|The Rules of Writing
Cite all direct references to a primary or secondary text. Parenthetical citations are quite simple: list the last name of the author of the text cited, followed by the page numbers (or line numbers, if citing poetry or drama) on which the relevant material appears: (Dickens 123). Note that a comma should not be used to separate the author from the page (or line) number. Note, too, that the ending punctuation of the sentence comes after the parenthetical citation; closing quotation marks will come before the citation: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" (Dickens 1).
If the identity of the author is clear from the context of the discussion, the author's name can be omitted from the reference, which will only include the relevant page (or line) numbers. If citing more than one work by a single author, give author's last name, followed by a comma, followed by the shortened title of the work being cited, followd by the relevant page (or line) numbers: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" (Dickens, Tale 1).
Note that the parenthetical citation includes only a name and page number (and, only occasionally, a shortened title). The citation does not include the words "page" or "pages" or any abbreviation thereof ("p." "pp." "pg." etc).
For additional information on parenthetical citations, students are referred to the MLA Handbook. All English majors should own a copy of the Handbook. The Handbook is available for purchase online through the MLA website, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble.com. It is also available for consultation at the library.
||Edit your papers carefully, paying close attention to errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Sentence-level errors impede reading and may distract your reader from the quality of your ideas. Remember that you are submitting this paper for a grade. It should reflect the very same level of attention that you expect from me when I am reading it. Excessive errors in a final draft will be taken as evidence of a lack of care and effort, and the paper will be evaluated accordingly.
||Use a standard-size font such as 12-point "Times New Roman" for your paper. Use the same font style and size throughout the entire paper, including the title and heading.
Your name, the number or title of the course, the name of the instructor, and the date should be typed in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Single-space between these items. Be sure you have spelled your name and my name correctly.
The term "heading" is not to be confused with "header." A "header" is a space reserved at the top of each page. It is used when you want certain information (such as a page number) on every page. The "heading," on the other hand, appears only on the first page of your essay. Do not use the "header" function to create your paper's "heading" information.
||The start of a new paragraph is signalled by an indention of 5 spaces (generally the equivalent of one tab stop or measured .25") from the left margin. DO NOT insert an extra blank space between paragraphs.
Leave a margin of one inch (no less, no more) on each of the four sides of the page. Text should be aligned along the left margin. Students using Microsoft Word should be aware that the default left and right margins in Word are set at 1.25 inches. To change this manually, pull down the "File" menu and select "Page Setup." Go to the "Margins" tab and change the settings. If you want to make the changes permanent and apply them to all documents in the future, click "Default." Otherwise, click "OK."
Assign a number to every page of your paper. Although the first page is counted, no page number should be printed on it. Type the page number in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Alternatively, you may choose to center the page number at the bottom of the page. This helps identify the page if it becomes separated from the rest of your paper.
If you are using Microsoft Word, pull down the "Insert" menu and select "Page Numbers." Select where you want the number to appear. Uncheck the box next to "Show number on first page." Click "OK." To insert your name next to the page number, double click on the page number. The Header box will appear. Insert the cursor next to the page number and type your name. Select the name and click on "right justify" to move it to the right-hand side of the page. Click "Close" to hide the Header box.
||Give your paper an interesting, descriptive, and appropriate title. The title should not be in boldface, italics,
underlined, or set off with "quotation marks."
Each paragraph in your paper should be organized around a single, coherent idea. That central idea should be articulated very clearly in a topic sentence located near the beginning of the paragraph. Any material that is unrelated to that central idea should be cut from the paragraph during revision.
Students are often under the mistaken impression that a "good" essay is divided into five (no more, no less) paragraphs, and this quite often leads to disaster when students try to force unrelated ideas into an artificial five-paragraph structure. The truth is that a good essay will contain as many paragraphs as it requires. Pay close attention to organization and structure when you begin revising your early drafts.
Punctuation matters. You rely on correct punctuation in your own reading; readers of your written work require the same of you. If you do not yet know the rules governing the use of commas, periods, and colons, it is high-time you learned them. Until you know how to use a semicolon or colon correctly, you should refrain from using them.
Commas are used to set off subordinate clauses that begin sentences. Commas are also used with coordinating conjunctions to join together two independent clauses. Independent clauses can also be joined by the use of a semicolon. Remember that colons and semicolons, like periods, always and only follow independent clauses.
Note that commas and periods precede closing quotation marks. Semicolons and colons follow closing quotation marks.
Apostrophes are not warning signs to alert the reader that an "s" is approaching. An apostrophe signals either possession or a contraction. For a singular noun, the possessive is formed by adding 's, even if the noun itself ends in "s": "Bridget Jones's diary," "Charles Dickens's book." For plural nouns, add only an apostrophe: "The student's paper" refers to the paper belonging to a singular student; "the students' paper" refers to a single paper belonging to two or more people (as in a group project).
Note that "its" is a possessive form ("Every dog has its day"), while "it's" is the contracted form of "it is" ("It's raining men").
All quotations should be integrated smoothly into your own prose. Quoted material should fit seamlessly into the grammatical structure of the sentence in which it is introduced. If such integration is not possible, the quotation should be introduced by a complete sentence ending in a colon.
Quotations should be used sparingly. Only quote language which is particularly distinctive or which expresses an idea that is difficult to paraphrase accurately. You may also want to use quotations to lend authority to your ideas or to provide your reader with with the material on which your analysis is based.
Quote accurately, reprinting the material EXACTLY as it appears in the original text. If you make a change to the material you are quoting, you MUST indicate those changes with ellipses or square brackets. Ellipses signal to your reader that material has been removed from the passage quoted; square brackets indicate that words have been added or otherwise altered to render the quoted excerpt grammatically correct. Because ellipses indicate material deleted from the middle of a quoted passage, they should not be used to begin or end a quotation.
Long quotations running to more than four lines of text should be printed in block format. Introduce the quote with a complete sentence ending in a colon. On the next line, begin the quotation, omitting quotation marks. Indent the entire quotation 1 inch (two tab stops) from the left margin. Append an appropriate citation after the final closing punctuation of the quote.
|The first time you mention an author in your paper, you must include both first and last names. Subsequent references to this person may use the last name only. Do not refer to authors by their first names (Call William Shakespeare, "Shakespeare," not "William" or "Bill").
|Saving Your Work
||Students should save multiple copies of the work they submit for a grade. Papers are very rarely lost, but in the event your paper is mislaid, you will need to provide another copy quickly.
|Spelling and Vocabulary
Carefuly prooffread you're paper, looking closely fr mis-pelled words nd typoes. i know this seams like unecesary work, but errors in speling and typogrphicla erors impeed raeding and seroulsy undermined you're papers overall affectiveness.
You should know the difference between the following homophones:
- "your" and "you're"
- "there," "their," and "they're"
- "its" and "it's"
- "affect" and "effect"
These oft-confused words are among the most common mistakes in student papers, so pay close attention to how you have used them in your own paper.
Only use words whose meanings you know. College is an excellent place to develop and expand your vocabulary, but be very sure you are using those newly acquired words correctly. If you use a thesaurus to find synonyms, be sure to check the meanings of those synonyms before you drop them into your paper.
Fasten together the pages of your paper with a staple or paper-clip. Do not enclose your paper in a binder, folder, envelope, or report cover.
Unless special arrrangements are made, electronic submissions of papers will not be accepted.
Students are responsible for making sure the final draft has been received. If you leave your paper in my departmental mailbox, under my office door, or with a friend, you should follow-up with an email to make sure I have received it.
All papers and take-home exams are due at the BEGINNING of class. Place your paper on the table at the front of the room as soon as you come into class. Any papers that are any place other than this table when class begins are considered late.
Late papers will not receive full credit. Furthermore, it is expected that late papers will reflect the additonal time spent on their writing and will be evaluated accordingly.
Any final problems or questions related to the paper should be addressed well in advance of the due date. Your paper should not be accompanied by verbal or written excuses, explanations, requests, or directions to "ignore" or "overlook" errors in formatting, general appearance, legibility, or content.
|Titles of Works
||When giving the title of an essay, poem, or short story, enclose the title in "quotation marks." Titles of books and plays should be underlined or italicized.
|Use of the First Person
||Use first person references sparingly. Remember that expressions such as "I feel" or "it seems to me" are usually unnecessary in academic prose and tend to undermine a paper's pretensions to objectivity. Delete any non-essential references to yourself as the writer of the paper.
|Works Cited Page
Students should take pains to follow exactly the correct MLA format for bibliographic entries. Consult the MLA Handbook for details. All English majors should own a copy of the Handbook. The Handbook is available for purchase online through the MLA website, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble.com. It is also available for consultation at the library.
Remember that the list of Works Cited is organized alphabetically by authors' last names. Do not assign a numerical sequence to your entries. All lines are double-spaced. Each new entry begins flush with the left margin; if an entry runs to more than one line, indent all subsequent lines of the entry 1/2 inch from the left margin (use the "Hanging Indent" option available via the "Format--Paragraph" menu in Microsoft Word). The title "Works Cited" should be centered at the top of the page. Like every other page in the paper, the Works Cited page should be numbered.