The Guides to Writing

The Guides to Writing

Just as the Part One assignment chapters are the heart of the book, the heart of each assignment chapter is the Guide to Writing.

Writing an essay does not usually proceed in a smooth, predictable se- quence — often, for example, a writer working on a draft will go back to what is usually an earlier step, such as invention and research, or jump ahead to what is usually a later one, such as editing and proofreading. But to make our help with the process more understandable and manageable, we have divided each Guide to Writing into the same elements that appear in the same order:

the Writing Assignment;

Invention and Research;

Planning and Drafting;

a Critical Reading Guide;


and Editing and Proofreading.

The Writing Assignment. Each Guide to Writing begins with an assignment that defines the general purpose and basic features of the genre you have been studying in the chapter.

Starting Points chart. Each Guide to Writing opens with an easy-reference Starting Points chart, which is designed to help you efficiently find the advice you need for getting past writer’s block and other early-stage difficulties.

Starting Points: Explaining a Concept Basic Features

A Focused Explanation

Choosing a Concept

Question Where to Look

Each Guide to Writing opens with an easy-reference Starting Points chart, with advice for getting started.


Invention and Research. Every Guide to Writing includes invention activities designed to help you

find a topic

discover what you already know about the topic

consider your purpose and audience

research the topic further — in the library, on the Internet, through observa- tion and interviews, or some combination of these methods

explore and develop your ideas, and

compose a tentative thesis statement to guide your planning and drafting.

Because we know that different students start writing at different places, we’ve offered different “ways in” to many of the Invention activities: specifically, their new layout (as shown in the example below) is meant to suggest the different possible paths through the processes of generating and shaping material.

The colors used correspond to the basic features of the genre that were introduced in the chapter’s first few pages, which is meant to help you see how in composing in a particular genre, writers use the same basic features but may use them differently to achieve specific purposes for their readers.

“Ways In” activities suggest different ways of coming up with material for your essay.

Ways In: Constructing a Well-Told Story

Once you’ve made a preliminary choice of an event, the following activities will help you begin to construct a well-told story, with vivid descriptions of people and places. You can begin with whichever basic activity you want, but wherever you begin, be sure to return to the other activities to fill in the details.

Sketch the Story. Write a quick sketch telling roughly what happened. Don’t worry about what you’re leaving out; you can fill in the details later.

Explore a Revealing or Pivotal Moment. Write for a few minutes developing a moment of surprise, confrontation, crisis, change, or discovery that may become the climax of your story. To dramatize it, try using specific narrative actions and dialogue.

Reimagine the Place. Identify the place where the event occurred and describe it. What do you see, hear, or smell? Use details — shape, color, texture — to evoke the scene.

Research Visuals. Try to locate visuals you could include in your essay: Look through memorabilia such as family photographs, yearbooks, newspaper articles, concert programs, ticket stubs, or T-shirts — anything that might stimulate your memory and help you reflect on the place. If you submit your essay electronically or post it online, also consider adding

i h i i h h

Describe People. Write about people who played a role in the event. For each person, name and detail a few distinctive physical features, mannerisms, dress, and so on.

Create a Dialogue. Reconstruct one important conversation you had during the event. You will probably not remember exactly what was said, but try to re-create the spirit of the interaction. Consider adding speaker tags (see p. 36) to show people’s tone of voice, attitude, and gestures.

Research People Do someReflect on the Conflict and Its

Shaping the Story Describing the Place Recalling Key People

Basic Features


Planning and Drafting. To get you started writing a draft of your essay, each Guide to Writing includes suggestions for planning your essay. The section is divided into three parts:

Refining Your Purpose and Setting Goals involves reviewing what you have discovered about your subject, purpose, and audience and helps you think about your goals for the various parts of your essay.

Outlining Your Draft suggests some of the ways you might organize your essay.

Drafting launches you on the writing of your draft, providing both general advice and suggestions about one or two specific sentence strategies that you might find useful for the particular genre.

The Planning and Drafting section also includes a section called Working with Sources, which offers advice (using examples from one or more of the readings) on a particular issue related to incorporating materials from research sources into your essay.

Critical Reading Guide. Once you have finished a draft, you may want to make an effort to have someone else read the draft and comment on how to improve it. Each Guide to Writing includes a Critical Reading Guide, color-coded to correspond to that genre’s basic features, which will help you get good advice on improving your draft as well as help you make helpful suggestions to improve others’ drafts. (These Guides break out suggestions for both praise and critique — because we all sometimes need reminding that pointing out what works well can be as helpful as pointing out what needs improvement in a piece of writing.)

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