Writing about Literature How to Write a Strong Essay Guidelines , forms, and hints
Georgia Performance Standards ELACC0-10w1 • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. • Introduce precise claim and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence. • Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion and clarify the relationships between claims and reasons. • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline. • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
Page Set Up • Double Spaced (no extra space) • 12 count Times New Roman font • One-inch margins all sides
Heading • First Name • Dr. Gardner • Honors World Literature • 25 April 2014
Organization: Introduction • When writing about literature, you start by introducing your topic, generally starting by introducing your literary text and author. • Your introduction should start broadly and focus your topic more and more narrowly until you state your specific thesis statement—what you plan to prove within your essay. • If you follow this pattern, your thesis would be easily recognizable. Your reader should not have to guess what your thesis is. • You Must take a stand, and your thesis must be “arguable.”
For Example • Introduction of topic and thesis—example: A common theme in Jane Austen’s novels evident in one particular novel • Start broadly discussing Jane Austen novels. Then narrow to identify a common theme in her novels. Then narrow even more to identify this theme in one particular novel. (This becomesyour thesis statement.) • See introduction “triangle.”
Most Important Element of a Successful Essay • A clear, strong thesis statement gives your essay a focus. It’s your promise to your reader—what you’re going to prove to them. • A thesis statement cannot be vague or indecisive.
Second Most Important Element of a successful essay is paragraph topic sentences which are the points of your thesis. • In your introduction, you state your thesis. Then each paragraph topic sentence must state a point that proves that thesis. • Paragraph topic sentences should contain some of the same language of the thesis.
Format of Body Paragraphs • Paragraph topic sentence explaining the point of the thesis to be discussed in the paragraph. • Quotation(s) from your text properly introduced and cited which prove the point you make in your paragraph topic sentence. • Your voice—you analyze/explain how this quotation proves the point you are making. Here is where you show your brilliance! Here is where you “develop” your ideas/paragraph. • NO PLOT SUMMARY • Never end a paragraph with a quotation. (Points will be taken off.)
Conclusion • Restate your argument in a creative way. Don’t just duplicate the language already used. • Don’t just “stop” writing as if you got to the end of the required number of pages, but “conclude” the discussion. • Summarize your thoughts on the topic and “drive home” the point of your essay. • Perhaps close with a lesson learned or if persuading your audience to do something, end with a call to action.
And in Between . . . Concerns: • “Egregious” writing errors—comma splices, run-on sentences, fragments. • Check your work—minus 5 points for each sentence construction error.
Colon/Semicolon Use • We recently reviewed the usage. You have an instructional hand-out. Keep it in a “writing” section of a 3-ring binder and refer to it when using colons and semicolons. Again—you are now responsible for proper usage.
Integrating Quotations • Three parts when using quotations in writing—introductory language, quotation enclosed with quotation marks, parenthetical citation giving page number of source. • Three methods of integrating quotations—”he says,” sentence: sentence, “blended.” • Again—keep your instruction sheet in a binder to have to refer to when writing. • *** Essays written about literature are written in literary present tense!
Quotations • If you use an author’s name in the lead-in language to your quotation, DO NOT use in the parenthetical citation. • Ellipsis marks show you (the writer’s) changes in the text. Do not do the following: “. . .President Jackson forced the Removal . . .” • The proper method for using the ellipsis when removing text is as follows: bracket, period, space, period, space, period, bracket. [. . .] • A quotation of more than four lines of typed text must be formed into a block quotation.
Miscellaneous Concerns • Avoid 1st Person: no “I think.” You are a third person expert as it is your essay/your ideas. • Avoid “broad pronoun references.” Name what “it” is. • No slang—don’t say words like crapin academic writing. • Use characters’ names in each new paragraph. Don’t say “he” or “her.” • Work to eliminate contractions. • Avoid “reason is because” construction.
Misc. Continued: • Point of View: Do not change point of view and speak to the reader using “you.” Use 3rd person in formal writing and 1st person ONLY in some narrative and reflective essays. Always ask your teacher. • Verb tense: maintain the same verb tense throughout your essay. • Thoughts of a character are marked in the form of dialogue with quotation marks. • Know when to use amount and number.
Expectations • Students should further develop writing skills with each writing project assigned. • At this point, students should be well beyond simplistic writings and instead should be using complex sentence structure and insightful ideas. • Again—show me your brilliance!