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AP Lit. Writing Guidelines for College-Level Papers. When Writing at the College Level…. Things to do. 1. You must address each element of the prompt. 2. Write in present tense . 3. Use Active Voice .

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ap lit
AP Lit

Writing Guidelines

for

College-Level Papers

slide2

When Writing at the

College Level…

slide3

Things to do...

1. You must address each element of the prompt.

2. Write in present tense.

3. Use Active Voice.

4. Back up every opinion or general statement with an example or quote from the text.

5. Simple and direct is best.

slide4

Things to do...

6. Who vs. that

7. Correct usage of could vs. can, would vs. will.

8. Titles

9. Numbers

10. Omit needless words.

11. Make sure the antecedent and pronoun agree.

slide5

Things to avoid...

12. Avoid summary.

13. Avoid mentioning yourself.

14. Avoid directly addressing the reader as “you”.

15. Avoid contractions.

16. Avoid “is” as a helping verb.

17. Avoid absolutes.

slide6

Things to avoid...

18. Avoid Redundancy

19. Avoid the What If? problem.

20. Avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

slide7

And finally…

21. Writing is Rewriting

slide8

1. Address the prompt

You must

must

must

Pay attention to what the prompt is asking!

slide9

For Example…

The prompt may ask you to talk about specific elements in the work like…

imagery, form, diction, and tone.

slide10

Or it might only suggest you talk about these things.

In either case, make sure you do it.

2 write in present tense
2. Write in Present Tense
  • If I told you there was a fight yesterday just outside this window, you may or may not be interested.

If I told you there is a fight right now just outside this window, you would have to force yourself not to look.

slide12

This also applies to your writing

Write about the work as if it is happening right now, and it will be much more interesting than if you write about it as a dusty old museum piece.

slide13

For Example

In the last act of the play, Romeo killed himself.

In chapter one, Lenny and George met at the lake.

Is not as powerful as…

In the last act of the play, Romeo kills himself.

In chapter one, Lenny and George meet at the lake.

slide14

Besides, you can open the text to the part you are writing about at any time…

and it is happening - right now!

slide15

3. Always Use

Active

Voice

slide17

In the same way that writing in present tense makes your writing more alive and involves the reader, so does using active voice.

what is passive voice
What is Passive Voice?

Glad you asked…

slide19

First, Passive Voice

This is when the subject of a sentence is not doing anything.

Something is being done to it.

It receives the action, i.e. it is passive.

slide20

For Example

The play was written by T. S. Eliot.

The winning shot was made by Michael Jordan.

Dinner is being prepared right now.

Something is being done to the subject.

Notice that a “by” clause is either present or implied.

slide21

Active

Voice

is when the subject of a sentence

performs the action…

slide22

The play was written by T. S. Eliot.

The winning shot was made by Michael Jordan.

Dinner is being prepared right now.

T. S. Eliot wrote the play.

Michael Jordan made the winning shot.

I am preparing dinner right now.

Notice thatActive Voice usually uses fewer words.

slide23

Saying more with fewer words

is one of the hallmarks of good writing.

Make every word count.

UsingActive Voice

will help you achieve this.

slide24

For Example…

  • It has been found regrettable that the villagers’ lives were terminated.

Really?

Who regrets it?

and

Who“terminated” them?

slide25

It has been found regrettable that the

  • Villagers’ lives were terminated.

(this one’s a double-fault,

two passive verb structures)

slide27

InActive Voice…

I regret I killed the villagers.

At least this killer gets to the point and takes some responsibility for his/her actions.

slide28

1. Sentences in passive voice…

are usuallywordy,

clumsy,

and non-specific.

slide29

2. And worse, passive voice…

… allows a writer or speaker

to avoid responsibility

(that’s why politicians love to use it).

slide30

No one makes the mistake.

It is simply "made."

slide31

This is the mistake most commonly made.

By whom?

The reader?

The writer?

slide32

In passive voice, nothing is ever anyone's fault, because people do not do things.

Things happen to people.

“Irving ate the food” is active.

“The food was eaten” is passive.

Notice that Irving has vanished completely.

The food and the action of eating are made more important than the person who does them.

slide33

Errors were made.

Funds were misused.

Damage was done.

Really?

BY WHOM????

slide34

There are four phrases above

Which is the strongest?

slide36

Look for the appearance or suggestion of a “by clause.”

(it’s technically a prepositional phrase)

slide37

If something is being done to the subject of your sentence, it has to be done by someone or something.

slide38

Beware of any form of the verb is.

are, was, and be

as a helping verb

This can also indicate passive voice.

for example
For Example…
  • It can be seen that the flower is blue.
  • A stronger way to say it is…
  • We can see that the flower is blue.
slide40
Or…
  • Another difference can be found in line four.
  • A stronger way to say it is…
  • We find another difference in line four.
but even in active voice avoid the helping verb is
But even in Active Voice, avoid the helping verb is.
  • The author is using a paradox here.
  • A much stronger way to say it is
  • The author uses a paradox here.
slide42

The movie was made by Steven Spielberg.

  • Steven Spielberg made the movie.
  • The songs were written by Paul McCartney.
  • Paul McCartney wrote the songs.
  • The author is using vivid imagery.
  • The author uses vivid imagery.
slide43

In the real world you will use both active and passive voice.

  • When to use passive voice will eventually be a matter of choice, but for now always use active voice.
slide44

Simply put….

Have the subject of your sentence

do something.

4 back up every general statement
4. Back Up Every General Statement
  • … or observation with a quote or specific example from the text.

Assertion is not evidence.

Just because you say something is so does not make it so.

You must show proof to support your assertions.

5 simple and direct is best
5. Simple and Direct is Best

Don’t let your desire to impress get in the way of what you are saying.

Have fun with your writing but style should follow function.

That is, your purpose is to persuade or investigate, not to show off.

slide47

Another way to say this is...

Don’t let your ego get in the way of your point.

6 who vs that
6. Who vs. That

Simply put, a person is a who.

Everything else is a that.

There is the dog thatbit me.

There is the man who bit me.

7 could vs can and would vs will
7. Could vs Can and Would vs Will

Could and would are conditional statements.

That is, they rely on a condition

(usually the word if) to work correctly.

for example1
For Example...
  • [no] I could go to the movies with you.
        • The condition is missing - something like...
  • I could go to the movies with you if I had the money.
        • [yes] I can go to the movies with you.
8 titles
8. Titles

Titles of long works are underlined.

Everything else is in “quotations.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel.

It’s underlined.

“Unchained Melody” is a song.

It’s in quotation marks.

9 numbers
9. Numbers

Numbers from one to nine are spelled out.

Numbers from 10 to ???? are written numerically.

10 omit needless words
10. Omit Needless Words

If you can say the same thing with fewer words,

DO IT.

One of the hallmarks of good writing is economy.

Keep it lean.

11 pronoun antecedent agreement
11. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

This is the most common error I see in student papers.

It’s because we speak this way.

Every writer I know wants to have their novel published.

“writer,” the antecedent, is singular

“their”, the pronoun referring to “writer” is plural

They don’t match.

slide55

Two ways to fix this...

          • ...change the pronoun or change the antecedent.
  • Every writer I know wants to have his or her novel published.
  • All the writers I know want to have their novels published.
12 avoid summary
12. Avoid Summary
  • You need to analyze and interpret.
  • For analysis purposes, what happens in the book or article is not as important as why it happens or what it means.
slide57

Remember who you are writing for.

  • In this class, assume you are writing for your classmates - of which I am one, and we have all read the text.
  • Though some background is usually necessary to make your point there is no need to go into extensive background information - keep it to a minimum.
13 avoid mentioning yourself
13. Avoid Mentioning Yourself...
  • as inI believe...
  • or I think...
  • or in my opinion…

The reader already assumes the views and interpretations in your paper are yours (unless you are plagiarizing).

slide59

It goes without saying,

so don’t say it !

slide60

And whether you liked or did not like the novel, play, whatever,

is not important (to an AP reader).

Showing that you can interpret and write intelligently about a piece of literature is important.

In other words…

And whether you liked (or did not like) the book, article, whatever, is not important in an analytical paper.

slide61

However, showing that you can comprehend and write intelligently about a piece of writing is important.

Put the focus on the analysis,

not on yourself.

slide62

And whether you liked or did not like the novel, play, whatever,

is not important (to an AP reader).

Showing that you can interpret and write intelligently about a piece of literature is important.

In other words…

In other words…

Avoid the use of “I”

14 avoid directly addressing the reader as you
14. Avoid Directly Addressing the Reader as you.
  • As in...

You can see from the metaphor that...

You recognize at once that...

Really?

How do you know what I can recognize?

slide64

The reader, or one, or we is better.

  • The reader can see from the metaphor that...
  • We can recognize at once that...
15 avoid contractions
15. Avoid Contractions
  • They are too informal for an academic paper.

You cannot use can’t.

You will not use won’t.

You should not use shouldn’t.

You do not use don’t.

16 avoid using is as a helping verb
16. Avoid Using is as a helping verb

Simply use the main verb by itself. It is much stronger.

The author is using descriptive imagery to show us...

[no]

The author uses descriptive imagery to show us...

[yes]

17 avoid absolutes
17. Avoid Absolutes

Such as…

everyone

no one

always

never

They are questionable at best

Most,few,often, or seldom is better.

18 avoid redundancy
18. Avoid Redundancy

We can see throughout the whole book.

It’s redundant, throughoutmeanswhole

We can see throughout the book.

19 avoid the what if mistake
19. Avoid the “What if…” Mistake
  • It does no good to assume what a character might have done “if…”
    • (this applies when you’re writing about

fiction)

slide70

If Romeo had waited a little longer, he would have seen Juliet wake up and they would not have killed themselves.

Maybe, but the fact is he didn’t.

slide72

Focus instead on why the author has them do what they do.

What does their behavior tell you about them and the world they inhabit?

slide73

You need to interpret.

Why did the author write this play/poem/novel this way? What is she trying to communicate?

Is she…

… teaching a lesson?

… observing some aspect of life?

… describing a feeling?

… “painting a picture?”

How is the author achieving this?

What techniques is she using?

20 don t end a sentence with a preposition
20. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition

What does their behavior tell you about them and the world they live in? [no]

What does their behavior tell you about them and the world in which they live? [yes]

21 writing is rewriting
21. Writing is Rewriting
  • Nobody gets it right on the first draft.
  • First, get your ideas down on paper.
  • Then polish, refine, and clarify.
slide77

Lots of stuff to keep track of, I know

But eventually these guidelines

will become second nature.

And I guarantee…

You will be a better

writer because of them.

remember
Remember...
  • ... language is a messy, inexact business and any rule or guideline that an instructor may give you - some great writer has broken it.
for example2
For Example...
  • Marc Antony says of Brutus stabbing Caesar -
  • “This was the most unkindest cut of all.”
  • Say What?!

most unkindest?!

Who is this guy?

or how about this
Or how about this...

That is the type of thing I shall not put up with.

Written correctly this sentence would be...

That is the type of thing up with which I shall not put.

slide81

There is a saying...

“There are three rules for excellent writing.

Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”