Prof. Mac's 20 Point Pack for Writing Well and Correctly in Three Units:

Large   Medium   Small

With a Summarizing Significant "3-Sum"

And four helpful books

And Examples of Correct Footnote and Endnote Form

Five points for foci in the Large Unit:

  1. Writing by Thesis and by Exposition  

  2. Organization and Logic  

  3. Analysis   

  4. Supporting Evidence  

  5. Mechanics  

  1. THESIS:  "a position or proposition that a writer advances and supports by convincing argument." Many writers can recognize a good thesis statement and follow its argument, but have difficulty formulating one of their own and supporting it consistently and convincingly. Thesis statements might be vague, confused, too complex, too simple, understated, or overstated. To deal with problems like these, writers should study thesis statements made in both critical and fictional works; revise their statement until it is as sharp, precise, clearly focused, and directive as it can be; and gauge whether or not their statement is well supported by their following, well-focused argument.

    EXPOSITION:  Not all essays require a strict thesis, which often obligates the writer to choose and use evidence in a highly selective way in order to present her or his case and argue it convincingly. It is often more honest and more interesting (if less systematic, methodological, or rhetorical) for a writer to think of an essay as an opportunity to explore possible meanings and critical interpretations, and discuss them by clarifying and elucidating them in a coherent way. Such expository writing differs from thesis writing in that its objective is to "convey information and explain through discussion and by example what is difficult to understand."

    NB. No matter what kind of essay you are writing, you should always be careful to avoid lapsing into summary. You may need one or two sentences to define your subject, or set the scene for the material you'll be analyzing, but you should aim to write a coherent, interpretive discussion supported by evidence--- not a summary with occasional interpretive commentary.

  2. ORGANIZATION and LOGIC: "The formal arrangement of thoughts into a reasonable, orderly, coherent unit that makes clear how all interdependent parts relate to the whole." Many writers have good ideas to express that do not find their proper or most effective position in relation to other ideas. To alert themselves to problems of structure, writers should learn to identify breaks in logic and coherence in the essay as a whole, from the excellent advice given in The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White:

Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
The paragraph is a convenient unit; it serves all forms of literary work. As long as it holds together, a paragraph may be of any length-— a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration. . . . As a rule, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. . . .Moderation and sense of order should be the main considerations in paragraphing.

  1. ANALYSIS: "The breaking down of a whole into its component parts to examine its elements or meanings, and the relationships between them." Many writers are able to break down and recognize the parts of an object being studied, but have trouble judging which parts are significant and which are not, which relationships are significant and which are not, and how to apply their findings in order to support the points they are making.  To deal with these difficulties, writers should focus their attention on the importance of subordination (distinguishing between the really important information and the less important) and cause-and-effect, and consider ways to use valid, convincing evidence to develop and substantiate their ideas.

  2. SUPPORTING EVIDENCE: "Examples that furnish proof or testimony that what a writer is saying is arguably true." All writers are required to cite supporting evidence properly and completely, whether their source is a primary text, secondary text, scientific observation, or other, As with analysis, writers often have difficulty judging the significance of the evidence they use to support a point; some also use questionable or inappropriate evidence.  To remedy this, writers should look closely at the appropriateness and logic of their evidence, and make sure that the evidence is used most effectively.

  3. MECHANICS: "The nuts and bolts of writing— without which design, construction, and operation falter." Writing well is also writing correctly, and there are rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and form that should be followed. Such attention not only leads to more correct writing, it greatly increases the chances that the writing will be clearer, and more thoughtful, coherent, concise, incisive.


  Ten points for foci in the Medium Unit

  1. Sentences and/or full independent clauses

  2. Sentence fragments

  3. Phrases as fragmented parts of sentences

  4. Run-on sentences and comma splices

  5. Noun and verb agreement

  6. Consistency of verb tenses

  7. Concision > wordiness

  8. Repetition

  9. Writing in specific language

  10. Awkward phrasing and revision

1-3- Sentences are also known as full independent clauses. Both are word groups that have a subject and a verb, and that can stand alone as complete grammatical units. If they cannot stand alone, they are fragments, parts only of sentences. Phrases, like sentence fragments, are only parts of sentences; they are not complete grammatical units.

A sentence:

Holy Rolly arrived on the island of Penguin, where he spent the rest of his rolling life.

A sentence followed by a fragment or a phrase only:

Holy Rolly arrived on the island of Penguin. Where he spent the rest of his rolling life.

4. Run-on sentences are commonly two sentences or full independent clauses that have been joined together incorrectly.  They are usually joined incorrectly by a comma. There are two correct ways to join them: with a comma followed by a conjunction  (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) or with a semicolon--both of these ways allowing the presence of two sentences.

A run-on sentence INCORRECTLY joined by a comma:

The tongue is a means of communication, it is a very effective means.

A sentence CORRECTLY joined by a conjunction and another correctly joined by a semicolon:

The tongue is a means of communication, and a very effective means.

The tongue is a means of communication; it is a very effective means.

5. Verbs should agree with their subjects in person and in number.

For examples:

That man goes to the barber every week.
Those men go to the barber every week.
The haircut on those men makes them look better.
Haircuts make those men look better.
The board of barbers meets every week.
Of particular interest to a man is his haircut.
Of particular interest to a man are his haircut and shoe polish.
A man's desire and need are to have a haircut.
If a man or woman is in need of a haircut, tell him or her.
Nearly everyone takes care of his or her hair and shoes.


6. When writing about a subject, especially a literary subject, it is a good rule of thumb to write in the PRESENT tense UNLESS driven for logic or consideration of time into the past or future.

For examples:

Rumi writes, ". . . go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings."

Rumi asserts[: or ,]"Rise up. . . and go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings."

Rumi warns us, "This is not a caravan of despair," and offers instead: ". . . go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings."

Rumi was born in Afghanistan in the thirteenth century.
Rumi was an inspiration to past generations.
Rumi will be an inspiration to future generations.
Rumi is an inspiration for our generation.

7. Omit needless words, write Strunk and White:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. . . every word [should] tell.

OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS !!!
OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS !!!
OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS !!!

8.  There is NO NEED TO REPEAT a point you are making; an introduction to the point, discussion of the point, and summary of the point is triple overkill- If the point you are making is a good one and is expressed clearly and effectively, it will be heard and understood by your reader. Have respect for the intelligence of your reader and have confidence in yourself that what you are saying is clear and understandable.

9.  "Use definite, specific, concrete language. . . .
The surest way to arouse and hold the attention of the reader is by being specific, definite, and concrete. The greatest writers--- Homer, Dante, Shakespeare--are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures" (The Elements of Style, p.15).

10. Following -the Twitch: If a sentence or group of sentences do not sound right to you, work on them--revise them--until they are right, until they express exactly what you want to say. Most of us are much better and more helpful critics of other's writing than of our own.  If you are sensitive to awkward phrasings in your own writing, you have taken the first very important step to improve them by becoming your own best critic. By noting that something is amiss in your expression, you've demonstrated that you have the ability to improve it. When this happens, please do not say to yourself, "It's o. k. as it is." Follow the twitch and fix what's broken, revise what needs revision, until it is "o.k." or even better.


  Five points for foci in the Small Unit:

  1. Essay titles

  2. Quotations

  3. Placement of commas, periods, semicolons, colons, ellipses in relation to quotation marks and citations

  4. The use of italics, underlining, and quotation marks in titles

  5. Words not to misspell or confuse

  1. Essay titles should be specific, direct, concise, original, eye- and mind-catching.

  2. Quotations, in general--- whether a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, or more--- should correspond EXACTLY to the original source in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

For an example of a sentence that includes a short quotation:

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Antony says of Brutus, "This was the noblest Roman of them all."

For an example of a sentence that includes more than one line of quoted poetry, follow this form with a / indicating the line break:

In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;/ I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

For an example of a sentence that includes less than four lines of quoted prose, follow this form: 

"He was obeyed," writes Joseph Conrad of the Company manager in Heart of Darkness, "yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect."

For a passage that includes more than three lines of poetry or four lines of prose, indent the quotation and reproduce it exactly as it's printed WITHOUT quotation marks:

In Act II of As You Like It, Jaques is given the speech that many believe contains a glimpse of Shakespeare's conception of drama:

     All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Here is an example of an offset quoted prose passage WITHOUT quotation marks:

In Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe maintains the fictionalized autobiographical narration typical of the picaresque novel:

My true name is so well known in the records or registers at Newgate, and in Old Bailey, and there are some things of such consequence still depending there, relating to my particular conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my name or the account of my family to this work. Perhaps, after my death, it may be better known. . . .

  1. In relation to quotations marks, commas and periods here in America GO WITHIN, and semicolons and colons GO WITHOUT. Use of an ellipsis signals that you have omitted a word, phrase, sentence, or longer unit from a quoted passage. An ellipsis is three spaced periods: . . .; when an ellipsis ends a sentence, a fourth period is added--which is nothing more than the period of the sentence.

"He was obeyed," writes Joseph Conrad of the Company manager in Heart of Darkness, "yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect."

Joseph Conrad writes of the Company manager, "He was obeyed"; but he then adds that "he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect" (p. 45).

Joseph Conrad writes of the Company manager, "He was obeyed"; but he then adds that "he inspired neither love nor fear. .. ."

Joseph Conrad writes of the Company manager, "He was obeyed"; but he then adds that "he inspired neither love nor fear..." (p. 45). 

William Blake's anger could be "energizing," as when he casts out the "destroyers of Jerusalem"; but the absence of a sense of community could also produce "Despair."

Art critic Anthony Blunt terms the visual qualities of Blake's prints "stunning": their "grandeur" and "simplicity," their "richness of texture," and their combination of "intensity and control" making them Blake's "most successful compositions."

  1. In general, use underlined or italicized titles for works published individually. These include books, plays, long poems published as books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, magazines, journals,  films, record albums, ballets, operas, musical compositions, paintings, sculptures, ships, aircraft.  For examples:

Oliver Twist or Oliver Twist
Othello I.iii.76-80 or Othello I.iii.76-80
The Waste Land
Wall Street Journal
Newsweek
The Godfather
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Nutcracker
Rigoletto
Picasso's Guernica
Rodin's The Thinker
HMS Elizabeth
The Spirit of St. Louis

In general, use quotation marks for the titles of works published within larger works. These include articles, essays, short stories, short poems, song titles, chapters of books.  For examples:

"Saddam Will Rise Again"
"Alternative Sources of Energy"
"The Lottery"
Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
"The Poetry of Langston Hughes"
"Imagine"

  1. Words not to misspell or confuse:

  affect effect  
  already all ready  
  alright all right  
  anybody anyone anywhere
  cannot can not  
  choose chose  
  criterion criteria  
  everybody everyone everywhere
  into in to  
  its it's  
  lose loose  
  medium media  
  sometime some time  
  there their they're
  to too  
  twelve twenty-two 230
(generally spell out numbers of one or two words)
  your you're  

A SUMMARIZING SIGNIFICANT "3-SUM"

1) Good writing is very difficult and time-consuming. Nobel prize winner William Butler Yeats calls it "Adam's Curse" and speaks of it this way: 

     A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement/ or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is work harder than all of these. . . .
. . .  we must labour to be beautiful.

2) Writers usually do their best and least frustrating work when they are involved, deeply engaged, in their subject, so always try to select an essay topic or subject that most catches your interest and stirs your curiosity.

3) WRITE, WRITE/, WRITE and REVISE, REVISE, REVISE until you express your thoughts and feelings as clearly, concisely, correctly, and effectively as you can.

Four Helpful Books on Writing Well and Correctly with Fuller Explanations and Many, Many Examples:

The Chicago Manual of Style. 14th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed. New York: MLA, 1999.

Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. 4th ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.

Strunk, William, Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements o£ Style. 4th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2000.

Examples of Correct Footnote and Endnote Form

       1. Richard J. Finneran, The Collected Poems of W.E. Yeats: RevisedSecond Edition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 85.
      2. Finneran, 93.
      3. James Pethica, ed., Yeats's Poetry, Drama, and Prose (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), xxi.
      4. A. Norman Jeffares, A New Commentary on The Poems of W.E. Yeats (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984), 345.
      5. Finneran, 34.
      6. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant, eds., Blake’s Poetry and Designs (New
York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979), 45.
      7. Pethica, 23.
      8. M.H. Abrams et al., eds., The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th ed., vol. 2 (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), 217.
      9. Abrams, 218.

Please Note:

First name First, Title is italicized or underlined (Place: Publisher, Date), Page Number--- all connected by commas with a period at end.
No "p." or "pp." or "pg." before the page number reference.
Notes are numbered consecutively through your essay.
The first line of each note is indented; the following lines run to the left margin.