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The Writer's Brief Handbook

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The Writerrs"s Brief Handbookis altogether the best concise, yet comprehensive reference available for todayrs"s student writers. A compact, easy-to-use guide, this brief handbook offers clear definitions, helpful explanations, and extremely relevant research and reference tools. It has gained a reputation for being student-friendly, and at a time when both students and instructors are demanding more from their handbooks,The Writerrs"s Brief Handbookdelivers!

Table of Contents

The Writing Process

1.  Planning

a.       Analyzing the writing task

b.       Choosing a subject

c.        Focusing on a topic

d.       Generating ideas and collecting information

e.       Determining your purpose for writing

f.         Establishing a thesis statement

g.       Analyzing your audience

h.       Making an outline


2.  Writing a Draft                                                                

a.       Choosing a good title

b.       Writing the body of your composition

c.        Writing the beginning and ending


3.  Revising

a.       Revising the largest elements first

b.       Revising your sentences and diction

c.        Conducting peer conferences


4.  Editing

a.       Editing for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics

b.       Preparing the final copy

c.        Proofreading the final copy                                                                                



5.  STUDENT SAMPLE: Annotated Student Essay


6.    Designing a document

a.       Understanding the principals of design

b.       Understanding the elements of design

c.        Using visuals

d.       Formatting academic manuscript


II  Writing in College and Beyond

1.    Academic writing

2.    Study skills

a.       Time management

b.       Note-taking in class

c.        Reading effectively

d.       Essay examinations


3.    Critical thinking and active reading


4.       Writing arguments

a.       Understanding the elements of argument

b.       Making appropriate appeals

c.        Considering your audience

d.       Refuting the opposition’s argument



5.    Online writing

a.          E-communications

b.          Composing online


6.    Oral presentations

a.                   Outlining

b.                   Preparing and practicing

c.                    Using visuals


7.  Public writing

a.       Business letters

b.       Resumes

c.        Memos

d.       Letters to the editor



III.            Paragraphs

1.  Unity

a.       Writing a topic sentence

b.       Relating all sentences to the controlling idea


2.  Development

a.       Developing paragraphs fully

b.       Using the strategy implied in your topic sentence to develop your paragraph


3.  Coherence                                                                     

a.       Arranging sentences in the most effective order

b.       Using transitional words and phrases

c.        Repeating key words and phrases

d.       Using parallel structure

e.       Using transitions to link paragraphs                                                                     


4.             Beginnings and endings


  IV    Sentence Clarity and Style


1.  Parallelism

a.       Use parallel constructions with coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so)

b.       Use parallel constructions with correlative conjunctions (either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, both/and, whether/or)

c.        Use parallel constructions in comparisons with than or as


2.  Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

a.       Place modifiers where they will be most effective

b.       Connect a dangling modifier to the main part of the sentence


3.  Shifts               

a.       Use pronouns that are consistent in person and number

b.       Maintain the same verb tense

c.        Maintain the same mood

d.       Keep subject and voice consistent

e.       Avoid unnecessary shifts from direct to indirect quotation 

f.         Keep tone and style consistent

g.       Maintain the same point of view


4.  Unified and Logical Sentences

a.       Use only relevant details

b.       Avoid mixed or illogical constructions


5.  Subordination and Coordination

a.       Use subordination to group short, choppy sentences into larger units of thought

b.       Do not subordinate excessively

c.        Use coordination to put ideas of equal importance in grammatical structures of equal weight


6.  Emphasis

a.       Achieve emphasis by placing the most important words and phrases at the beginning or end of a sentence

b.       Place ideas that occur in a series in a logical and climactic order

c.        Use the active rather than the passive voice

d.       Repeat important words for emphasis

e.       Occasionally use a short, dramatic sentence

f.         Achieve emphasis by using periodic sentences

g.       Achieve emphasis by using balanced constructions


7.  Sentence Variety

a.  Avoid the overuse of short simple sentences 

b. Vary your sentence openings

c.  Do not overuse compound sentences


V  Word Choice


1.  Eliminating Clutter

a.       Focus on subjects and verbs

b.       Eliminate redundancies

c.        Delete empty words and phrases

d.       Reduce inflated expressions to their core meanings

e.       Convert clauses to phrases


2.  Exactness

a.       Choose words that accurately denote what you want to say

b.       Choose words whose connotations suit your purpose 

c.        Use specific and concrete words

d.       Use idioms correctly

e.       Use figurative language

f.         Replace clichés with fresh language


3.  Appropriateness

a.  Choose an appropriate degree of formality

b.  Use standard English

c.  Avoid pretentious language

d.  Use technical language only where appropriate

e.  Avoid vogue words


4.  Bias in Writing


5.  The Dictionary


6.  The Thesaurus


VI            Sentence Parts and Patterns


1. Grammar Essentials

a.                   Parts of Speech

b.                   Parts of Sentences

c.                     Phrases

d.                   Clauses

e.                   Types of Sentences



2.  Subject-Verb Agreement

a.       To choose the correct verb form, identify the subject of the sentence

b.       Use a plural verb with most compound subjects joined by and

c.        With subjects joined by or or nor, make the verb agree with the subject that is closest to it

d.       Treat most collective nouns as singular

e.       The relative pronouns who, which, and that take verbs that agree with their antecedents

f.         Treat most indefinite pronouns as singular

g.       Make the verb agree with the subject even when the subject comes after the verb

h.       Make a verb agree with its subject, not with a subject complement

i.         Use a singular verb with most singular nouns ending in –s

j.         When the title of a work is the subject of a sentence, use a singular verb

k.        When a word used as a word is the subject, use a singular verb

l.         1l  When the subject of a sentence is a noun clause, use a singular verb


3.  Verbs:  Form, Tense, Mood, and Voice

a.       Use the principal parts of irregular verbs correctly

b.       Use lay and lie and set and sit correctly

c.        Use the correct verb tense to convey your meaning

d.       Use sequences of tense forms that are logically related

e.       Use verbs in the correct mood

f.         Use the active voice


4.  Pronoun Problems

a.       A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender, number, and person

b.       Be sure a pronoun’s antecedent is clear

c.        Use pronouns in the correct case

d.       Use who or whom according to how the word functions in its own clause


5.  Adjectives and Adverbs

a.       Use adverbs, not adjectives, to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

b.       Use an adjective, not an adverb, as a subject complement

c.        Use bad/badly and good/well correctly

d.       Use the demonstrative adjective that agrees with the noun it modifies

e.       Use the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs correctly


6.  Fragments

a.       Join a phrase fragment to an existing sentence, or rewrite it as a sentence

b.       Join a subordinate clause fragment to an existing sentence, or rewrite it as a sentence

c.        Make an appositive fragment part of a sentence

d.       Keep a compound predicate within a single sentence

e.       Use sentence fragments intentionally to add emphasis and to write realistic dialog


7.  Comma Splices and Run-On Sentences

a.       Separate clauses into two sentences with a period

b.       Connect  clauses with a semicolon

c.        Connect clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)

d.       Restructure the sentence by subordinating one of the clauses


VII Punctuation


1.  The Comma


2.  The Semicolon


3.  The Colon


4.  The Apostrophe


5.  Quotation Marks


6.  Other Punctuation Marks

a.       The period

b.       The question mark

c.        The exclamation point

d.       The dash

e.       Parentheses

f.         Brackets

g.       The ellipsis mark

h.       The slash                                     



VIII Mechanics


1.  Capitals


2.  Abbreviations


3.  Numbers


4.  Italics/Underlining


5.  The Hyphen


6.  Spelling


IX  Research Writing


1.    Developing a research strategy

a.       Planning a work schedule

b.       Choosing a topic and research question

c.        Determining what you already know about your topic


2. Finding sources

a.        Determining a search strategy

b.        Learning to use keyword searches

c.         Locating books

d.        Locating articles

e.        Locating Internet sources

f.          Using reference books

g.        Using interviews and questionnaires


3.  Selecting and Evaluating Sources

a.       Previewing your print and online sources

b.       Evaluating your print and online sources


3.  Keeping Track of Information

a.       Keeping a working bibliography

b.       Reading and analyzing your sources

c.        Taking complete and accurate notes without plagiarizing


5.  Documenting Sources

a.       MLA in-text citations

b.       APA in-text citations

c.        CMS footnotes or endnotes

d.       CSE in-text citations


6.             Writing the research paper                                                                               

        a.             Determining a thesis and organizing the evidence

                b.             Avoiding plagiarism

                c.             Integrating quotations, paraphrases, summaries, and visuals into your text

                d.             Revising and formatting a research paper


X.                   Writing in the Disciplines


1.                   Overview of writing in the disciplines

a.       Understanding writing assignments

b.       Methodology and evidence

c.        Discipline-specific resources

d.       Language and stylistic conventions

e.       Documentation and format guidelines


2.             Reading and writing about literature

                a.             Writing assignments for literature

                b.             Reading and analyzing a literary text

                c.             Library and Web resources for literary study

                d.             Observing the conventions of writing about literature

                e.             Documentation and format

                f.              Annotated student essay about literature


3.             Writing in the humanities

a.       Writing assignments

b.       Methodology and evidence

c.        Literary and Web resources for the humanities

d.       Documentation and format


4.             Writing in the social sciences

a.                   Writing assignments

b.                   Methodology and evidence

c.                    Library and Web resources for the social sciences

d.                   Documentation and format


5.                   Writing in the natural and applied sciences

a.                   Writing assignments

b.                   Methodology and evidence

c.                    Library and Web resources for the sciences

d.                   Documentation and format


XI.                 MLA Style Documentation and Format


1.             MLA-Style documentation

a.  MLA in-text citations

Directory to MLA in-text citation models

b.   MLA information footnotes or endnotes

c.        MLA list of works cited

Directory to MLA list of works cited models


2.                   MLA manuscript format


3.                   STUDENT SAMPLE: Annotated student MLA research paper



XII.                APA Style Documentation and Format


1.                   APA-style documentation

a.       APA in-text citations

Directory to APA in-text citations

b.          APA references


2.                   APA manuscript format


3.                   STUDENT SAMPLE: Annotated student APA research paper


XIII.         CMS Documentation Format / CSE Documentation Format


1.                   CMS documentation

a.       CMS endnotes or footnotes

b.       CMS bibliography

c.        CMS note and bibliography models

Directory to CMS note and bibliography models


2.                   CMS manuscript format


3.                   STUDENT SAMPLE: Annotated student CMS research paper


4.                   CSE documentation

a.       CSE in-text references

b.       CSE list of references

Directory to CSE list of references


XIV.         ESL Basics


1. Verbs

a.       Modals

b.       Perfect tenses

c.        Progressive tenses

d.       Passive voice

e.       Two-word verbs

f.         Verbs followed by an infinitive or a gerund


2.  Nouns, Qualifiers, and Articles

a.       Noncount nouns

b.       Quantifiers for noncount and count nouns

c.        Indefinite article (a or an)

d.       Definite article (the)


3.  Adjectives and Adverbs

a.       Cumulative adjectives

b.       Present and past participles

c.        Adverbs


4.  Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases

a.       Correct prepositions

b.       Necessary prepositions

c.        Unnecessary words in prepositional phrases

d.       Remember that infinitives cannot be used as the objects of prepositions

e.       Learn some common compound prepositions

f.         Learn some common adjective + preposition combinations


5.  Parts of Sentences

a.       Omitted verbs

b.       Omitted subjects

c.        Expletives (there, here, it)


6.  Special Problems

a.       Word order for questions

b.       Questions with who, whom, and what

c.        Indirect questions

d.       Reported speech

e.       Conditional sentences

6.                   Confusing Words and Phrases


XV.               Glossary of Usage / Index




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