Mechanics & Style

Passive Voice:

P.V. = Any form of the verb “To Be” + a past tense action verb

Some authors/writers use the passive voice to communicate certain concepts or highlight a trait of a certain character. For instance, in an essay about the Holocaust one writer chose to use the passive voice to drive home the point that “Jews were done to.” When done so intentionally, using passive voice is okay.     


Avoid using “this” without explicitly stating what “this” is, especially at the beginning of sentences. It often presents a clarity issue.

For example, after using a quotation, students write, “This shows that…”
Rather, try, “Silko’s use of the color blue…” Or, “Maclean illustrates through diction…”

"To get"

Students often use interactions of the verb “to get” incorrectly when you should be digging into your lexicon of verbs to be more precise.

For instance, you might write, “In Maclean’s novella, when Paul gets the fish…” Instead, try a more accurate and interesting verb, such as “In Maclean’s novella, when Paul catches the fish…” Or, “... when Paul reels in the fish…”

Sentence Variety:

There are many ways to add variation to our sentence structure. Two simple ways to mix it up are:

  1. Vary the rhythm by alternating short and long sentences.
  2. Vary sentence openings - Beginning every sentence with the author’s name or a character you’re highlights becomes repetitive and thus boring to your reader.

Quotations & Citations:

For this class, you should use MLA style citations.

An in-text citation is the author’s name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

If you are only referencing one author in the entire paper, use their name in the first citation and only the page number for all following citations.

Quotation marks belong at the end of the quote. Punctuation marks belong after the citation, unless it is a question mark. Questions marks belong at the end of the sentence before the citation.

For example:

“In belated despair, he rose in the sand and consumed the rest of momentary life dancing the Dance of Death on his tail” (Maclean 99).


Eventually, “the fish… tried to rest for a moment on top of the water” (99) and could no longer return to the safety of the water, bringing the epically drawn-out struggle to a close.


Meanwhile, Paul struggles to bring in the fish, drawing it in “two or three more times… only to have him swirl and return to the deep” (99).

For information on styling how you weave quotation into your essay, click here.