How to Write


Following is advice for writing formal papers.

Take The Time

Good writing takes time. Writing is part science and part art. You can not rush creativity. Inspiration, creative ideas, and imaginative expression all take time to develop. Never write a paper in one sitting or even over the course of a single day. Papers written in that way feel rushed. They are full of foolish errors and awkwardly worded sentences. They lack ideas and creativity. It is obvious when a paper has been rushed.

Finish your first draft, start to finish, several days before the paper is due. This gives you time to reread, edit, and expand your paper. You will see mistakes on day 2 and day 3 that you did not notice day one. You will have ideas on day 2 and day 3 that you did not have day one. Because writing is part art, it is never perfect. But time will allow for improvement. Your mind will work on the paper even as you do other things including sleeping. And each new day you will see the paper with a fresh set of eyes. You will have new ideas that were not there the previous day.


Stay Focused

You should have a clear and obvious thesis statement in your first paragraph. It is often safest to make it your first sentence. Constantly refer back to this key sentence as you write. It is the star by which you should navigate your ship. Sentences that do not explain or support the thesis statement will cause you to wander off course and become lost. Lose sight of the star and your paper will ramble, and your reader will abandon ship.


Be Persuasive

You must convince the reader that what you are writing is true. Imagine that you are a lawyer presenting your case to a jury. You must be believable. You must explain yourself clearly and logically. And you must provide evidence to prove your ideas. The more specific evidence and examples you include in your writing, the more believable you become. The clearer the connection between your evidence and your thesis statement, the more believable you become. Include facts, examples, evidence, explanation, and details from the novels we read to prove your ideas. Often your evidence will need to include relevant and meaningful quotes from the novels.


Spelling and Grammar Count 

Spelling and grammar errors not only make a paper confusing or even annoying to read, they also undermine your credibility. How do you expect the reader to trust you as an expert on a subject if you make spelling and grammar errors? Readers will judge your ideas based in part on how well they are presented. Spelling and grammar errors cause readers not to trust or value your opinion. Take the time to get it right.




Following is the grading sheet I use for most formal papers I assign:

Writing Evaluation 

Organization    ______ /10

Are separate ideas organized logically into paragraphs with supporting evidence, explanation, and details? Are ideas and paragraphs ordered in a logical way that leads from introduction to conclusion; and that makes information and arguments flow naturally and understandably?

Explanation     ______/10

Are ideas and arguments clearly and adequately explained to make the information understandable to a reader with limited knowledge of the material?

Persuasiveness of Argument     ______/5

Are arguments persuasive? Are they logical, clear, and supported?

Evidence     ______/10

Are relevant, specific, and compelling facts and details cited to support ideas and arguments?

Introduction     ______/10

Is there an adequate introduction to the topic that will be discussed? Is there sufficient information and context explained at the beginning to set the stage for the discussion to come?

Conclusion     ______/10

Is there an adequate conclusion that summarizes the writer’s position on the topic?

Spelling     ______/5

Grammar (Conventions)     ______/5

Word Choice     _____/10

Do vocabulary choices help or hinder the reader? Do word choices show a range of vocabulary, and are words used accurately in the context of sentences and meaning?

Sentence Fluency     _____/10

Are sentences smooth and carefully worded, or are they awkward and difficult to follow. Do sentences flow or stumble?

Ideas and Creativity     _____/5

Are ideas creative and insightful? Or are thoughts predictable or worse – questionable?

Effort     _____/10

Does the writing demonstrate a desire to excel or simply meet the minimum requirements of the assignment? Were the minimum requirements met?


TOTAL     _____/100