Writing Guide

By Paul J. Croce

This page offers a set of guides for achieving clear, fair, and persuasive writing. It is a rather spare list designed to help you be your own editor. You can use it to refine your art of writing and in preparation for our discussion of your work. I have culled these suggestions from reading many papers (and effectively serving as students' first reader and prime editor), and I have come to think that it is better to put my suggestions for better writing in black and white at the beginning of the semester rather than only in red during the course of the semester. Numbers toward the right refer to pages in The Brief Handbook, 4th edition, edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell (Wadsworth, 2004), which elaborates on these suggestions and offers still more guidance for good writing.


A. Theme

  • 1. thorough knowledge of the topic … 105-163, 449-451
  • 2. focused thesis, with a title to suit your purpose … 12-20
  • 3. persuasive arguments … 3-12
  • 4. evaluation of facts: … 91-101
    • a. how?
    • b. why?
    • c. what are the implications?

B. Organization, Structure

  • 1. ample examples and documentation … 93-94
  • 2. one point for every paragraph … 62-64
  • 3. smooth flow of ideas, transitions: …64-68
    • a. sentence to sentence
    • b. paragraph to paragraph
  • 4. clear relation of parts … 68-69
  • 5. thorough pursuit of ideas … 70-75
    • a. explanations until the whole idea is written
    • b. interpretations or demonstrations to back up opinions
  • 6. introduction … 76-78
    • a. inform the reader of the theme
    • b. draw the reader into your viewpoint
    • c. raise a question or questions
  • 7. conclusion … 78-80
    • a. summarize briefly
    • b. show an upshot of your point
    • c. offer an answer (or at least a response to your questions)

C. Wording

  • 1. explanations … 351-373
    • a. words that show relations of ideas, e.g., although, in addition, because ...
    • b. persons and things (at least briefly) identified
  • 2. clarity … 415-420, 307-316, 377-412, 343-348, 281-284
    • a. showing, in addition to telling
    • b. awkward language alert: spelling, mixed tenses, punctuation, faulty parallels, passive voice, sentence fragment ...
    • c. precise word choice (to say what you mean)
  • 3. style … 329-345
    • a. end choppy phrasing by combining, deleting, or elaborating
    • b. avoid repeated ideas or phrases by removing the repetition or by extending the argument