1. FORMAT : Type papers with a 12 pt. font, double-space, number pages, and proofread carefully; correctness counts.
  2. LANGUAGE :
    1. While you are encouraged to use your natural voice, avoid highly colloquial usage , such as "The ending blew my mind" or "Her awesome sense of humorâ?¦" Avoid passive construction, such as "irony can be seen inâ?¦" or "a definite freedom was evidenced inâ?¦," which makes writing feel stiff and pompous. Instead, write, "the reference to her brother's saintliness is ironic" or "the seemingly random association of images suggests freedom."
    2. The convention in writing about literature is to discuss actions from a work in present tense, as if they were happening right now: "Joyce creates a melancholic mood with images of night and isolation." Or, "When Marlow first sees Kurtz, heâ?¦."
    3. Use transitional words or phrases to connect parts of your argument (e.g., therefore, furthermore, nevertheless, consequently, however, similarly, by contrast, rather, instead, as a result, on the other hand, for example, etc.). These are SIGNPOSTS that help the reader follow the thread of your argument. Remember, these words can begin a sentence or can connect two independent clauses using the following punctuation: "Woolf's writing can be highly sarcastic and playful; however, in To The Lighthouse , the tone is somber and elegiac." Instead of "So" or "Also," use more formal phrases: "It is clear, then, that Marlow lies to himself on at least one occasion"; "This passage confirms that Marlow isn't honest with himself."
  3. TEXTS :
    1. Introduce the text you're writing about in the beginning of your essay by mentioning the author's full name and the complete title of the work. Titles of books should be underlined or put in italics . (Titles of stories, essays and poems are in "quotation marks.") Refer to the text specifically as a novel, story, essay, memoir, or poem, depending on what it is.
    2. In subsequent references to the author, use his or her last name. If the title is very long and you are making numerous references to it, you can refer to it by a shortened version. i.e., "A Perfect Day For Banana Fish" can become "Banana Fish."
  4. INTRODUCTIONS :
    1. Don't begin by quoting the assignment sheet or indicating which topic you're writing about. Your essay should stand alone, quite independent of the assignment sheet.
    2. Don't begin with vast generalizations like "Within every human being there are unique thoughts and feelings that no other person has ever experienced before." Or, "Color symbolism is found in all great pieces of literature." These "from the dawn of time" statements point to a lack of focus or (public enemy number one) a vague thesis.
    3. In most cases, it's best to state your main idea - your thesis - in the first or second paragraph, so that your reader knows right away what it is that you're going to argue.
  5. BUILDING AN ARGUMENT :
    1. Don't evaluate the quality of the writing ("Faulkner's use of symbolism, narration, word choice, and characterization made this a powerful novel."); analyze and interpret instead. You're not writing a review, where evaluation is appropriate; you're writing criticism (which isn't necessarily critical, but analytic). Avoid comments such as "I likedâ?¦" or "I was confused byâ?¦." Don't refer to your own process of investigation. Instead of writing "I couldn't find a beginning, climax, end in â??The Mark On The Wall,'" (which tells your readers about you instead of the text), you might write "'The Mark On The Wall' dispenses with the traditional beginning-climax-end story structure."
    2. Avoid plot summary at all costs !! It's sometimes hard to resist the desire to rehash a novel's plot. However, remember, in academic writing it is assumed that your audience is familiar with the text. Make sure you're writing an argument, not simply a plot summary.
    3. Evidence. Evidence. Evidence . It's fine to make a point, such as "the first memoir seems rambling and aimless, while the second is tightly structured." But then you must provide examples that support your points. Continue on with, "For example, in â??Reminiscences', Woolf discusses her mother in several places, sometimes repeating herself, sometimes contradicting her previous statements. Twice Woolf tells us that her motherâ?¦.."
    4. Determine what the text says. Don't read your own assumptions into the text, as in: "The speaker must be a man because women wouldn't act so insensitively." Instead, you might say, "The speaker seems to be male because the cursing and the news of the war was more likely the province of men during the early 20 th Century." Instead of a statement such as, "The author shows the pride Americans feel in their freedom," you can more accurately say, "The author is writing about Americans who are proud of their freedom."
    5. The paper should discuss your observations about the text. You may want to consider the following, which is by no means a complete description of either the elements of style or their definitions. Not all of these will be appropriate for every discussion. But having thought about these elements, you should be able to draw conclusions (create an argument, an interpretation) about the overall significance of the text as you understand it.
      1. style : is it formal? journalistic? colloquial, stream of consciousness, etc.?
      2. voice : written in first, second or third person (and why)
      3. imagery : what metaphors and similes are used?
      4. tone : humorous, intimate, sarcastic, conversational, etc.?
      5. mood : melancholic, ecstatic, hyper, suspenseful?
      6. language: poetic? lyrical? scientific? pseudo-scientific?
      7. structure: is it loose and rambling? Tightly structured? Is there a climax and denouement? How are the parts of the story connected?
      8. plot and character development : what do we know of the "story" and of the characters?
      9. symbolism – sometimes a cigar is only a cigar, and sometimes not.
      10. point of view – how do different characters see things? What's the author's view?
      11. setting – is place important? How is it described? What role does it play?
    6. QUOTING :
      1. Use quotations to support your argument or interpretation. (Note that writers make statements , not quotes ; something isn't a "quote" until you've copied it out, so you never say, "The author quotes." Instead you say, "The author says..." or "the author writesâ?¦"
      2. Don't expect quotations to make your point for you.  Rather, use your own language to make your argument; use the quote as evidence that will support what you have to say.  Before or after the quote, connect it to your argument using your own words: eg., As Gilbert and Gubar argue in The Madwoman in the Attic .
      3. Don't incorporate the page number of a quotation as part of your sentence: "On page 116 the author makes reference..." because you don't want the page number to be the emphasis of the sentence. Write, rather, "The author makes reference to..."
      4. If everyone is writing on the same text, cite the passage you want to quote by giving the page number in parentheses after it: "She told Christmas about the graves" (248). Note where the period is.
      5. The MLA rules (used in most literary criticism) on quotation marks are these:
        1. If you use more than three exact words from your source, you must put them in quotation marks.
        2. If, within those quotation marks, you must use other quotation marks to indicate direct speech, the author's own quoting, or to refer to the title of the story, use single quotation marks: "For example, in â??Reminiscences', Woolf discusses her mother in several places."
        3. If you add words to a quotation, put brackets around them; if you omit words, use ellipses to indicate them. Example: Brunvand states: "some individuals [who retell urban legends] make a point of learning everyâ?¦tale" (78).
        4. Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; semicolons and colons go outside.
        5. If your quotation is more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, you set it apart from the flow of the text by indenting it ten spaces on the left and continue double spacing. Note: when indenting a quote, you do not need quotation marks around the blocked quotation. Use "double quotation marks" within the blocked quotation for direct speech or a title. Here's an example from Adrienne Rich's "Sources."

          The faithful drudging child

          the child at the oak desk whose penmanship,

          hard work, style will win her prizes

          becomes a woman with a mission, not to win prizes

          but to change the laws of history. (23)

        6. If you're using several texts, then footnote the quotation, providing the name of the author, title of the book, publishing information, and page number.
        7. In APA style, provide the author's last name, the year of publication and page (line in case of verse) numbers in the text, parenthetically, and include a complete reference in the WORKS CITED list at the end. Punctuation comes after the citation. Example:
          "Is it possible that dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes, 1999, 184)?

      6. CONCLUSIONS : Conclusions should stress the importance of the thesis, give the essay a sense of completeness, and leave a final impression on the reader. An effective conclusion might answer the question "So what?" It might synthesize (not summarize) the points. Or it might echo the introduction, underscoring the larger significance of your thesis (now that we understand its complexity).
    Most important: If you know all this, great. If it seems overwhelming, don't despair. You don't have to write papers alone. TheWritingCenteris open from morning to evening with tutors trained to help you compose and edit. (x-8409)BellTower1512.