These rules and reminders apply to each and every Book Response and formal essay you will write this year. Please read them over now, and bookmark this guide so that you can review them before submitting any written assignment.
As a general rule, you should know that my expectations with respect to your writing are very high. I believe you are each capable of producing serious, substantive analyses of the books which you read, and I will expect your work to reflect a commitment and dedication to excellence.
1. All essays and book responses must be typed, double-spaced, and printed in black ink on plain white 8 1/2 x 11 paper.
2. The paper should be stapled once in the upper left corner; no covers are necessary or wanted.
3. You must number the pages of your paper, beginning with the second page (as your heading on the first page serves to tell me that it is your first page). Numbers should appear in the center of the bottom of the page.
4. You must use the standard Town School heading on all assignments; the date should be the date on which the assignment is due, not that of a prior draft.
While most of the grammar issues in your writing will be fully explored in our grammar book, there are several basic reminders for your writing to keep in mind.
1. Write in complete sentences assembled into complete paragraphs; remember the basic rule that you need to begin a new paragraph with the start of a new idea.
2. Check your spelling over and over again. Simply using the Spellcheck device on your computers is not enough, since it will not cure problems with homonyms or proper nouns from the text; there is absolutely no excuse for a misspelled word from the text, especially character names.
3. In a formal expository essay it is not proper to use contractions, so you should not at any time.
4. When referring to people you must use “who,” not “that” or “which.”
5. Underline or italicize the titles of books, including in any headings and always in the text of your essays.
6. Quotations of 25 words or more must be indented on both sides of the page and single-spaced; if less than 25 words it is your option to so treat them. When you indent and single-space you do not include quotation marks. It is not necessary or proper to change the type size within the quotation.
7. Quotation marks -- “ ” -- must be placed outside of the comma or period in the sentences in which you use them:
“Do not make that mistake again,” said Mr. McCartney, “or you will pay.”
8. The Dangling “This”
Avoid using the word “this” without including whatever it is you are modifying by the term:
“This was a real problem.” “An example of this is ....”
Instead, supply the answer to the question “This what?” which you know I will ask when correcting your papers:
“This situation was a real problem.” “An example of this relationship is ....”
9. Avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.
10. Expository essays should be written in the third person, so do not include personal pronouns such as “I” or “My.”
11. Literature should always be referenced in the present tense, to keep the discussion more lively, so the proper phrasing would be “Holden says…” not “Holden said….”
12. PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!!!
Always begin your essays with an introduction that logically and clearly sets up what the essay will cover, and end with a conclusion which sums up your main points. It must be very clear from your introduction what your thesis is; the introduction must introduce the essay itself, not the book generally. Along the way in the essay you must have a narrative flow to your discussion – that is, your points should transition from one to the next in a logical way. For these reasons, I strongly suggest that you write an outline before beginning, dedicating one main idea per paragraph.
Always attempt to include specific textual references to support your ideas and opinions. When in doubt, include a reference from the text, but also be sure to discuss and analyze that reference; it doesn’t do much good to simply drop a quotation into your paper if you don’t say what point it demonstrates. Page number references are executed as follows: (p. 34); more importantly, your discussion should provide adequate context to place the reference – the page number alone is not sufficient.
Your knowledge of the text must be accurate; mistakes as to which character is responsible for certain actions or statements, or how and when an event takes place, are unacceptable.
Never stop asking “Why?” Remember, this is literary analysis, not fill-in-the-blanks.
Avoid like the plague sweeping phrases that don’t really tell your reader anything specific. All of the following, from your actual essays, should be avoided:
“Something to look forward to”
“All the trouble they went through”
“They really depend on each other”
“On so many occasions”
“He’s come a long way”
“Be there for him”
“Learned to live life to the fullest”
“Let it all out”
“Knew something was up”
“Help each other out”
Instead of vacuous phrases like these, always challenge yourselves to be more concrete and specific.
While literary analysis should never be confused with neuro-surgery, it still must not be so simplified that you feel you can sum up an entire book in one or two paragraphs. You must fight your urge to oversimplify these assignments and reduce the interpretive issues presented by the literature to their most basic level. Accept the fact that these are often complex books with complicated and multi-layered meanings; respect that fact and acknowledge it in your analysis and writing. When in doubt, explain and elaborate.
If you are not perfectly clear about what needs to be improved in your writing after reading my comments, you are strongly encouraged to set up an appointment to talk with me and review each comment on your papers. Don’t remain in the dark and make the same mistakes over and over again.
[N.B.: Repeat the list for each body paragraph]