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Improving Writing Style in Expository Essays . Avoid Quoting Entire Conversations. Example:

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avoid quoting entire conversations
Avoid Quoting Entire Conversations


LaBoeuf calls out Cogburn and says that the group he was in “were not soldiers at all but murdering thieves” LaBoeuf also goes on to say “ ‘I heard they murdered women and children at Lawrence, Kansas’ ‘I have heard that too. It is a damned lie.’” (179).


Select the most significant of the text to quote. Paraphrase the rest.

When Cogburn refuses to declare where he served, LaBoeuf presses the issue by confronting the Marshall with Stonehill’s claim that he rode with the infamous Quantrill in a bloody massacre. He tells Cogburn, “I heard they murdered women and children at Lawrence, Kansas” (179). Cogburn denies the rumors of Quantrill’s alleged savagery, but eludes the question of whether or not he was actually there.

establish logical reasoning
Establish Logical Reasoning

Do not talk about Cogburn wanting redemption until establishing something to need redemption for.

It is not clear to say that Cogburn says that he works in the bullet department and therefore he is seeking redemption.

expand explanations to clarify logical connections
Expand Explanations to Clarify Logical Connections






do not overstate
Do Not Overstate

The connection between Cogburn’s evasiveness and his desire for redemption is only IMPLIED.

Words like REVEALS, CLEARLY, and PROVES are too strong.

eliminate erroneous claims
Eliminate Erroneous Claims

Dubious Logic

Clear Logic

Cogburn responds to LaBoeuf’s question about where he served in the war by saying, “I forget just what they call it.” The Marshall’s evasiveness suggests that he is does not want to share his real assignment with his companion possibly because he is not proud of it.

Cogburn mentions, “I forget just what they call it.” This proves that Cogburn is just scared to fight.

avoid unclear pronoun references
Avoid Unclear Pronoun References

Explanations should not begin with the phrase

This shows that…

“THIS” what?



This action shows that

This event shows that

Even Better

Cogburn’s response to LaBoeuf’s remarks shows that…

use active rather than passive voice
Use Active Rather Than Passive Voice


Passive voice is when the action of the object is the subject of the sentence


The road was crossed by the chicken


The chicken crossed the road

select quotes to support main ideas and add new information
Select Quotes to Support Main Ideas and Add New Information

Poor Choice

Strong Choice

The first chance he got, he went to the front lines to fight at the battle of Five Forks and Petersburg. When Cogburn asks LaBoeuf which side he was on, the Ranger replies, “I was in the army of Northern Virginia, Cogburn, and I don’t have to hang my head when I say it.”

The first chance he got, he went to the front lines to fight at the battle of Five Forks and Petersburg. He tells Cogburn, “There were twenty-five in our party and we got there in time for Five Forks and Petersburg.”

organizing a compare contrast
Organizing a Compare-Contrast
  • Always talk about similarities first
  • Present ideas by attribute, not by similarities and then differences
  • Use transition words between examples to show relationships (see handout)
clarification on tense
Clarification on Tense
  • All actions contained within the time frame of the novel should be in PRESENT tense (i.e. when Cogburn and LaBoeuf are talking about their service)
  • Actions that precede the events in the novel should be discussed in PAST tense (i.e. when Cogburn and LaBoeuf recall their military service)