Ewert’s Writing Rules
7-11 Bathroom Approach to Writing
<ul><li>Much like a gas station bathroom, your goal with writing should be to do what you have to do and to get out as qui...
<ul><li>Related to (1), only do what you have to do once. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unless you have problems, you don’t want t...
<ul><ul><li>Also, try not to restate.  That is, try not to say something you just said in a different way because you thin...
<ul><li>Don’t leave until you’re done what it is you set out to do. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t go racing out of the b...
When it comes to papers, I don’t care what you think, feel, or believe.  Neither does anybody else.  So you don’t need to ...
<ul><li>Observe: </li></ul><ul><li>The United States should attack North Korea.  NK is led by a tyrant who is working on a...
<ul><ul><li>Does it work the other way around? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>You say, “I think the United States should a...
<ul><ul><li>Not only are “think, feel, and believe” extraneous to an argument, but they may make you sound unsure or even ...
<ul><ul><li>Opinions worth having are worth arguing for.  In arguing for your opinions, you seek to demonstrate they are n...
Map It <ul><li>Before you start writing, map out your argument. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This will make your argument clearer...
Paragraphs are your friends.
<ul><li>If it’s a new idea, it’s a new paragraph. </li></ul><ul><li>If it’s a new step to your argument, it’s a new paragr...
Stick to it <ul><li>Stake out a position and stick to it throughout the essay. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t be wishy-washy and ...
Pre-emptive Strike <ul><li>If there’s some really obvious and damaging objection to your argument, it’s usually best to no...
Different Words <ul><li>Loose and lose are not the same thing. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Even if you know this, your spell-che...
Read It Out Loud <ul><li>Once done and edited, read the paper out loud to yourself. </li></ul><ul><li>I guarantee that you...
<ul><li>Grammar quibbles: </li></ul><ul><li>Whether or not </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You usually don’t need the “or not.”  Jus...
<ul><li>The unnecessary ‘that’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t need to use the word ‘that’ nearly as often as you likely d...
<ul><li>Redundant fluff </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you’ve said it once, you don’t need to say it again. </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Feeling things </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We’ve covered this, but it’s worth mentioning again. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><...
<ul><li>Split infinitives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Minor quibble, but it’s best not to split infinitives. </li></ul></ul><ul>...
<ul><li>Who/that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You use ‘who’ when talking about people and ‘that’ when talking about things. </li>...
<ul><li>Ending with prepositions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid this when possible. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepositions a...
<ul><li>Name possessives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The correct way to indicate the singular possessive of a name ending in ‘s’...
<ul><li>Verb tense </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep it consistent. </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Trying </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t try  and  do something. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You try  to  do it. </li...
<ul><li>Noun-pronoun agreement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure your pronoun agrees with its antecedent noun. </li></ul></u...
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Ewert’s Writing Rules

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My rules for quality writing.

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Ewert’s Writing Rules

  1. 1. Ewert’s Writing Rules
  2. 2. 7-11 Bathroom Approach to Writing
  3. 3. <ul><li>Much like a gas station bathroom, your goal with writing should be to do what you have to do and to get out as quickly as possible. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t do anything unnecessary or stand around admiring the stalls (if there is one <shudder>). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarly, don’t include stuff in your writing that does not advance the argument or the point of your paper. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reread a paragraph when you finish it and ask yourself if all of it is necessary. If it isn’t, axe it. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Related to (1), only do what you have to do once. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unless you have problems, you don’t want to do your business twice in one visit. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t duplicate your efforts in your writing. That means don’t be repetitive. If you say the same thing in a sentence or paragraph that you just said in the previous sentence or paragraph, then axe it. You always want to advance the argument and duplicating isn’t doing it. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><ul><li>Also, try not to restate. That is, try not to say something you just said in a different way because you think it makes more sense the new way. In other words, try not to use, “That is,” and, “In other words,” unless it’s really necessary. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Typically, if you say it, say it the first and only time so that it makes sense. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If it makes more sense the second time, then use that and get rid of the first one. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Don’t leave until you’re done what it is you set out to do. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t go racing out of the bathroom with your pants around your ankles. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whatever point or argument you’re trying to make, don’t finish the paper until you’ve done it. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. When it comes to papers, I don’t care what you think, feel, or believe. Neither does anybody else. So you don’t need to say it. I care about arguments. Think/Feel/Believe
  8. 8. <ul><li>Observe: </li></ul><ul><li>The United States should attack North Korea. NK is led by a tyrant who is working on a nuclear program that could, and will, one day threaten both the U.S. and our overseas allies. Diplomacy has so far been ineffective and military force is the only option left. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I can assume from these statements that you think North Korea should be attacked. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I can also assume from these statements that you believe that North Korea is dangerous. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because, based on reading your argument, I can safely assume that you think and feel those things, there’s no point in saying it. It’s extraneous. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><ul><li>Does it work the other way around? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>You say, “I think the United States should attack North Korea.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>That doesn’t tell me why. Telling me why requires an argument and then you no longer need to say, “I think.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>You say, “I feel that North Korea is dangerous.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>That doesn’t tell me why. Telling me why requires an argument and then you no longer need to say, “I feel.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>You say, “I believe that North Korea is a threat to the U.S.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>That doesn’t tell me why. Telling me why requires an argument and then you no longer need to say, “I believe.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><ul><li>Not only are “think, feel, and believe” extraneous to an argument, but they may make you sound unsure or even stupid. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prefacing an argument with “I think (feel/believe),” makes it seem like merely a matter of personal opinion instead of a solid position backed up by evidence and logic. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If a position is worth saying, just say it! Don’t qualify it. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><ul><li>Opinions worth having are worth arguing for. In arguing for your opinions, you seek to demonstrate they are not merely opinions, but truth or at least as close as you are able to arrive at at the time. This while generating discussion and opposing arguments that will lead you to either dismiss your held opinion as false or to refine it so as to be closer to truth. Conversely, through the creation of the argument, you demonstrate you hold the opinion not out of whim or unexamined belief, but because of its truth-value. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Map It <ul><li>Before you start writing, map out your argument. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This will make your argument clearer and ensure your don’t have gaps. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This is good to do before at-home or in-class writing. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For in-class, especially, because it will help make sure you don’t miss or forget points that you want to make. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Paragraphs are your friends.
  14. 14. <ul><li>If it’s a new idea, it’s a new paragraph. </li></ul><ul><li>If it’s a new step to your argument, it’s a new paragraph. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Stick to it <ul><li>Stake out a position and stick to it throughout the essay. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t be wishy-washy and try to have it both ways. </li></ul><ul><li>Not only does this seem indecisive, it undermines whatever your thesis you have. </li></ul><ul><li>Worse, it may make your essay incoherent. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you’re writing an essay arguing that, say, God exists, you can’t say that God both exists and doesn’t exist or is somewhere in between. It’s got to be one or the other and you would just appear confused if you tried having it both ways. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Pre-emptive Strike <ul><li>If there’s some really obvious and damaging objection to your argument, it’s usually best to note it and then defeat it. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Different Words <ul><li>Loose and lose are not the same thing. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Even if you know this, your spell-checker doesn’t so don’t depend on it to know the difference. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Read It Out Loud <ul><li>Once done and edited, read the paper out loud to yourself. </li></ul><ul><li>I guarantee that you’ll find misspellings, grammar errors, missing words, awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, nonsense, and other problems that you missed when reading it in your head (no matter how many times you read it in your head). </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Grammar quibbles: </li></ul><ul><li>Whether or not </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You usually don’t need the “or not.” Just say, “Whether” </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>The unnecessary ‘that’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t need to use the word ‘that’ nearly as often as you likely do. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observe: “Johnny thought that he needed to go to the store.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Johnny thought he needed to go to the store.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Johnny said that the goblins will destroy us all.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Johnny said the goblins will destroy us all.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you write a sentence with a ‘that’ in it, read the sentence with and without the ‘that.’ If it still makes sense without the ‘that,’ get rid of it. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Redundant fluff </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you’ve said it once, you don’t need to say it again. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Feeling things </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We’ve covered this, but it’s worth mentioning again. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also watch out for interchangeability of terms. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>Split infinitives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Minor quibble, but it’s best not to split infinitives. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An infinitive is the formulation of a verb, “to <verb>”, e.g. to do, to walk, to annihilate, to succeed, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t stick an adverb, ‘not’, or some other word between the ‘to’ and the verb, e.g. to briskly walk, to totally annihilate, to not succeed. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Say instead, to walk briskly, to annihilate totally, not to succeed. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your writing will sound better. </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>Who/that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You use ‘who’ when talking about people and ‘that’ when talking about things. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observe: “Students that love musicals will love Mama Mia! ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No! Students are people, people I tell you! The correct way is, “Students who love musicals will love Mama Mia! ” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Toasters that break will set your bread on fire.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Toasters are things so we say ‘that.’ </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>Ending with prepositions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid this when possible. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prepositions are words like down, to, by. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t say, “The store is where he wants to go to.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Say, “He wants to go to the store.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t say, “Wal-Mart is the store he wants to go to.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Say, “Wal-Mart is the store to which he wants to go.” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>Name possessives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The correct way to indicate the singular possessive of a name ending in ‘s’ is apostrophe s. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t say, “Mr. Jennings’ pencil explodes when used for evil.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Say, “Mr. Jennings’s pencil explodes when used for evil.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mr. Jennings is just one guy, so he gets the singular possessive treatment. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Verb tense </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep it consistent. </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Trying </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t try and do something. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You try to do it. </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>Noun-pronoun agreement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure your pronoun agrees with its antecedent noun. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure the possessive pronoun agrees with its antecedent noun. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t say, “Each teacher needs to make sure their pencils don’t explode.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Say, “Each teacher needs to make sure his [or her, or his or her] pencils don’t explode.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>

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