Posts Tagged ‘Essay Terms’

Writing Style

e-Comments for Essay Writing Rules and Style

Essay Writing Rules and Style e-Comments

Although teachers exert considerable effort in showing students the differences between the narrative and essay genre, the both stories and essays do share some common writing rules. Among these are the accepted rules of writing style. Different than grammar, usage, or mechanics rules, the accepted rules of writing style help student writers avoid the pitfalls and excesses of formulaic, padded, and contrived writing.

Check out the essay e-comments teachers need to respond to student essays regarding writing rules and writing style.

Additionally, using proper writing style helps students improve coherence and readability. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Writing Center has an excellent article on writing style.

Although writing style is certainly unique to every writer, English-language arts teachers have a role in developing that style. Most would agree that there are, in fact, rules of essay style which are unique to that writing genre. I’ve developed a set of 24 Essay Writing Style Rules. Written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, teachers and some precocious students will appreciate the humor and all students will learn what not to write in their stories and essays. Teach these rules of writing style and cringe less as you grade that next set of papers.

Essay Style Rules

Essay Writing Style Rules

Essay Writing Style Rules

  1. Avoid intentional fragments. Right?
  2. Avoid formulaic phrases in this day and age.
  3. I have shown that you should delete references to your own writing.
  4. Be sort of specific.
  5. Don’t define terms (where a specialized word is used) using “reason is,” “because,” “where,” or “when.”
  6. Avoid using very interesting, nice words that contribute little to a sentence.
  7. Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.
  8. It is a mistake to ever split an infinitive.
  9. But do not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
  10. Avoid using clichés like a bad hair day.
  11. Always, avoid attention-getting alliteration.
  12. Parenthetical remarks should (most always) be avoided.
  13. Also, never, never repeat words or phrases very, very much, too.
  14. Use words only as they are defined, no matter how awesome they are.
  15. Even if a metaphor hits the spot, it can be over-played.
  16. Resist exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.
  17. Writers should always avoid generalizations.
  18. Avoid using big words when more utilitarian words would suffice.
  19. What use are rhetorical questions?
  20. The passive voice is a form to be avoided, if it can be helped.
  21. Never write no double negatives.
  22. There are good reasons to avoid starting every sentence with There.
  23. Always, absolutely avoid overstating ideas.
  24. Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.

I’ve developed eight writing style posters with these “rules” to teach students the key elements to effective writing style. Just click on the red button below to get this teachable resource.


Teaching Essays


The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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Common Core Essay Writing Terms

“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate (Cool Hand Luke, 1967).” A great line from one of Paul Newman’s best movies… but also relevant to, arguably, one of the more controversial strands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS): writing. Controversial because of three reasons:

  1. As with the reading strand, much of the writing focus is now on the argumentative and informational/explanatory domains, rather than on the narrative.
  2. The new history/social science, science, and technology literacy standards include each of the ten components from the writing strand.
  3. It looks like secondary content area teachers are going to have to start talking to one another. Some tips on beginning this conversation are in a related article, but the purpose of the present discussion to make the case for using a common language of instruction.

Much can be said in favor of a common language of instruction in writing. Using the same writing terms permits clear communication among teachers as well as with students. Terminology used by teachers in the subject disciplines can be quite “in-house” and can lead to misunderstanding/misuse out of context. Getting on the same page in terms of what we mean when we say “thesis statement,” for example, will facilitate more productive cross-curricular discussions, expectations, and instructional planning. Besides teachers, students have to scale the academic language barrier for each new teacher and course of study. Some of this may be necessary, but there is little doubt that students who hear and use the same academic vocabulary from grade to grade and course to course are more likely to apply prior content and process knowledge to new academic situations and tasks. Yes, students need to be flexible learners, but teachers also need to be “user-friendly” to their clients.

Common Core Essay Writing Terms


I propose using the CCSS language of instruction for the key writing terms across all subject disciplines in elementary, middle school, and high school. Some of us will have to come down out of our castles and give up pet writing terms that we’ve used for years, and ones that, indeed, may be more accurate than those of the CCSS. But for the sake of collaboration and service to our students, this pedagogical sacrifice is a must. Following are the first two (of ten) components of the writing strand with their respective purposes and forms, according to language of the CCSS document. The 6-12 Writing Strand uses the same writing terms and a.-e. components, but scaffolds more complex expectations grade to grade. Following is the 6th grade Writing Strand with relevant comments regarding additional scaffolded Grades 7-12 components.

CCSS W1 Argumentative Essays


1. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Comments: Some teachers would distinguish between argument (focus on the writer) and persuasion (focus on the reader), but the CCSS makes no such distinction. Many teachers would prefer using thesis statement, instead of claim, but even the California revisions make no such reference.


a. Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.

Comments: Essentially the introduction here with some reference to the organizational plan of the essay. Grades 7-12 scaffold alternate or opposing claim(s): “address” in the California revision (7th), “distinguish” (8th), make “clear” (9th -10th), and make “precise” (11th – 12th). The focus is on defining the claim(s) in context of competing claims.

b. Support claim(s) with clear reasoning and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

Comments: The writing terms for the body paragraphs are reasons and evidence. The usual structure of the body paragraph would identify the reason as the topic sentence and evidence as support/development. However, more mature writers could also select complementary claims as topic sentences (See 1a. “claim(s)) with reasons and evidence as support/development. Grades 7-12 replace “clear evidence” with “logical evidence” and add “accurate” to “credible sources. The California revision inserts “counterarguments” at 7th grade only. Grades 9-12 add the criteria of fairness and sense of audience to the argument.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.

Comments: Grades 7-12 scaffold in “counterclaims” and “evidence.”

d. Establish and maintain a formal style.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument

Comments: In other words, the conclusion.

CCSS W2 Informational/Explanatory Essays/Texts


2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

Comments: The language of these standards suggests a variety of writing genre that would come under the umbrella of informative/explanatory, including, but not limited to the traditional essay.

a. Introduce a topic; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

Comments: Essentially the introduction here with reference to the organizational plan. The California revision includes “or thesis statement” following “Introduce a topic” in Grades 6-12. Specific strategies to be used throughout the body paragraphs to examine the topic are detailed. Additional strategies are scaffolded across the grade levels: “previewing” (7th), “broader categories” with “definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect” omitted (8th), “to make important connections and distinctions” (9th -10th), and “each new element build upon that which precedes it to create a unified whole” (11th – 12th).


b. Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

Comments: Essentially the same types of evidence in Grades 7-12 that would develop the body paragraphs of the essay/text.

c. Use appropriate transitions to clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts. Grades 11-12 add “syntax” to transitions.

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic. Grades 11-12 add “techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.”

e. Establish and maintain a formal style. Grades 9-12 add “objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.”

f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the information or explanation presented.

Comments: In other words, the conclusion. Grades 9-12 add two examples of conclusion strategies: “articulating implications or the significance of the topic.”

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE, includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum.

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