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Butler Writing Guide


Introducing your subject(s) is essential to effective writing. The introduction is not necessarily restricted to one paragraph. However, whether it is one paragraph or more, the introduction has essential functions.

  1. It clarifies the thesis, purpose statement, claim or controlling idea of the writing.
  2. It provides a "map" for the organization of the writing.
  3. It establishes the audience for your writing. Your instructor is not always your audience. The audience is the intended group of readers for your writing. To write effectively, you should estimate your audience's knowledge of your subject, their interest in it, and their biases toward it. 

Links for help with:

Audience      Definition      Definition

Introductions  Examples     Definition

Word Choice

Word Choice/Diction is the precise choice and use of words appropriate to your purpose and audience.  Clarity is crucial to effective writing. Do not use words that seem "impressive" or "learned." Use words that are precise to your meaning. Use this dictionary to discover precise and multiple definitions, or to find synonyms for words.

Links for help with:

Word Choice     Examples     Examples

Sentence Smoothness

Effective sentences are smooth (fluent) sentences. Sentence smoothness (fluency) establishes the "flow" or continuity of the ideas in sentences. Sentence fluency consists of syntax and coherence. Sentence syntax is the order in which words are arranged in a sentence to convey the meaning of the sentence. Sentence coherence is the continuity between sentences created by transitions. There are four basic methods to create sentence coherence:

  1. transitional words
  2. repetition of key words and phrases from sentence to sentence
  3. pronoun reference
  4. parallelism

If your sentences lack fluency as the result of awkward syntax or faulty coherence, then the development of your ideas and your writing will lack clarity and sequence.  Many problems with sentence structure result from confusion about active and passive voice. The misuse of passive voice frequently creates awkward syntax.

Links for help with:

Sentence structure       

Syntax     Definition      Definition

Coherence     Definition/Examples     Procedure     Examples

Sentence smoothness (fluency)     Examples    

Sentence variation     Examples

Active and passive voice     Example     Examples

Effective Paragraphs

Following the introduction are the paragraphs that organize and develop the subject of your writing. Typically, a paragraph is a group of sentences that are intended to develop a single idea. A topic sentence unifies and organizes the paragraph. However, depending on your purpose, paragraph organization and development may vary. The topic sentence unifies the paragraph with the thesis. It also organizes the information in the paragraph. There are also transitions between paragraphs. Paragraph transitions clarify the relationship of one paragraph to another.

Links for help with:

Topic sentences         Examples

Effective paragraphs     Tips     Tips     Tips

Paragraph transitions     Tips


Many writing assignments need a conclusion to indicate that your writing is complete, that you did not simply decide to stop writing. The conclusion conveys a sense of completeness to your writing. As with the introduction, you have several choices of ways to complete your writing. 

Links for help with:

Conclusions       Tips    


Another important element of effective writing is voice. Voice is the element of writing that conveys your unique understanding of the subject of your writing. Your voice "speaks" to your audience. It is the "personality" of your writing.  Your voice should be natural and honest, not forced and awkward. Your voice reflects your ability to use language to write about the subject that is not written in a "monotone." It is the quality that separates your writing from other "anonymous" students. To determine whether or not your writing has a voice, consider these questions as you, or someone else, reads your writing:

Does my writing reflect an awareness of my audience? Does my sentence fluency and word choice sound "honest" and reflect my unique perspective?

Links for help with Voice:


Conventions of Grammar, Punctuation, and Mechanics

Grammar, Punctuation, and Mechanics

The writing rules of the road are grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.  If your writing doesn't conform to these rules, then you will not be able to communicate your ideas clearly. 

Use the following links for help with:

Grammar, punctuation and mechanics     Examples     Examples     Examples

Common errors     Examples

Commas and semicolons       Examples    

Correct verb tense and verb agreement     Definition     Definition     Examples     Examples

Pronouns and pronoun agreement     Definition            Examples

Punctuating dialogue between speakers    

You may want to look at this comprehensive Guide to Grammar and Writing, which can easily be used as a "field guide."