Common Characteristics of Good Writing



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  • “Quick-Fix” Workshop
  • Communication Centre
  • Writing Essays

Common Characteristics of Good Writing

  • It has purpose: to inform, persuade, or entertain
  • It has an appropriate structure: the writing adheres to the particular rules or conventions appropriate for the type of writing
  • It makes sense: it is easy to follow, logical, clear

4. It is complete: key ideas are never omitted in good writing and the writer ensures that the reader has everything needed to understand the message

  • 4. It is complete: key ideas are never omitted in good writing and the writer ensures that the reader has everything needed to understand the message
  • 5. It has a unique voice, or personal style: good writing conveys the writer’s unique personality. Style is what makes the difference between a dry, boring text and one that continually engages the reader, prompting curiosity and interest

Critical Thinking: An Essential Tool for Essay Writing

  • Before you begin writing your essay, you must first do some thinking
  • Critical thinking is the process by which you closely examine and consider a message, topic or text and, using analysis and logic, formulate your own assessment of its validity

How to Think Critically

  • To think critically, you must analyze and evaluate what you read, ultimately deciding whether you believe its message has value
  • A central skill in critical thinking is being able to distinguish between objective statements or responses (those that can be supported by evidence) and subjective ones (those that are based more on emotions than facts)

Critical Reading

  • The process through which you draw conclusions and develop logical interpretations of a text by considering the writer, the content (what the writer actually says), and the structure (how it’s put together) in order to understand and respond to it

Reading: The First Time Through the Full Text

  • Try to determine the author’s purpose, intended audience and tone:
  • Purpose: the author’s purpose is his/her objective – what he/she hopes will happen as a result of people reading the text

Audience: the audience is the intended readership for a particular piece of writing

  • Audience: the audience is the intended readership for a particular piece of writing
  • Tone: like tone of voice, the tone of a piece of writing lets us know the writer’s true feelings about it – his or her attitude about the subject (anger, sadness, sarcasm, etc.)

2. Try to uncover the text’s structure and underlying meaning: look for patterns or devices that connect ideas; notice any sentences or phrases you think are imbued with particular meaning and search for repeated phrases or words

  • 2. Try to uncover the text’s structure and underlying meaning: look for patterns or devices that connect ideas; notice any sentences or phrases you think are imbued with particular meaning and search for repeated phrases or words
  • Look for links among ideas; for example, consider how the last paragraph (the conclusion) connects to the previous one, to the introduction, and so on

Post-Reading: Reviewing What You Have Read

  • Write a quick summary of the text
      • Jot down, in your own words, your initial impressions of the main message and major points
  • 2. Determine the thesis of the text
      • If you had to sum up the writer’s point in a single sentence, what would it be?

3. State the main points that support the thesis

  • 3. State the main points that support the thesis
      • What are the main points of support that the writer uses to back up the thesis
  • 4. Answer any unanswered questions
      • This stage may involve research
  • 5. Clarify your responses to the reading
      • Do you think the writer’s points/ideas are valid?
      • Are they presented logically?
      • Is the writer biased?
      • Do you think the text is well written?
      • Remember: any conclusions that you draw should be based on solid evidence

“The Canadian Way” by Charles Gordon

  • Read the article
  • Write a quick summary of the piece and consider the following:
      • What is the irony in Gordon’s title?
      • What is the tone of the essay? Provide examples to support your answer
      • What do you think Gordon’s purpose is in this essay? Is he successful in achieving it? Why or why not?

Determine the thesis of the text – what is the main message?

  • Determine the thesis of the text – what is the main message?
  • State the main points of support for the thesis

Essay Question

  • In “The Canadian Way” Gordon suggests that Canadians’ behaviour fails to promote or support Canadian culture. What does Gordon imply we can do to save our unique culture? Support your answer with examples from the article.
  • So, where do we begin?

Developing a Thesis

  • After you have brainstormed some ideas, notes, points, or sentences based on the assigned topic, you need to find the leading idea for an essay – the thesis
  • Your thesis is the core of the entire essay and serves as its guiding principle; everything else in the essay should serve to support, explain, or prove the thesis

Characteristics of an Effective Thesis

  • A good thesis can always be expressed in a single sentence – it should state both your topic and viewpoint (the idea about the topic) as clearly and directly as possible
  • It presents a clear viewpoint – what is your “take” on the topic?

It is stated near the beginning of the paper – most often, the thesis is positioned as the last sentence in the introductory paragraph

  • It is stated near the beginning of the paper – most often, the thesis is positioned as the last sentence in the introductory paragraph
  • It is never a question: since the point of the thesis is to present your viewpoint on the issue, a question suggests that you haven’t yet decided what it is

It is neither so broad that it allows only a generalized treatment of the topic nor so narrow that it eliminates any possibility for further development

  • It is neither so broad that it allows only a generalized treatment of the topic nor so narrow that it eliminates any possibility for further development
  • It is supportable – you may have a great idea that presents an original, interesting viewpoint, but if there is not enough support (evidence – from the text or other sources) to back it up, then it’s not a viable thesis
      • Be sure you can think of at least 3 strong, convincing points of support

Working Thesis Statement

  • In “The Canadian Way”, Charles Gordon suggests that there are several actions we can take to help save Canadian culture.

Organize Your Ideas in an Outline

  • Once you have a thesis in mind, decide how, specifically, you’ll support it in the body of your essay
  • How can you state your case so that the reader will naturally agree with you by the time s/he finishes reading your essay?
  • How can you write in such a way that the essay naturally substantiates the thesis statement?

Ordering Points in an Outline

  • Aim for 3-5 points that you feel provide all the essential support for the thesis
  • There are two main methods of ordering points:
    • Chronological Organization – organize points as they would naturally occur in time or in the text

Emphatic Organization (order of importance) – the most useful when writing argument essays

  • Emphatic Organization (order of importance) – the most useful when writing argument essays
    • You order your ideas from the least forceful to the most forceful; in other words, you end with your most convincing point
    • Finish with flourish!

Formatting the Outline

  • Introduction
      • Title of text, author
      • Main points to be developed in body paragraphs (these form your topic sentences)
      • Thesis Statement

Body Paragraphs (there are typically three in an essay – so repeat three times)

      • Topic Sentence – tells the reader what the major thrust/idea of the paragraph will be
      • Point
      • Proof (quote, paraphrase)
      • Analysis
      • Conclusion
  • Repeat the point/proof/analysis sequence 3-5 times in the body paragraph until you have built a solid argument to support your thesis statement

Conclusion

  • Conclusion
  • Restate your main points (the ideas developed in your body paragraphs)
  • Refer back to your thesis statement and make connections
  • Finish perhaps with a quotation

Back to “The Canadian Way”

  • Now that we have a working thesis, we can come up with supporting points, placed in emphatic order:
  • Stop American cultural influence.
  • Put more time and energy into Canadian cultural activities.
  • Spend our money on Canadian culture.
  • These three supporting points will form the topics for our three body paragraphs – now we have to find textual evidence and get writing!

Remember!

  • If you use secondary sources, be sure to properly quote and cite these sources (see handout)
  • Include a bibliography at the end of your essay in MLA (Modern Languages Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) format


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