Rules for Writers with 2016 MLA Update

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  • Edition: 8th
  • Format: Spiral Bound
  • Copyright: 7/18/2016
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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THIS TITLE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT THE 2016 MLA UPDATES! Our editorial team has updated this text based on content from The MLA Handbook, 8th Edition. Browse our catalog or contact your representative for a full listing of updated titles and packages, or to request a custom ISBN.

When students routinely use their handbook in the course, they see its value, find that it’s a faster way to get answers than search engines like Google, learn to rely on it as a reference, and are more likely to achieve the goals of the course. And when that handbook is Rules for Writers, you can be sure the advice they find is practical and reliable—with help for composing and revising, writing arguments, analyzing texts, using grammar and punctuation correctly, and working with sources. In revising the eighth edition, Nancy Sommers has woven a new emphasis on reading critically throughout the first section of the handbook, introduced advice for analyzing multimodal texts, and added help for public speaking. New practical Writing Guides support students working through college assignments in a variety of genres. And new peer review advice helps students effectively comment on drafts and apply feedback to revisions of their own work. All of these improvements help student writers—but they also save you time and effort. You can draw from Rules for Writers for planning class discussions, conducting in-class workshops, and providing feedback on student work that they can easily apply. Rules for Writers even comes with a complete instructor’s manual, Teaching with Hacker Handbooks, with stepped-out lesson plans to customize and sample assignments, syllabi, and rubrics from your peers.

Author Biography

Diana Hacker personally class-tested her handbooks with nearly four thousand students over thirty-five years at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, where she was a member of the English faculty. Hacker handbooks, built on innovation and on a keen understanding of the challenges facing student writers, are the most widely adopted in America. Hacker handbooks, all published by Bedford/St. Martin’s, include The Bedford Handbook, Ninth Edition (2014); A Writer’s Reference, Eighth Edition (2015); Rules for Writers, Eighth Edition (2016); and A Pocket Style Manual, Seventh Edition (2015).
Nancy Sommers, who has taught composition and directed composition programs for thirty years, now teaches writing and mentors new writing teachers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  She led Harvard’s Expository Writing Program for twenty years, directing the first-year writing program and establishing Harvard’s WAC program. A two-time Braddock Award winner, Sommers is well known for her research and publications on student writing. Her articles "Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers" and "Responding to Student Writing" are two of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field of composition.  Her recent work involves a longitudinal study of college writing to understand the role writing plays in undergraduate education. Sommers is the lead author on Hacker handbooks, all published by Bedford/St. Martin’s, and is coauthor of Fields of Reading, Tenth Edition (2013).

Table of Contents


Preface for instructors

The Writing Process

1 Exploring, planning, and drafting

a Assess the writing situation.

b Explore your subject.

c Draft and revise a working thesis statement.

d Draft a plan.

e Draft an introduction.

f Draft the body.

g Draft a conclusion.

h Manage your files.

2 Revising, editing, and reflecting

a See revision as a social process.

b Use peer review: Revise with comments.

c Use peer review: Give constructive comments.

d Highlights of one student’s peer review process

e Approach global revision in cycles.

f Revise and edit sentences.

g Proofread the final manuscript.

h Sample student revision

i Prepare a portfolio; reflect on your writing.

3 Building effective paragraphs

a Focus on a main point.

b Develop the main point.

c Choose a suitable pattern of organization.

d Make paragraphs coherent.

e If necessary, adjust paragraph length.

Academic Reading, Writing, and Speaking

4 Reading and writing critically

a Read actively.

Sample annotated article

b Outline a text to identify main ideas.

c Summarize to deepen your understanding.

d Analyze to demonstrate your critical reading.

Writing guide: Analytical essay

e Sample student writing: Analysis of an article

Sample analysis paper

5 Reading and writing about multimodal texts

a Read actively.

Sample annotated advertisement

b Outline to identify main ideas.

c Summarize to deepen your understanding.

d Analyze to demonstrate your critical reading.

e Sample student writing: Analysis of an advertisement

Sample analysis of an advertisement

6 Reading and writing arguments

a Distinguish between reasonable and fallacious argumentative tactics.

b Distinguish between legitimate and unfair emotional appeals.

c Judge how fairly a writer handles opposing views.

d When writing arguments, consider purpose and context.

e View your audience as a panel of jurors.

f In your introduction, establish credibility and state your position.

g Back up your thesis with persuasive lines of argument.

h Support your claims with specific evidence.

i Anticipate objections; counter opposing arguments.

j Build common ground.

k Sample student writing: Argument

Sample argument paper

Writing guide: Argument essay

7 Speaking confidently

a Identify your purpose, audience, and context.

b Prepare a presentation.

c Focus on delivery.

d Remix an essay for a presentation.


8 Prefer active verbs.

a Active versus passive verbs 1

b Active versus be verbs

c Subject that names the actor

9 Balance parallel ideas.

a Parallel ideas in a series

b Parallel ideas presented as pairs

c Repetition of function words

10 Add needed words.

In compound structures

b that

c In comparisons 

d a, an, and the

11 Untangle mixed constructions.

a Mixed grammar

b Illogical connections

c is when, is where, and reason . . . is because

12 Repair misplaced and dangling modifiers.

a Limiting modifiers

b Misplaced phrases and clauses

c Awkwardly placed modifiers

d Split infinitives

e Dangling modifiers

13 Eliminate distracting shifts.

a Point of view (person, number)

b Verb tense

c Verb mood, voice

d Indirect to direct questions or quotations

14 Emphasize key ideas.

a Coordination and subordination

b Choppy sentences

c Ineffective or excessive coordination

d Ineffective subordination

e Excessive subordination

f Other techniques

15 Provide some variety.

Sentence openings

b Sentence structures

c Inverted order

16 Tighten wordy sentences.


b Unnecessary repetition

c Empty or inflated phrases

d Simplifying the structure

e Reducing clauses to phrases, phrases to single words

17 Choose appropriate language.

a Jargon

b Pretentious language, euphemisms, "doublespeak"

c Slang, regional expressions, nonstandard English

d Levels of formality

e Sexist language

f Offensive language

18 Find the exact words.

a Connotations

b Specific, concrete nouns

c Misused words

d Standard idioms

e Clichés

f Figures of speech


19 Repair sentence fragments.

a Subordinate clauses

b Phrases

c Other fragmented word groups

d Acceptable fragments

20 Revise run-on sentences.

a Revision with coordinating conjunction

b Revision with semicolon, colon, or dash

c Revision by separating sentences

d Revision by restructuring

21 Make subjects and verbs agree.

a Standard subject-verb combinations

b Words between subject and verb

c Subjects joined with and

d Subjects joined with or, nor, either . . . or, or neither . . . nor

e Indefinite pronouns

f Collective nouns

g Subject following verb

h Subject, not subject complement

i who, which, and that

j Words with plural form, singular meaning

k Titles of works, company names, words mentioned as words, gerund phrases

22 Make pronouns and antecedents agree.

a Singular with singular, plural with plural (indefinite pronouns, generic nouns)

b Collective nouns

c Antecedents joined with and

d Antecedents joined with or, nor, either . . . or, or neither . . . nor

23 Make pronoun references clear.

a Ambiguous or remote reference

b Broad reference of this, that, which, and it

c Implied antecedents

d Indefinite use of they, it, and you

e who for persons, which or that for animals or things

24 Distinguish between pronouns such as I and me.

a Subjective case for subjects and subject complements

b Objective case for objects

c Appositives

d Pronoun following than or as

e we or us before a noun

f Subjects and objects of infinitives

g Pronoun modifying a gerund

25 Distinguish between who and whom.

a In subordinate clauses

b In questions

c As subjects or objects of infinitives

26 Choose adjectives and adverbs with care.

a Adjectives to modify nouns

b Adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

c good and well, bad and badly

d Comparatives and superlatives

e Double negatives

27 Choose appropriate verb forms, tenses, and moods in Standard English.

a Irregular verbs

b lie and lay

c -s (or -es) endings

d -ed endings

e Omitted verbs

f Verb tense

g Subjunctive mood

Multilingual Writers and ESL Challenges

28 Verbs

a Appropriate form and tense

b Passive voice

c Base form after a modal

d Negative verb forms

e Verbs in conditional sentences

f Verbs followed by gerunds or infinitives

29 Articles

a Articles and other noun markers

b When to use the

c When to use a or an

d When not to use a or an

e No articles with general nouns

f Articles with proper nouns

30 Sentence structure

a Linking verb between a subject and its complement

b A subject in every sentence

c Repeated nouns or pronouns with the same grammatical function

d Repeated subjects, objects, and adverbs in adjective clauses

e Mixed constructions with although or because

f Placement of adverbs

g Present participles and past participles as adjectives

h Order of cumulative adjectives

31 Prepositions and idiomatic expressions

a Prepositions showing time and place

b Noun (including -ing form) after a preposition

c Common adjective + preposition combinations

d Common verb + preposition combinations


32 The comma

a Independent clauses joined with and, but, etc.

b Introductory elements

c Items in a series

d Coordinate adjectives

e Nonrestrictive and restrictive elements

f Transitions, parenthetical expressions, absolute phrases, contrasts

g Direct address, yes and no, interrogative tags, interjections

h he said, etc.

i Dates, addresses, titles, numbers

j To prevent confusion

33 Unnecessary commas

a Between two words, phrases, or subordinate clauses

b Between a verb and its subject or object

c Before the first or after the last item in a series

d Between cumulative adjectives, an adjective and a noun, or an adverb and an adjective

e Before and after restrictive or parenthetical elements

f Before essential concluding adverbial elements

g After a phrase beginning an inverted sentence

h Other misuses

34 The semicolon

a Between independent clauses not joined with a coordinating conjunction

b Between independent clauses linked with a transitional expression

c In a series containing internal punctuation

d Misuses

35 The colon

a Before a list, an appositive, or a quotation

b Conventional uses

c Misuses

36 The apostrophe

a Possessive nouns

b Possessive indefinite pronouns

c Contractions

d Not for plural numbers, letters, abbreviations, words as words

e Misuses

37 Quotation marks

a Direct quotations

b Quotation within a quotation

c Titles of short works

d Words as words

e With other punctuation marks

f Misuses

38 End punctuation

a The period

b The question mark

c The exclamation point

39 Other punctuation marks

a The dash

b Parentheses

c Brackets

d The ellipsis mark

e The slash


40 Abbreviations

a Titles with proper names

b Familiar abbreviations

c Conventional abbreviations

d Units of measurement

e Latin abbreviations

f Plural of abbreviations

g Misuses

41 Numbers

a Spelling out

b Using numerals

42 Italics

a Titles of works

b Names of ships, spacecraft, and aircraft

c Foreign words

d Words as words, letters as letters, numbers as numbers

43 Spelling

a Spelling rules

b The dictionary

c Words that sound alike

d Commonly misspelled words

44 The hyphen

a Compound words

b Hyphenated adjectives

c Fractions and compound numbers

d With certain prefixes and suffixes

e To avoid ambiguity or to separate awkward double or triple letters

f Word division

45 Capitalization

a Proper vs. common nouns

b Titles with proper names

c Titles and subtitles of works

d First word of a sentence

e First word of a quoted sentence

f First word after a colon

Grammar Basics

46 Parts of speech

a Nouns

b Pronouns

c Verbs

d Adjectives

e Adverbs

f Prepositions

g Conjunctions

h Interjections

47 Sentence patterns

a Subjects

b Verbs, objects, and complements

c Pattern variations

48 Subordinate word groups

a Prepositional phrases

b Verbal phrases

c Appositive phrases

d Absolute phrases

e Subordinate clauses

49 Sentence types

a Sentence structures

b Sentence purposes


50 Thinking like a researcher; gathering sources

a Manage the project.

b Pose questions worth exploring.

c Map out a search strategy.

d Search efficiently; master a few shortcuts to finding good sources.

e Conduct field research, if appropriate.

f Write a research proposal.

51 Managing information; taking notes responsibly

a Maintain a working bibliography.

b Keep track of source materials.

c Take notes carefully to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

52 Evaluating sources

a Think about how sources might contribute to your writing.

b Select sources worth your time and attention.

c Select appropriate versions of online sources.

d Read with an open mind and a critical eye.

e Assess Web sources with care.

f Construct an annotated bibliography.

Writing guide: Annotated bibliography

Writing Papers in MLA Style

53 Supporting a thesis

a Form a working thesis.

b Organize your ideas.

c Use sources to inform and support your argument.

d Draft an introduction for your thesis.

e Draft the paper in an appropriate voice.

54 Citing sources; avoiding plagiarism

a Understand how the MLA system works.

b Avoid plagiarism when quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing sources.

55 Integrating sources

Summarize and paraphrase effectively.

b Use quotations effectively.

c Use signal phrases to integrate sources.

d Synthesize sources.

56 Documenting sources in MLA style

a MLA in-text citations

b MLA list of works cited

c MLA information notes

57 MLA manuscript format; sample research paper

a MLA manuscript format

b Sample MLA research paper

Writing Papers in APA Style

58 Supporting a thesis

a Form a working thesis.

b Organize your ideas.

c Use sources to inform and support your argument.

59 Citing sources; avoiding plagiarism

a Understand how the APA system works.

b Avoid plagiarism when quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing sources.

60 Integrating sources

a Summarize and paraphrase effectively.

b Use quotations effectively.

c Use signal phrases to integrate sources.

d Synthesize sources.

61 Documenting sources in APA style

a APA in-text citations

b APA list of works cited

62 APA manuscript format; sample paper

a APA manuscript format

b Sample APA research paper


A document design gallery

Glossary of usage

Answers to lettered exercises



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