Formal Essay Guidelines

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Ima Writer
Ms. Durham
AP English
15 August 2013
Formal Essay Guidelines
The introductory paragraph will present the main concept of the paper. While limits are not placed on paragraph and essay length, be sure you completely answer the prompt. Stay on topic! Always check and correct errors in subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. A strong thesis statement is a must.

Paragraphs giving supporting examples and explanations should constitute the bulk of the paper. NEVER summarize the plot. In formal essays, “textual evidence should be cited to support the explanations” (Durham 13). Only use the author’s name if more than one book is being discussed. If the essay only deals with Durham’s book, the “page number will suffice” (28). Of course it would not be English if there was not an exception to the rule. If two books are being used, and successive references are made to the same book, use the author’s name and page number for the first cite. The second cite only needs the page number.

If poetry is being discussed, all these rules apply except the page number is replaced with the line number(s). When quoting prose or poetry, if more than four typed lines for prose or four lines of the poem are used, indent 10 spaces, double space, and do not use quotation marks. The parenthetical rules still apply. Keep in mind, the reader is looking for what YOU think about the piece. If four or more lines are quoted, they better be really good, really relevant, and really necessary. Usually, that many lines equal plot summary, and that is a sin against the composition gods!

What if a drama is the topic of choice? Cite dramas by division (act. scene. line). For example: Hamlet comments, “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of this world” (1.2.133-134). Note the “/”; this just means two lines were used and the “/” indicates where the line break occurs.

Perhaps the “Writer 1” and “Writer 2” have caught your attention. These are headers, and every formal paper needs them. Microsoft Word will automatically set these up using the following directions:

  1. Make sure the cursor is at the top of page one

  2. Select “Insert” on the toolbar

  3. In the “Header & Footer” section, select “Page Number”

  4. Select “Top of Page”

  5. Select “Plain Number 3”

  6. Type your last name beside the number, leaving one space between the name and number

  7. Select “Close Header & Footer”

If everything is done properly, your last name and sequential page numbers will appear in gray on each page.

The concluding paragraph should leave the reader with no doubts as to the points being made about the piece of literature. Remain focused on the piece of literature; this paragraph is not the place to teach life lessons! Since it is the last thing the reader sees, take some time to make sure you have a strong concluding paragraph.

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