is a format of expository writing. The writer is trying to either get the reader to come over to the writer's point of view
or to "sell" a product or idea.
You see persuasive writing in every ad that tries to get you to buy something. You also see it during debates among politicians - the goal
is to convince you to vote for them. We use it every day when we try to persuade our family to go on a certain vacation or watch a
certain TV show. Teenagers may use it to persuade their parents to let them go to a football game or borrow the car.
There are several ways you can accomplish persuasive writing. This kind of writing depends mainly on facts. You need to have fact in
order to show the validity of your opinion. Transitional words or phrases are also very valuable in making your writing logical.
Sometimes persuasive writing requires you to take a position FOR or AGAINST an issue. If that is the case, you need to do a lot of
research to support your position.

Your introductory paragraph in a five paragraph (or more) essay needs to grab your reader. In persuasive writing, you can do this in
the following ways:
Open with a strong statement. For example: Cigarettes are the number one cause of lung cancers. Then go on with a thesis
statement that gives at least three ways the topic will be developed in your essay.
Open with a quotation from a speech or author that supports your point of view.
Open with a question like: Have you ever considered how many books we would read if there were no TV?
Open with a statistical fact. Be sure to give the authoritative source of that fact.
After your introductory statement, you need to write a thesis statement. A thesis statement clearly states what you are going to cover
in your essay. In a five paragraph essay, you should have three ideas to develop. If you're writing a longer essay or a research paper,
you will need more ideas...but it is developed in the same way. The thesis statement gives the sub-topics of your paper and will keep you
on track and organized in your writing by establishing limits on your topic.
The body of any paper is developed by using one or more of the following ideas. You can remember them by using the acronym,
F.R.I.E.D.

F - facts
R - reasons
I - incidents

25

E - examples
D - details

Finally, the last paragraph in a five paragraph essay will be the conclusion. Here, you can restate your thesis statement, conclude with
a short summary, or conclude with a personal comment.

Here are some ideas for persuasive writings:


Media violence has a negative effect
School uniforms - take a stand for or against them
Censorship of texts used in schools
Locker searches/personal privacy
Curfew
Helmets (bike riding or motorcycle riding)
Community service hours = take a stand
In some countries, students have to help keep the school they attend clean. Is that a good or bad idea?
Extracurricular sports, music, etc. have to be cut from the school program. Why should the one remain? Why is it a good idea?

Descriptive Writing

Review:
Descriptive writing is defined as a writing that describes what a person, place or things is like. (We use description in all our
writings, but it can be used by itself.)
Use sensory words: What do you see? What do you hear? What does it feel like (touch)? What do you smell? How does it
taste? Not all of these senses will apply to a topic, so use the ones you can use.
Use transitional words-phrases (see separate sheet) to describe.
When describing a person, use characteristics, like personality or other character traits. How does that person act? How do
others respond to that person?
Some ideas for descriptive writing:
What is competition? Describe it from the point of view of the competitor in that particular competition.
Describe a warm, comforting place in your life. (i.e. your own room, your church, nature, etc.)
Choose an appliance in your home that is not working. What would your day be like without that appliance?
You are visiting the zoo. Describe an animal that you had never seen before so your reader can "see" it too.
Nature can be wild and free. Describe something in nature that is still wild and free.
Describe your first roller coaster ride (or the first of anything...even a current activity).

Expository Writing

26

Definition:
Expository writing explains how something is done or how something works. The writer uses facts and there are no "I" statements in the writing
This type of writing requires logical steps. You will use transitional words, such as: first, second, next, finally, etc.
The best way to prepare for expository writing is to think about how this action or product is accomplished. What do you do first, second, third,
etc.? What needs to be done before you start or after you complete the project?

Here are some ideas for expository writing:


What is the most important thing you have ever learned? Explain.
How do car engines work?
How do you tie a man's tie?
How do you make a model airplane?
How does a home defibrillator work?
How does one do CPR to save a person's life?
Which pet would you like to have in your home? Why? How would you go about choosing that pet?
Why do you consider your best friend a best friend? Give at least three reasons.
Compare/Contrast writing: where you compare one thing to another.
In a comparison, you are giving the things that are alike. You will use words such as: similarities, like, similar to, etc.
In a contrast, you are giving the differences. You will use words such as: differs, unlike, etc.
Sometimes a paper of this kind will call for you to give both comparison and contrast - so you will be giving the similarities and the differences.

HowToWriteGood
1.

Avoid alliteration. Always.


2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichs like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12. Comparisons are as bad as clichs.
13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. Be more or less specific.
15. Understatement is always best.
16. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
18. The passive voice is to be avoided.
19. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
22. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

27
Stylesheet for Humanities Papers
Introduction
Paper writing has its own conventions. It is as well to learn these now as to need to correct bad habits later. The style I
recommend is that outlined in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed.
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
I Typing and Presentation
Papers must be typed, double-spaced, on standard 8 1/2"x 11" paper. Use 1 inch margins all round. Use 10 or 12 pt. type. If
using a word processor, do not use right-hand justification as it leads to oddly spaced words. Do not use erasable paper. Staple
the paper in the top left-hand corner. Do not use plastic covers or binders. Keep a copy other than the one you submit
(professors' cars have been stolen before now).
Text should be double spaced (unlike in this handout). Long quotations, however, should be single spaced and indented five
spaces. There is always at least one space after a period. In typing it is customary to leave two spaces.
The paper should be written in paragraphs. The first line of each paragraph should be indented five spaces (one standard tab).
Sub-headings (as in this handout) may be used, but are not considered good style by many. There is no gap between
paragraphs.
II Title Page
The following information should be included on the title (front) page of all papers.

Your name

The course name and number

The lecturer's name (Paul Halsall)

The date the paper was due

The title of the paper

Any epithets you want to use

Nothing else
III The Text
Good grammar is expected of all students. Those new to writing papers should pay special attention to the following, lack of
attention to which represents 90% of grammatical and stylistic errors seen in student papers:i) Spelling
Spelling should follow the generally accepted conventions. If you don't have one, buy a good dictionary.
ii) Correct Use of Tenses
In general refer to actions people did in the past in the past tense (examples: "Napoleon won the Battle of Austerlitz", and
"Voltaire wrote Candide"). Refer to quotations from authors in the present tense, even if the author you are referring to is a
historical person (examples: "E.P. Thompson [a modern writer] says that the English working class evolved only in the 19th
century," and also "Voltaire [an 18th Century author] suggests the Church of his time was corrupt.") In the last case note that
you use the present tense for what Voltaire says/writes/suggests but the past tense for his description of a state of affairs in
the past.
iii) Use of Apostrophes
Apostrophes are not used in the plurals of words (example: "telephones." not "telephone's.") Apostrophes are used to indicate
possession of one thing by another (example "the man's hat.") If the word that possesses is already plural the apostrophe goes
after the "s" that was added to make the word plural (for instance, "The Students' Association" means the association belonging
to many students, but "the student's association" would mean some association pertaining to one particular student.)
iv) Its and It's
"Its" = indication of possession, like "his" or "her."
e.g. "the book's cover" = "its cover."
"It's"= contraction for "it is."

28
v) Capitalization
Capitalize:
1.

The first word in a sentence.

2.

Proper nouns (i.e. names).

3.

Words such as "King," "President," only when referring to a particular person.

4.

Words in titles, but not non-initial conjunctions, prepositions, or articles.


vi) Conditional Verbs I
"He would have been elected," not "He would of been elected."
"She could have done it," not "She could of done it."
vii) Conditional Verbs II
It has been very common to use phrases such as "If he would have helped her, she would now be safe," but this is grammatical
nonsense and does not do what it intends, which is to make a conditional statement about the past. Literally the phrase as it
stands means "If he had wanted to help her, she would now be safe." The phrase should be "If he had helped her, she would now
be safe."
viii Split Infinitives
It is probably a lost cause to argue against them, but too many split infinitives are a sign of an uneducated writer. The infinitive
of a verb is that part which expresses the meaning alone, for example, "to go," "to sing," "to be." In English, the infinitive is
marked by the word "to," but in most other languages the infinitive is just one word, for instance aller, penser (French), gehen,
kaufen (German), cantar, amar (Spanish). For this reason, it has long been considered bad style in English to "split infinitives"
with adverbs. Instead of writing "to quickly go," or "to finally sing," you should write "to go quickly," or "finally to sing."
ix) Use of First Person Pronouns
When writing formal papers only use "I" and "me" when it becomes confusing to avoid them. A term paper is not meant to
"sound" like a letter to a friend or a diary entry.
x) "Feel" and "Believe"
These words are massively overused by students. Your feelings are not relevant to a paper, it's your thoughts that count. When
writing about historical figures, you only know what they "felt" if they left diaries or told someone else their feelings. Unless you
can cite such information, do not state that a historical figure "felt" something. Also do not use "felt" when you mean "thought."
These comments apply to "believe" in a less stringent manner.
xi) "Being that"
"Being that he was King of France, ...." is better rendered "Since he was..,." or "Because he was...," or "When he was..."
xii) Words to Avoid
"Incredible," "Unbelievable," "Literally," "People," "They." Always check that these words really mean something when you use
them.
xiii Passive Constructions
It is bad style to use passive constructions, or more concretely, passive constructions lead to bad style.
Here are some examples:"The King was lynched."
"The White House had been burned down."
"America was discovered."
All these sentences would be stronger and more informative if the person doing the lynching/burning/discovering was put in the
picture.
"The Parisian mob lynched the King."
"The British burned down the White House."
"Columbus (never knew) he discovered America."

29
IV Citations and Notes
You must indicate from where you are making any quotations you use in your paper. It is also important to cite the source of
arguments and ideas when you take them from a textbook or other author. The way to do this is in footnotes (at the bottom of
the page) or endnotes (at then end of the paper). If you have a word processor that puts notes at the bottom of the page use it,
otherwise use endnotes; it is a waste of time to try to type footnotes on a conventional typewriter.
Avoid quotations and paraphrases of the modern authors you consult. Sources from the period you are writing
about may be quoted, but do this sparingly. It is YOUR words and thoughts that are required, and on which you
will be graded.
Notes should be indicated in the text by superscripted numbers, like this - 1. If your equipment cannot superscript, enclose
footnote numbers in brackets like this - [1]. Notes should be numbered consecutively from the beginning to the end of the paper
rather than being separately numbered on each page. Even though the text of your paper is double-spaced, footnotes should be
single spaced. Leave a line between each footnote. The first line of a footnote should be indented five spaces.
The first mention of a source in the footnote or endnote should contain the following information in the order given here:BOOK:- i) Name of author(s) ii) Title of book (underlined/italicized) iii) The edition used (not necessary for first edition) vi) City of
publication v) Publisher vi) Year of publication vii) page references.
JOURNAL ARTICLE:- i) Name of author(s) ii) "Title of Article" (in quotation marks) iii) Name of journal (underlined/italicized) vi)
Number of Journal v) Year of publication (in parentheses) vi) page references.
ARTICLE IN A COLLECTION:- i) Name of author(s) of article ii) "Title of article" (in quotation marks) iii) the word "in" iv) Title of
collection (underlined/italicized) v) The edition used (not necessary for first edition) vi) Name of editor(s) of collection vii) City
of publication viii) Publisher ix) Year of publication x) page references.
Here is an example for a book (with a single author):1

Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France Vol I :1715-1799, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Pelican, 1963), 18.

A textbook with multiple authors would be :2

John B. Harrison, Richard E. Sullivan, and Dennis Sherman, A Short History of Western Civilization, Volume II, Since 1600, 7th
ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990), 18.
An article from a journal would be :3 William Monter, "The Historiography of European Witchcraft," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9 (1978), 450.
An article from a collection would be :4 William Monter, "Protestant Wives, Catholic Saints, and the Devil's Handmaid: Women in the Age of Reformations," in
Becoming Visible: Women in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz, 2d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1987), 206.
Note especially the use of punctuation in these references. Note also that the place of publication is always a city, never
a state or country. If the place of publication is not one of the major publishing centers [i.e., New York, London, Boston, Paris, Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago], indicate the city and the state. Finally with publishers names do not include words such as
"Limited," "Inc." or "Publishing Company.".
Later references to the same author can just give his or her last name and the page number. Do not use "p" or "pg".: for
example:5
6

Cobban, 26.
Monter, ??.

Do not use Latin reference abbreviations such as ibid., idem, or op.cit. They are unclear nowadays and look distinctly oldfashioned. Your aim is to present information as clearly as possible.
More information on footnotes can be found quickly in Webster's Tenth New Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Mass.: MerriamWebster, 1993).
The alternative system of citation is the parenthetical references system used in some fields of academic study. It is not
used in history, but you may wish to investigate it for other classes.

30
V Bibliography
For a college paper your bibliography or booklist should list all the books and articles you have consulted in writing your paper. It
should contain the same information as your first citation in a footnote but in a slightly different order. For example:Bridenthal, Renate and Claudia Koonz, eds. Becoming Visible: Women in European History. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1987.
Cobban, Alfred. A History of Modern France Vol I:1715-1799. 3d ed.

Baltimore: Pelican, 1963

Harrison, John B., Richard E. Sullivan, and Dennis Sherman. A Short History of Western Civilization, Volume II, Since 1600. 7th ed.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.
Monter, William, "The Historiography of European Witchcraft." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9 (1978): 435-51
Monter, William, "Protestant Wives, Catholic Saints, and the Devil's Handmaid: Women in the Age of Reformations." In Becoming
Visible: Women in European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz, , 2d ed., 201-19. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
In a list of books the last name goes first. The books are listed alphabetically in order of the authors' last names. Books without
an author are listed by the first word, excluding "the" and "a" in the title: Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary would go
under "W". It looks better if you indent from the second line of each entry (a hanging indent). For more information see the
pages in Webster's already mentioned.
The following advice appeared in the paper at Fordham University in the Fall'88 Semester. Needless to say it is
meant to be humorous.

HOWTOWRITEGOOD
My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules.
1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichs like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & and abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12. Comparisons are as bad as clichs.
13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

How to Write Good


Avoid alliteration. Always.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
Avoid clichs like the plague. (They're old hat.)
Employ the vernacular.
Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
Contractions aren't necessary.
Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
One should never generalize.
Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations.
Tell me what you know."
Comparisons are as bad as clichs.

31
Don't be redundant; don't more use words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
Profanity sucks.
Be more or less specific.
Understatement is always best.
Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
One-word sentences? Eliminate.
Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
The passive voice is to be avoided.
Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
Who needs rhetorical questions?

Jonathan Hatch

What is a Letter?
A letter is one of the most basic forms of written communication. There are many different reasons for writing a letter, and many
different kinds of letters. A letter usually falls into one of two categories: personal or professional.
Personal letters are simply another way of casually communicating with other peoplelike talking over the telephone or
meeting for coffeeand dont usually follow specific guidelines.
For the purposes of this page, we will assume that you are writing a basic formal business letter. A formal business letter is a
letter written to address a professional matter and should follow very specific guidelines, which are addressed in the steps to the
right.
If you are looking for advice on writing a specific kind of formal letter, check out the following pages: how to write a cover letter,
how to write a letter of intent or interest, how to write a query letter, how to write a recommendation letter, how to write a letter
of complaint.
How to Write a Business Letter
Formatting your business letter correctly is important because it reflects your professional awareness and attitude. If youre
sloppy or careless in writing your business letter, the reader will think youre sloppy or careless at work or school, too (and
theyll probably be right). A lot can be riding on a business letter, so take the time to get it right and double-check everything
before send the letter.
The basic format for a business letter format is called block format. Some professional organizations or situations may call for
more specific formatting, but using the block format is a good start if you are unsure or unaware of any other guidelines for your
business letter.
Formatting your business letter.
Your basic business letter should be printed in black ink on plain 8 x 11 inch unlined paper, with 1 inch margins on all four
sides. You should always use a standard font and font size, such as Times New Roman 12 (a business letter is not the right place
to express your unique personality by using some god-awful unreadable font).
Dating your business letter.
The first element of your business letter is the date. Two inches from the top of the page, aligned to left, you should write out
the date the letter was written (or completed, if written over more than one day), like this: December 13, 2007. Use the
standard American format (month day, year) for organizations within the U.S., otherwise follow the format standard to the
country of the organization you are writing to (for example, European countries place the day first: 13 December 2007).
Addressing your business letter.
Following the date, you should include the senders (your) address, and the recipients address (in that order). These should both
be aligned to the left of the page and single-spaced, beginning one inch below the date, with one blank line between each of the
addresses. Your address should include your street address, city, state, and zip code (in the standard three-line format); you can
also include other relevant contact information, such as you email address or phone number. You do not need to include your

32
name or title in this address, because these can be found at the bottom of the page in your signature. (Note: you can also
choose to omit your address from the top of the page and simply include it with your signature below.)
The recipients address should include a specific name and title if possible, followed by the organization or company name, and
the full address (for international addresses, the country name should be in all capital letters). Do some research if you are
unsure about the name or title of the person to whom you are writing.
Opening your business letter.
Following the addresses is your salutation, or greeting. The salutation should fall one line below the recipient address and be
aligned to the left. Always begin your salutation with Dear and end it with a full colon (never a comma). Use the full title and
last name of the person you are addressing; if you are unsure of the persons gender, it is acceptable to include their first name.
If you addressing a woman and are unsure which title she uses (Mrs., Ms., Miss), go with Ms.. Always try to be as accurate as
possible when including a name and title, and if you really dont know who the letter will be directed to, use the neutral To
Whom It May Concern:".
Writing the body of your business letter
Following the greeting, the body of a business letter should be written in block format. The text should be left-aligned and singlespaced, with no indentation at the beginning of paragraphs and a single line between each paragraph. Use the first paragraph to
introduce yourself and state the purpose of your letter. Follow this with as many paragraphs (try to keep it to one or two) as
necessary to explain and justify your purpose, then conclude with one paragraph that reiterates your point.
It is imperative to state your message as clearly and concisely as possible. Get your point across, but be brief. Theres a good
chance the person reading your letter will be extremely busy, and youll impress them more with clarity and brevity than three
pages worth of extra details. Have someone you trust give you feedback on your letter, or put it aside for a little while and reread if before sending it
Closing your business letter
End your letter with a friendly but formal closing statement, such as Thank you or Sincerely, followed by a comma. The
closing statement should be aligned to the left one line below the end of the last paragraph, followed by four blank lines (for
your written signature), then your typed title and name. (Note: If you choose not to include your address at the top of the page,
you should include it directly below your name here).
Sending your business letter.
Before you send your letter, look over your formatting, spelling, punctuation, etc. If Microsoft Word is your word processor, you
can use spell-check and the Letter Wizard (in Word 2000 and up) to help you double-check everything. Make sure you sign your
name, include any extra documents, and clearly write the recipient and return address on the envelope (or use address labels)/
Copyright 2007-2008 Jonathan Hatch. All rights reserved.

Jonathan Hatch

What is a cover letter?


A cover letter is the letter you send along with your resume and/or application to potential employers. Employers usually read
your cover letter before anything else, so your cover letter creates their first impression of you and should be well written and
memorable. A successful cover letter should meet a few basic objectives:

provide a brief but thorough history of your relevant experience and skills

show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the position you are applying for

show the reader that you are taking the time to create a unique application

provide a good example of your written communication skills

How to Write a Cover Letter


Writing a cover letter can be overwhelming and confusing as you decide what and how much information to include about
yourself, your interest in, and qualification for the position you are applying to. Writing a successful cover letter is really all about
choosing and presenting the information in a way that makes it clear why you are the best choice. Choose qualifications that
make you unique as well as experience necessary to the job, and then tell the reader why these things make you desirable. This

33
will not only set you apart from the other bazillion application, but creates another opportunity for you to express your
understanding of what the employer is looking for in a successful candidate.
Write an informed cover letter.
Before you sit down to write your cover letter, do some research about the position and workplace to which you are applying.
Creating a unique cover letter that showcases your knowledge of the company and what they are looking for in a successful
candidate will make your application stand out from the others. Create a list of qualities and experiences the employer is looking
for, and compare this to your own experience and skills (which should be included in your resume). Choose a few of the best to
highlight in your cover letter
Get your questions answered before writing your cover letter.
If you want more information than the job description or want ad provides, research the company website and dont be afraid to
call the company (unless the job description specifically says not to) an HR representative or the person to whom your
application will be sent. Keep your questions to a minimumjust enough to inform yourself and show your enthusiasm. This is a
great opportunity to add important information to your cover letter, and create an additional opportunity to connect with your
potential employer.
Highlight your best accomplishments and skills.
Use your cover letter to highlight the skills shown in your resume (see How to Write a Resume) and make your experience
relevant to the employer. Do not simply list the information contained in your resume. Instead, use the cover letter to explain
why this job or that skill makes you an excellent candidate. Think of the cover letter as an opportunity to interpret your resume
for the employer.
For example: I spent three years working as a writing tutor at my university versus My work as a writing tutor gave me
experience working with creative and professional writing students of all levels individually and in a class-room setting. The first
sentence merely restates information that can be found in a resume. The second phrase shows that the applicant has a diverse
understanding of the needs of writing students, and is flexible and comfortable in a variety of settings
Write your cover letter in a confident, professional voice.
Look for ways to reflect this attitude in your language. For example, use when instead of if when referring to your potential
success in the position (When I am hired I will bring this and that and this to the company.). Dont be afraid to come right out
and tell they employer exactly why you should be hired (the point of your cover letter is, after all, to sell yourself). Be friendly,
but not too casual; avoid slang, obscure references, and too many personal details
Format your letter correctly.
(See How to Write a Business Letter). Proofread your letter more than once before sending it, and ask someone else to proofread
your letter also. Follow the basic business letter format and build the necessary information about yourself into the body of 2-3
paragraphs. Use the first paragraph to introduce yourself, the position you for which you are applying, any connection you may
have to the company. In the following paragraph(s) highlight your relevant experience and explain why this sets you apart from
other candidates
Supplementing your cover letter.
Every application is different, but usually you will need to include a resume with your cover letter. Additional application
materials may include samples of previous work (writing, art, etc.). You should only ever include more than a resume if the
application specifically calls for this.
Before you write your cover letter, update your resume and, if youre able, tailor it to the needs of the employer. Only include
previous jobs and experience that reflect your ability to succeed in this position (your burger-flipping gig ten years ago probably
doesnt need to be included). Organize your resume to showcase this experience first, followed by the extras like education,
volunteer experience, etc. If you dont have enough experience to do this, then put your best foot forward, so to speak. Put your
best achievements first, and add a brief description to any seemingly unrelated experience that ties the skills you used in those
positions to the one you are applying for now. (For more information, see How to Write a Resume).

Jonathan Hatch

What is a Resume?
A resume is a short (one to two pages) document that sums up your achievements and experience, usually for professional
purposes, like applying for a job. You will usually send your resume in along with a cover letter introducing yourself and your
abilities.

34
A resume does not need to, and should not, list everything you have ever done; instead, your resume should include the
information relevant to professional goals and your reader or potential employer (see Tailoring your Resume below).
(Note: A curriculum vitae is similar to a resume, but more focused on academics. For more information, see How to Write a
Curriculum Vita.)
How to Write a Resume
A well-written and organized resume will create a successful professional image of you to potential employers, as well as
demonstrate your written communication and organizational skills. The information you present regarding your experience and
qualifications is of course the most important part of your resume, but there are other factors that contribute to a successful
resume. The effectiveness of your resume depends on how you choose to organize your information; a clear presentation of the
important details will make it easier for the reader to learn (and remember) what they need to about you.
Every resume should include this basic information:
your name, contact information, and relevant experience (professional, academic, and otherwise). Your name and contact
information should be at the top of the first page of your resume. Centering, bolded font, and/or a slightly larger font size are
formatting techniques that make this information easier for the reader to find and keep track of. How much or how little contact
information you include is up to you and the requirements of the application; usually your mailing address, phone number, and
email address are sufficient. Continue reading for tips on choosing and organizing the rest of your information.
Choosing information for your resume.
Deciding the information you include in your resume has a lot to do with what exactly you have to choose from. A recent college
graduate will naturally have less experience than someone whos been in the workforce for a decade or two, and, generally, the
less you have to choose from, the less you leave out. When choosing which experience to include, keep in mind the job you are
applying to. Will they care that you volunteered at the nursing home when you were nine years old? Or will they care that you
have a college degree, five years of experience at your job, and know how to create an Excel Spreadsheet? (For more
information on this process, see Tailoring Your Resume, below).
Organizing information in your resume.
As a rule, the information on your resume should be organized to into broad categories of experience, such as Education, Work
Experience, Volunteer Experience, Publications, Skills, Interests/Hobbies, etc. When organizing the categories, put the most
important and relevant experience first: if you are a recent college (or high school) graduate without a lot of work experience,
then your educational information will likely be the first on your resume. If you have plenty of relevant work experience, then
this will come first, followed by any additional professional skills and success (such as publications), and finished up with your
education.
A note about References is always a good final piece of information to put on your resume. You can include the names and
contact information for your resume, but its usually sufficient to just say youll provide this information upon request.
Within each category the information should usually be arranged chronologically, from newest to oldest. For categories such as
Skills or Interests, organizing the information by relevance to the position you are applying to is a good idea.
Formatting your resume.
When formatting your resume, you can choose to create your own format, build off of others suggested formats, or use readymade formats, so rather than give you a point-by-point set of rules on how to format your resume well just give you a few solid
guidelines. The first and most important thing to remember when formatting your resume is to keep it simple. Potential
employers need to be able to read your resume quickly and easily; this means as few as possible extra lines, boxes, fonts,
numbers, and bullet points.
A few simple formatting changes, such as bolded (or bigger) font for category headings, indenting and italicizing certain
information within each category (like job titles, descriptions, and dates). Formatting your resume in a way that presents your
information simply and effectively will not only help your reader, but will say a lot about your written communication skills as
well.
Including "extras" in your resume.
Adding extra information about things like your personal interests, hobbies, and accomplishments to a resume can be a bit of
a grey area. If your resume is pretty short, it wont hurt to add a small section detailing any personal interests that may
accentuate your desirability as an employee (for example, mountain climbing can show determination, or knitting can show an
eye for detail). If you have personal accomplishments that are relevant to the job youre seeking, than by all means include
them, and dont be afraid to point out their relevance. Most importantly, if you know that your potential employer would
appreciate these details, include them. If not, if the position or company is highly formal, then dont. If youre not sure and want
to play it safe, stick to professional details when writing your resume.
Tailoring your resume.
You may want to write a stock resume, one that includes a more thorough overview of your experience than maybe necessary,
then edit this to better fit individual applications. By tailoring your resume like this, you save yourself the time and effort of

35
completely rewriting your resume each time you send it out, and you also make it easier to pick and choose from
accomplishment according to the needs of whatever position you may be applying for. For example, a magazine hiring staff
writers will be interested to you know that you have a knowledge of various editorial styles, while elementary school tutoring
center would rather know that youve volunteered in your sisters third grade classroom.
There is nothing wrong with tailoring your resume, indeed youre making it easier for the potential employer to assess you by
sifting through your information for them. Just be aware that tailoring your resume does not include embellishing details or
outright lying; this is wrong for the obvious reasons and will likely harm your chances of being hired in the long run.
How to avoid common proofreading pitfalls
While errors can lurk anywhere on the printed page, some parts of the text are particularly good at offering camouflage.
Experienced proof-readers know to check the following trouble spots.
The table of contents against the text
If you extract an automatic table of contents, check that it has been updated to take in any changes. If you are working with a
manual table of contents, make sure that all the headings are listed and that the wording in the table of contents matches the
text, and that all pages numbers are correct.
All headers and footers (a favourite hiding place)
Check for spelling mistakes, wording left from a source document or previous version, correct placement on page and changes
between sections.
All footnotes and endnotes
Check all footnotes and endnotes. Are they mentioned in the text? Are they numbered consecutively?
Pairs
Pay attention to punctuation pairs, such as brackets, dashes, and quotation marks.
Placeholders
Placeholders such as XXX are often used when information is to be filled in later. Check that final versions are complete.
Block capitals, italics and tight spacing
Some text styles make proofreading much harder. Be especially careful when proofreading block capitals, italics and tightly
spaced text.
En and em dashes
Its easy to get en and em dashes mixed up make sure they are used correctly. And be consistent about whether or not you
have a space before and after the dash.
Copy you have written yourself
We tend to be much less effective at proofreading our own work, especially if we have just written it. Wherever possible, get
someone else to proofread your own copy.
Double consonants and vowels (another favourite hiding place)
Its easy to misspell words that include double letters. Likewise, writers often insert double letters in error. A series of thin letters
can be especially troublesome.
Lists
Lists should show parallel construction. In other words, all list items should fit grammatically after the stem sentence and begin
with the same part of speech.
Numerals
Its easy to overlook the numbering in a document. This includes numbered headings, tables and figures.

36
How to change the tone of your writing
Many business documents are written with little thought about the tone of the writing. Think about the tone at the start and, if
appropriate, build in some of the following techniques to make your tone more relaxed and personal.
Ask a question
Why? It re-engages the reader. You can either answer the question or make it rhetorical. Questions give your reader a quick
wake-up call. Your reader has to think about the answer rather than just receive the information.
Use the imperative
This is a really useful device. Here's a draft sentence:
All applicants are required to ensure all forms are filled in and then returned to us by way of the envelope provided.
Ask yourself: 'What do I want the applicants to do?' Then, give them clear instructions. Here's a re-write using the imperative:
You must:
fill in the forms
put them in the envelope provided
post the envelope back to us.
The imperative means giving a clear instruction by using the verb (the action word) that tells the reader what they need to do.
Use contractions
Using contractions like don't instead of do not, or I'm instead of I am sends a different message to the reader. We talk with
contractions, but tend to write without them.
Some organisations think using contractions is wrong. It isn't. It's your choice. Much of the journalism we read uses
contractions. Try drafting with contractions in and note the change of tone.
Why use contractions?
Because writing with contractions is more conversational and will affect the tone of your whole document, making it more
relaxed and personal.
Use personal pronouns
You could write:
It is proposed that action be taken to remedy the fault.
The question is: who is proposing and who should sort out the fault?
Using personal pronouns changes the tone:
We propose that you remedy the fault.
How to write references for Internet pages and online resources
Writing references also called citations is as simple (or as complicated) as writing them for printed sources. If you've ever
spent time agonising over how to reference a website page, then read on.
The three main types of electronic sources are:
1.

websites or web pages

2.

complete works (reports, research papers, online books)

3.

articles from periodicals such as journals or newspapers.


Use the guidelines below and it's easy.

37
Be as specific as possible
The diversity of material on the Internet can sometimes make it difficult to create useful references. The number one rule is to
be as specific as possible. Remember that the main purpose of any reference is to enable readers to find a particular website,
page or document themselves. Here are two examples presented in both American Psychological Association (APA) and Write
Group style. There are more examples at the end of this page.
Web page (APA)
Write Group Limited. (2003). StyleWriter. Retrieved May 20th, 2003, from http://www.write.co.nz/mainsite/StyleWriter.html
Web page (Write Group)
Write Group Limited. StyleWriter. 2003. Retrieved from http://www.write.co.nz/mainsite/StyleWriter.html (20 May 2003)
Article on website (APA)
Write Group Limited. (2003). How to write references for Internet pages and online resources. Free stuff. Retrieved May 20th,
2003, from http://www.write.co.nz/mainsite/HowToWriteReferencesForInternetPagesAndOnlineResou.html
Article on website (Write Group)
Write Group Limited. 'How to write references for Internet pages and online resources.' Free Stuff. (2003). Retrieved from
http://www.write.co.nz/mainsite/HowToWriteReferencesForInternetPagesAndOnlineResou.html (20 May 2003)
Be consistent
You need to include the same key elements and to order them in the same way that you do for print sources. The details of how
you do this will depend on the referencing style you use.
Remember these two differences
Internet sources differ from print sources in two main ways.
Internet sources should include two dates the date on which a web page was last updated (if possible) and the date
on which it was accessed.
Internet sources should have a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that shows where you sourced the document.
Include as many of these elements as possible
Author
Format the author(s) and/or editors as you would for a print citation.
Date of publication or revision
This will be the date of publication (for complete works or periodicals) or of last amendment (for web pages). This date may be
at the bottom of the page. If there is no date, write 'n.d.'.
Title of document
Format the title and subtitle as you would for a print citation. This element may be the title of an article, or the title of a chapter.
Start the citation with the title if there is no author or editor.
Title of complete work
This may be the title of the book, or a periodical. Use italics.
Issue information
For periodicals, this will be volume, issue, and (perhaps) page numbers.
Date of access
The way in which you format this element will depend on your referencing style, but it is important to include the date on which
you accessed the document on the Internet.
Uniform Resource Locator
The best way to make sure you record the URL accurately is to copy and paste it into your word processing document directly
from the address window in your browser. If you must break a long URL over a line, break it after a slash or before a period.
Don't add any punctuation at the end of the URL.
More examples
The following examples are presented in both APA and Write Group referencing styles.
Web page (APA)
University of Tennessee. University Libraries. (2003). Reference shelf: Style manuals. Retrieved February 17th, 2003, from
http://www.lib.utk.edu/refs/style.html

38
Web page (Write Group)
University of Tennessee. University Libraries. Subject Guides: Style Manuals. (2003). Retrieved from
http://www.lib.utk.edu/refs/style.html (20 May 2004)
Chapter in an online book (APA)
Harnack, A., & Kleppinger, E. (2003). Choosing and evaluating Internet resources. In Online!: A reference guide to using internet
resources. Retrieved May 7th, 2003, from http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/lnks4.html
Chapter in an online book (Write Group)
Harnack, A, and Kleppinger, E. 'Choosing and Evaluating Internet Resources.' In Online!: A Reference Guide to Using Internet
Resources. (2003). Retrieved from http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/lnks4.html (20 May 2003)
Journal article (APA)
Greenberg, M. T. (2001). The prevention of mental disorders in school-aged children: Current state of the field. Prevention and
Treatment, 4, Article 0001a. Retrieved May 7th, 2003, from http://journals.apa.org/prevention/volume4/pre0040001a.html
Journal article (Write Group)
Greenberg, M T. 'The Prevention of Mental Disorders in School-Aged Children: Current State of the Field.' Prevention and
Treatment, 4, Article 0001a. (2001). Retrieved from http://journals.apa.org/prevention/volume4/pre0040001a.html (7 May 2003)
Referencing styles
Your preferred referencing style will have its own guidelines for setting out citations.
The following links will lead you to useful Internet sites.
The American Psychological Association
http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html
University of Tennessee Libraries
http://www.lib.utk.edu/refs/style.html
Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Resources
http://www.smpcollege.com/online-4styles~help
How to test the quality of the words on your website
Seven tests for quality web content
Do these quick tests on every web page you write or edit. Use the tests for quality control of web content.
1.

The 3-second test


(Do I get the gist of this page after looking at it for 3 seconds, and without scrolling?)

2.

The ID test
(Is it obvious whose site this is, and where the owners are located?)

3.

The accessibility test


(Can everyone get the essential information regardless of their ability, computer, modem, browser, or preferences?)

4.

The 'so what?' test


(Are you talking to me? Why should I care? And is it obvious what I'm supposed to do next?)

5.

The 'yeah, right!' test


(Can I trust you? How smart are you? How old is this information?)

6.

The serenity test


(Does the page look spacious, calm and orderly? Does its very appearance make me feel confident and calm?)

7.

The found-in-space test


(Can I find this page by using a common search engine or directory?)
2004 Rachel McAlpine Trust
Seven tests for quality web content was written by Rachel McAlpine. You'll find this article and more on her website at
www.qwc.co.nz.
How to use dashes (en dashes and em dashes) correctly
Perhaps the most important rule about using a dash is to make sure it is a dash rather than a hyphen.
Hyphens join words and parts of words (eighty-five, pre-empt).
Dashes are used quite differently.

39
The short dash, known as the 'en dash'
An en dash () is used to separate numbers (for example, dates and page numbers) and proper nouns of equal value.
The shortcut keys in Microsoft Word are Ctrl + minus on the numeric keyboard.
Examples
19121915
pages 2458
New ZealandAustralia relations
handeye coordination
Never use an en dash with the words between and from.
Examples
the period between 11.30am and 1.30pm not the period between 11.30am1.30pm
sorted in sizes from 12 to 18 not sorted in sizes from 1218
The long dash, known as the 'em dash'
An em dash () is used to mark a sudden break in thought, or to gather up a list of items.
As part of your in-house publishing style, you need to decide whether to use spaces before and after the em dash. That style
decision then needs to be applied consistently whenever you use an em dash. A spaced em dash may be preferred online,
because typefaces can dazzle and blur onscreen.
The shortcut keys in Microsoft Word are Ctrl + Alt + minus on the numeric keyboard.
Examples
Mary and Tom you met them at the opera are coming to dinner.
Integrity, humour, and generosity these are the qualities I want in a partner.
What could I do next walk away, contradict her, or laugh at the absurdity of her suggestion?
Remember: Don't use a hyphen in place of an en or em dash!
How to write a media release that gets read
A good story, well told, leaving the journalists you've sent it to wanting more that's what a good media release should be.
So, let's assume you've got a good story and you want it published. How do you tell it well?
1. Use the inverted pyramid writing principle
Sum up the key message in the first paragraph. That's how journalists write.
Example
Company X today launched a revolutionary new range of primary school learning materials, which will make teachers' jobs
easier and learning fun for children.
The reader's got the key message and wants to find out more about the product, why it's revolutionary and what teachers think
about it.
2. Write further paragraphs of the media release in descending order of importance
The easiest way to edit a newspaper story or magazine article is to cut the last few paragraphs, so put the main aspects of the
story near the beginning.
3. Include plenty of quotes
Facts are dull; people are interesting. What people say or think is newsworthy. Include quotes in your draft media release, and
then get the agreement of the person you're quoting. You might decide to include a quote after the introductory paragraph. In
the case of this story, you could quote the company chief executive, a school principal, a pupil or a classroom teacher.
Example
'I like the bright colours,' says Evelyn, aged seven. 'I think I'll be chatting less in class from now on.'
The quote is simple, but believable. Notice where the quotation marks, commas, and full stops go. You can use says or said; both
are acceptable. But stay well away from commented, remarked, and so on.

40
4. Keep the media release to a page or a page and a half at the most

Look at the length of your media release from the reader's point of view. If journalists want more information, they'll contact you.
(Better still, take the initiative and ring them once you've sent the release in.)
If you want to provide more information, write a separate background sheet, using a question and answer format.
5. Include your contact details at the end of the release
Include your contact telephone numbers and email address. Make it easy for journalists to contact you.
6. Use plain language writing techniques
Keep your sentences short. Use everyday words cut any jargon. Include contractions I'm, we're, didn't. It's more
conversational, and it's the style of language newspapers use.
7. Write an eye-catching headline
This can make all the difference! You can write your headline last or first. Journalists may use it or may write their own.

41
How to write useful, accurate minutes
Why write minutes?
It may seem an obvious question, but think it through for a moment. Most conversations we have aren't minuted. Will your
minutes:
keep people informed of progress?
remind people what they should do and by when?
be a legal record of decisions?
What type of minutes should I write?
If you know why you're writing minutes, you can then decide what type of minutes you should produce.
Here are some options:
a full verbatim record of what everyone said
a full outline of the discussion plus any decisions and action points
a brief outline of what was discussed plus decisions and action points
just decisions and action points
decisions only
action points only.
Where can I find examples?
For an example of 'decisions only' minutes, look up meeting minutes on your local council's website. Notice how brief the
minutes are. They don't include details about discussion or actions. They concentrate on who was present and what was
resolved. They're a legal record of decisions.
Are there specific language conventions about writing minutes?
Yes, but you have some choices as well.
You can write in the active voice:
Jane expressed concern about customer service standards.
(You are specifically identifying one person and what they said.)
Or you can use the passive voice:
Concern was expressed about customer service standards.
(You are deliberately not saying who expressed concern.)
Write minutes in the past tense. You are writing about discussions that have already happened. When you are typing up
the minutes from your notes, you are recording a past event.
So you write:

Paul stated that staff needed new uniforms.

(right)

Paul states that staff need new uniforms.

(wrong)

How to write effective 'bad news' letters


Giving people bad news isn't always an easy task. People may read bad news letters several times. They may be able to accept
the bad news, but find a harsh tone more difficult to take.
Define your purpose
You may need to communicate a negative decision, but consider your reader. Do you want them to feel rejected or reassured?
Even though they didn't get the answer they wanted, are you treating them with respect?

42
Get the words and tone right
Once you have worked out your purpose, then turn to the words and tone you want to use.
Words like:
rejected
not accepted
failed
wrong
unsuccessful
have their place, but too many in one letter can be depressing!
What about tone? Make sure your writing is friendly, not distant and harsh.
Also, a quick tip about the word but beware of what it communicates.
For example, you might write:
Your performance overall has been satisfactory, but I am concerned about your lack of computer skills.
The reader will tend to focus on the message after but (the negative) and forget about the positive first clause. Answer? Cut the
sentence in two and drop but.
Decide on your structure
Here's a useful formula:
1.
2.

Shake hands with the reader introduce yourself and say why you are writing.
Give them background information about the issue. Include any positive information about the reader's application,
submission, and so on.

3.

Communicate the bad news.

4.

Reassure the reader.


The bad news is deliberately the third item. Points one and two give you the chance to form a relationship and set the tone of
your writing before giving them the bad news. Point four aims to restore the reader's confidence.

How to write good

Always avoid alliteration.


with.

28.

Prepositions are not words to end sentences


29.

Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would


suffice.
Subject and verb always has to agree.

Avoid cliches like the plaguethey're old hat.


30.
Employ the vernacular.

Be more or less specific.

31.

Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not


correct.

Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

32.
Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch
Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are typograhpical errers.
unnecessary.
33.
Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
Parenthetical words however must be
enclosed in commas.
34.
Don't be redundant.
It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

35.

Contractions aren't necessary.

10.
11.

36.
Do not use a foreign word when there is an
adequate English quid pro quo.
37.
One should never generalize.

Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not
needed.

38.

Don't never use no double negatives.


Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how
others use them.

43
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.

Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson


39.
once said:
40.
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
41.
Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
42.
Don't be redundant; don't use more words
43.
than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
44.
It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.

17.

Avoid archaeic spellings too.

18.

Understatement is always best.

19.

Exaggeration is a billion times worse than


understatement.

20.

One-word sentences? Eliminate. Always!

21.

Analogies in writing are like feathers on a

22.

snake.

Eschew obfuscation.
No sentence fragments.
Don't indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
A writer must not shift your point of view.
Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long
sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

45.
46.

Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.


is.

47.
48.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb


Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with


singular nouns in their writing.

49.

Always pick on the correct idiom.

The passive voice should not be used.

50.
The adverb always follows the verb.
Go around the barn at high noon to avoid
51.
Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
colloquialisms.
52.
If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal
24.
Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you
of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
have said before.
53.
And always be sure to finish what
25.
Who needs rhetorical questions?
23.

26.
27.

Don't use commas, that, are not, necessary.


Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can
do it effectively.

The amazing English language


Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

44
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in
England or French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. and why is it that writers
write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth?
One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? Is it an odd, or an end?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what
language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?
Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a
form by filling it out, and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at
all.
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Excuse notes from parents


These are actual excuse notes from parents (including original spellings) collected by Nisheeth Parekh, University
of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

My son is under a doctors care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.
Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
Dear School Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.
Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the sh*ts. [words in the ( )'s were crossed
out]

45
Rule
1.

Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words
such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear.
Example
s:

You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm
clothing.
I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
I want an assistant who can do the following: (1) input data, (2) write reports,
and (3) complete tax forms.

Rule
2.

A colon should not precede a list unless it follows a complete sentence; however, the colon is
a style choice that some publications allow.
Example
s:

If a waitress wants to make a good impression on her customers and boss, she
should (a) dress appropriately,
(b) calculate the bill carefully, and (c) be courteous to customers.
There are three ways a waitress can make a good impression on her boss and
her customers:
(a) Dress appropriately.
(b) Calculate the bill carefully.
(c) Be courteous to customers.
I want an assistant who can (1) input data, (2) write reports, and (3) complete
tax forms.

Rule
3.

Capitalization and punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases in bulleted
form. If each bullet or numbered point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and
end each sentence with proper ending punctuation. The rule of thumb is to be consistent.
Example
s:

I want an assistant who can do the following:


(a) input data,
(b) write reports, and
(c) complete tax forms.
The following are requested:
(a) Wool sweaters for possible cold weather.
(b) Wet suits for snorkeling.
(c) Introductions to the local dignitaries.
OR
The following are requested:
(a) wool sweaters for possible cold weather
(b) wet suits for snorkeling
(c) introductions to the local dignitaries
NOTE: With lists, you may use periods after numbers and letters instead of
parentheses.
These are some of the pool rules:
1. Do not run.
2. If you see unsafe behavior, report it to the lifeguard.
3. Have fun!

46
Rule
4.

Use a colon instead of a semicolon between two strong clauses (sentences) when the second
clause explains or illustrates the first clause and no coordinating conjunction is being used to
connect the clauses. If only one sentence follows the colon, do not capitalize the first word of
the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each
sentence following.
Example
s:

I enjoy reading: novels by Kurt Vonnegut are among my favorites.


Garlic is used in Italian cooking: It greatly enhances the flavor of pasta dishes.
also enhances the flavor of eggplant.

Rule 5.

Use the colon to introduce a direct quotation that is more than three lines in length. In this
situation, leave a blank line above and below the quoted material. Single space the long
quotation. Some style manuals say to indent one-half inch on both the left and right
margins; others say to indent only on the left margin. Quotation marks are not used.
Example
:

The author of Touched, Jane Straus, wrote in the first chapter:


Georgia went back to her bed and stared at the intricate patterns of
burned moth wings in the translucent glass of the overhead light. Her father
was in hyper mode again where nothing could calm him down.
Hed been talking nonstop for a week about remodeling projects,
following her around the house as she tried to escape his chatter. He was just
about to crash, she knew.

Rule 6.

Use the colon to follow the salutation of a business letter even when addressing someone by
his/her first name. Never use a semicolon after a salutation. A comma is used after the
salutation for personal correspondence.
Example
:

Dear Ms. Rodriguez: