I. Aids for initial thinking and developing
A. Remember that you are communicating something to a specific audience or to the world at large. You are not writing to please just yourself or your instructor.
B. Select a tone or mood, establish it early, and keep it throughout the paper: personal, impersonal, formal, conversational, objective, subjective, unsympathetic, serious, humorous, etc.
C. After selecting a subject, decide on the central idea: then further limit the scope of it by reducing the central idea to a proposition (thesis statement), which answers the question: What about the subject?
D. Secure adequate material about the subject by observing, conversing, reading, and thinking!
E. Consider the validity of your sources of information and their appropriateness of the kind of writing to be done.
F. Continue asking questions about the thesis--How? and Why? in particular. Jot down the answers to these questions in a list.
II. Aids for organizing and further developing
A. Organize your material by making an outline.
B. Use the random list of ideas in I.-F. above to group the related ideas by placing a distinctive mark (A, B, C, D) beside each of those belonging together. Combine ideas that group logically.
C. Select a topic for each major group of ideas (I, II, III, IV).
D. Discard topics and groups of or single ideas that are not relevant to the thesis (central idea) or that are too minor to be included. Subordinate groups (A, B, C; 1, 2, 3, 4; a, b, etc.) under the appropriate topic or sub-topic.
E. Choose a suitable pattern of organization and hold to it.
F. Arrange the topics in logical order.
G. Arrange the items of each sub-topic in logical order.
H. Continue to ask the What?, how?, why?, when?, where?, etc., for each item of each major and minor group so that you will have specific rather than general statements/examples. (What happened to a particular person at a particular time and at a particular place?)
I. Do not confuse opinions with facts. Opinions must be supported by facts.
J. Observe these rules in outlining: 1. The introduction and the conclusion are omitted from the outline. 2. Divisions are indicated by the alternation, in a definite pattern, of numerals with letters, beginning with Roman numerals. 3. Each topic and sub-topic should begin with a capital. Only proper nouns/adjectives are normally capitalized thereafter. 4. If there is only one sub-topic, precede it with a colon, and place it on the same line as the topic or sub-topic. 5. Parallel items within any given division of the outline have the same grammatical form; that is, they are all prepositional phrases or nouns/ pronouns or gerunds or infinitives, etc.
1. See I. A. and B. above.
2. Keep the reader in mind. Write so that he will understand that which you are trying to tell him; do not make him struggle to get your ideas. In other words, be direct; write clearly!
3. Be natural and sincere. Avoid flippancy, cheap cynicism, nihilism, and unmotivated vehemence. Do not generally affect a breezy manner. Do not try to be "literary". Do not try to cover a paucity of ideas with a superfluity of words.
4. Write a rough draft of the composition from the outline. Read the rough draft over carefully several times, making all the necessary corrections and changes. Then copy the corrected composition carefully.
5. Wait twenty-four hours at least. Then reread your composition objectively, and correct any errors noticed with that reading.
6. Select a suitable and interesting title. The title is not a part of the paper; therefore, the first sentence cannot refer to it by pronoun or by any other means.
7. Write the composition in its final form.
1. Make the paragraph, not the sentence, the basic unit of thought and organization in the composition.
2. Explain all abstractions and generalizations in definite, specific, concrete terms, but do not overstate.
3. Do not generally use an obvious statement of intent such as one of these: "I think," "In my opinion," "I will relate in this composition," "To me," "The writer believes," "The author of this paper." Place yourself in the background. However, the active "I believe" construction is superior to the weak passive construction "It is believed."
4. Use third person predominantly. First person is used for papers centered around personal experience or opinion. Second person is used for directions given to a participating audience.
5. Use past tense predominantly also. Present tense is used for statements that are universally true. Future tense is used for that which will be true in the future.
6. Never include such statements as "There are many reasons why. . . but there is not time to relate them all." The reader will immediately feel the incompleteness of the composition.
7. Avoid excessive use of the expletives it and there (There is: There are). Also avoid "Yes, . . . ." "No, . . . . and similar constructions. Simply tell why.
8. Use abbreviations carefully and sparingly. Mr., Messrs., Mrs., and their foreign equivalents; Dr., St., Rev., And Hon., preceding proper names; and Esq., Sr., and Jr., following proper names, are some of the few abbreviations allowed in the text of a composition.
9. Do not begin a sentence with a numeral. Numbers less than one hundred and all round numbers should be spelled out. Numbers larger than one hundred, except round numbers, are given in figures. If in the same series there are numbers both smaller and larger than one hundred, use figures for all of them. A fraction is spelled out unless it is part of a mixed number. House numbers, dates, and scores of ball games are indicated by figures. Numbers with four or more digits, except street, telephone, page numbers, and dates, must have commas inserted to point off thousands and millions. In dates, B.C. follows the year; A.D. precedes it. Percentages are given in Arabic numerals. Per cent is two separate words. Do not use the symbol for per cent.
10. Underscore titles of full length publications (books, magazines, newspapers). Titles of short stories, songs, short poems, and the like are enclosed in quotation marks.
1. Do all final composition work with ink or with typewriter on unlined white paper.
a. Handwritten papers must be easy to read. Strike a happy medium in size.
b. Typewritten papers must be double spaced, follow standard conventions in typing, and be neatly prepared. (Do not add an extra space between paragraphs.)
2. Keep a margin of 1-1/4 inches from each edge.
3. Center the title at the top of the first page; 1-1/4 inches from the top.
a. Use no punctuation unless it is absolutely necessary.
b. Use no quotation marks or underlining unless your title is an item that normally require such.
c. Skip a full space between the title and the composition proper.
4. Indent the first word of every paragraph--about one inch for handwritten papers but five spaces for the typewritten ones.
5. Number your pages--beginning with the second page-- in the upper right hand corner, one inch down and one inch in. Use no punctuation.
6. Respect your reader. Do not include "little helps"such as over and the end at the bottom of any page.
7. Do not carry the division of words to an extreme. One-letter or two-letter divisions are not acceptable. Compound words should be divided according to their major parts. Write both given name and surname, or initials and surname, on the same line. Never divide (1) letters of a radio station or governmental agency, (2) the name of the month and the day, (3) parts of an equation, and (4) combinations of monetary expressions, dates, and hour of the day.
8. Follow your instructor's directions for placing your identification of the reverse side of the last sheet.
1. Is each word the most vivid and expressive one that can be used? (Example: Instead of saying he went down the street, say he /ambled, sauntered, strode, marched., etc./ . . . . . .) Is any word repeatedunnecessarily?
2. Have specific nouns and verbs been used to avoid the need for numerous adjectives and adverbs?
3. Have active verbs been used?
4. Have dialect (generally, that is) and fancy words been avoided?
5. Have simplified and substandard spellings been omitted?
1. Is every sentence grammatically complete?
2. Does every sentence say exactly that which it intended to say?
3. Does each sentence deal with only one thought or closely related thoughts (compound sentence)?
4. Does each sentence logically follow the preceding one(s)?
5. Do transitional words and phrases carry over the thought from one sentence to the next?
6. Is each sentence free from misplaced modifiers and errors in agreement and in faulty pronoun reference?
1. Does each paragraph have a topic sentence--stated or implied?
2. Are the facts relevant? Is each paragraph unified, coherent?
3. Has a transitional device been used to move from one paragraph to another?
4. Does each paragraph begin and end strongly?
1. Is the opening paragraph direct and appealing?
2. Is each paragraph a necessary and important part of the whole composition?
3. Is any given paragraph too long or too short?
4. Has the proper emphasis been given to the ideas?
5. Is the order of paragraphs logical and effective?
6. Is the thought carried easily from one paragraph to the next by the use of good transitional devices?
7. Does the closing paragraph give the reader a sense of completeness?
8. Does the final sentence leave the reader's attention focused on the central idea rather than on a minor or irrelevant aspect of the topic?