English 101 / 199
Assignment 1: Revision
3 July 2002
This document will help you polish the presentation of the papers you submit. Inside and outside the University, a classy presentation gets results; a crappy showing gets you dismissed as careless and insignificant.
For class papers, format your document so that margins are 1" on both sides and no more than an inch and a half at the top and bottom. Papers with larger empty spaces are suspect, especially when it is obvious that the student is trying to reach the required paper length through cheesy tactics. Opt for 12-point Courier font (or perhaps Helvetica or Bookman, so long as the print style allows for the standard of approximately 25 lines per page and style does not overshadow content). Spend the time on thinking and writing rather than on the spacial math games.
Type your name in the upper left-hand corner (or right-hand if the instructor specifies). Unless the piece is a long and significant contribution to the field of study, a separate title page before the text of your paper looks, at best, like a pompous waste of paper and, at worst, like a tack-on addendum to a canned piece. Underneath your name, single-spaced, type your course and section number; underneath that, type your teacher's name [or, for English 101 or 198, the designation of the writing (the assignment number and the number of the draft or revision, since you have to keep track of the stages of the writing process)], and underneath that, the date the paper is due, or the date of the revision.
Press return twice, and center your title. Create an engaging title instead of a dutiful one like Paper #1, which just seems begrudging in attitude. It may be accented with bolding, but do not underline your own title.
Press return twice. The rest of the text should be double-spaced. (Be sure you haven't formatted for 1-1/2 spacing.) Do not justify (align) the right margin; this leaves great, odd, blank spaces and it screws up documentation royally.
The first paragraph highlights your thesis statement. You may have been advised to consider the first paragraph as an inverted triangle, starting with a broad consideration of the topic and narrowing to the specific subject and thesis statement you are now making about that subject. This a good plan if you need such structure; just be sure you do not start out too broad [e.g., "Since the beginning of time . . ." or the horrendous "In todays society . . ." (and note the absence of the apostrophe in this most cliché of openings); the most extreme case in my experience was a paper that began: "Things. The world is full of them. They are everywhere and you cannot escape them"]. Also, you can offer the opening paragraph a nice touch if you couch the thesis statement carefully: instead of ending the paragraph abruptly with the statement, add a sentence or so afterwards to hint at the significant implications of your findings. [For more advice about thesis statements, visit The Thesis Ward.]
Now you launch into the thorough explanation of your topic and your angle on it. Remember that your audience, unless otherwise specified for an assignment, is the "general educated reader" (perhaps your student colleagues, faculty, a civic or governmental group, a wider reading public). You need to impress your audience that you have researched and worked for them, and have thought through the subject thoroughly. Therefore, remember that the facts do not speak for themselves: you need to interpret them. Otherwise you are merely reporting (and mere machines do this efficiently) instead of analyzing. Construct from the data (facts, raw material, observations, evidence, examples, cases, details) a way of seeing the subject by offering a perspective (framework, thesis, context, frame of reference, argument, premise, paradigm). You will be conveying this package to others to influence and to improve their thinking. Your purpose in writing will involve illuminating a set of subtleties implicit in your subject--elements and implications that others would be likely to overlook. As your critical analysis proceeds now, do not quadruple-space between paragraphs.
Paragraphs in the body of the paper should balance reported facts and observations with your commentary on and analysis of these factors. Later paragraphs, once you've laid the groundwork, stress the upshot or implications of what you have discovered. This is particularly true of the conclusion paragraph, which should do a bit more than simply recap the argument of the paper.
Some mechanics conventions should be developed as standard practice. The rule has recently changed, and now only one space should follow any punctuation that ends a sentence. No space should appear before most punctuation--the exceptions being opening parenthesis (like this); an opening quotation mark "as in a phrase like this, citing the exact words that someone wrote or said"; or a period used as part of an ellipsis. [An ellipsis is used to show that unnecessary words have been deleted from the middle of a quotation. An ellipsis should consist of three spaced periods . . . like this (and not like this...).] If you have deleted the end of a sentence, you should add to the three periods of the ellipsis an actual period, making four spaced periods. An ellipsis should be used only within a quotation to show missing words, not to show a pause or for special effects. Use a dash to indicate a pause or a break in thought--like this, where you need two hyphen marks to indicate a dash rather than simple hyphenation. Write out as words whole numbers from one to nine and any number that begins a sentence. Use numerals for all numbers 10 and over.
Page numbering should begin on the second page of your document, with a 2 in the upper right-hand corner.
Concerning the citing of quotations, periods and commas usually belong inside the closing quotation mark except when followed by a page citation within parentheses. Colons and semicolons go outside the closing quotation marks, as we rejoin your own sentence. Question marks and exclamation points go either inside or outside the closing quotation mark, depending on whether the quoted material is a exclamation or a question (or if instead the exclamation or question is your own).
It is not always necessary to have references for every quotation. If the material in one paragraph comes from a single source, then only one reference is necessary at the end of the last sentence of the paragraph containing material from that source (although if this is the case, you are probably reporting too much, analyzing too little). At the beginning of this material, it is helpful to refer in your text to your source, since you are depending on it heavily. Paraphrases and summaries do not require quotation marks, of course, but they do need parenthetical citations. Generally, if you are getting detailed information from another source, citations are required, unless the information can be considered common knowledge--that is, knowledge you could find in any general source on the topic.
When introducing an important source in your paper, use a phrase that indicates a bit about the source itself: As sociologist Raoul Stonecyphon points out, . . . , or, According to a recent article in Cheese Quarterly, . . . . Always refer to authors by their last names, without titles; for example, call someone like columnist Quentin Collins "Quentin Collins" (not "Mr. Quentin Collins") the first time you introduce him, and "Collins" thereafter (not "Quentin"). Refer to Professor Julia Hoffman as "Julia Hoffman" the first time (not "Professor Julia Hoffman") and "Hoffman" thereafter (not "Dr. Hoffman").
Within the parenthetical citation, in the MLA style, give the name of the author (or title of the article only if no author is given) and the page number on which the quotation appears: such as (Jennings 104) instead of (Chris Jennings, pp. 95-107). Your readers get the rest of the bibliographical material from your Works Cited page. If in your sentence you already have mentioned the authority by name, in the parenthetical citation you need only give the page reference.
Parenthetical citations belong outside the closing quotation
mark and after one space, but inside the period ending the sentence:
"Like this for example" (Evans 68). Quotations occupying
more than four lines of text, however, should be indented an extra
inch (ten spaces altogether, or tabbed twice), double-spaced,
but not enclosed within quotation marks:
You should note also that the parenthetical citations for
these long quotations appear outside the period which ends the
quotation, unlike the case with linear quotations in your paper.
Put single quotation marks around a quotation within another
quotation ("'Four score and seven years ago,' he started"),
unless the quotation appears inside a long, blocked quotation,
in which case you use double quotation marks.
You may want to keep a copy of your paper, but be sure to turn in all rough drafts with the final copy. In some cases, the drafts will contain the editing work of your classmates. Papers without drafts may not be accepted for grading. When you work on computer, print out a rough draft before revising.
Papers must meet the required length. Staple the paper once in the upper left-hand corner.
For more (grim) advice about turning in assignments, see Labor and Delivery.
And so, after all this neurotic hoopla, enjoy the thrill of turning in a gorgeous creation.