Writing and its many discontents

This resource has a list of articles and materials that are designed to make the creative act of writing both understandable as well as easier. It focuses on what good writing might be as well as who we are writing for. Please click on the links below if they look worthwhile. A basic structure follows below.

Helpful writing approaches - about 22 pages - lots of good ideas about crafting language to say what you mean and mean what you say etc. Written well with examples.

Dot points for an objective description - a one pager template for those that find such things useful.

This one is useful for considering the area of objective language. Most of us find little difficulty in using subjective language so this short article is useful for distinguishing between objective, subjective, person, emotive or judgmental language.

Empathic writing - this is an excellent paper written by Bob Dick highlighting that being able to role reverse, or empathise, with the potential reader of the article is invaluable. If we only write for ourselves then we may be setting ourslves up for dissapointment. Writing is a communicative task and consideration of the reader is worthwhile.

This one is an online series of small practice exercises which have right and wrong answers and the reasons for each. It is quite basic but also quite enlightening as it may have been a long time since someone was aware of what 'basic' meant or perhaps they never quite got it. I found it useful and went there initially to help me get a clearer picture of balancing arguments with both my ideas and ideas from the literature (which they call synthesising evidence) http://learninghub.une.edu.au/tlc/aso/aso-online/academic-writing/




Basics taken from http://www.victoria.ac.nz/llc/academic-writing/


A paragraph is a group of related sentences, which develop one main idea (the topic sentence). The topic sentence tends to be a general rather than a specific idea. The main idea of the topic sentence controls the rest of the paragraph. Usually it is the first sentence in the paragraph, but not necessarily. It may come after a transition sentence; it may even come at the end of a paragraph.

Topic sentences are not the only way to organise a paragraph, and not all paragraphs need a topic sentence. For example, paragraphs that describe, narrate, or detail the steps in an experiment do not usually need topic sentences. They are useful, however, in paragraphs that analyse and argue. They are particularly useful for writers who have difficulty developing focused, unified paragraphs (i.e. writers who tend to waffle). Topic sentences help these writers develop a main idea for their paragraphs and most importantly stay focused. Topic sentences also help guide the reader through complex arguments.

The supporting sentences in a paragraph develop the main idea expressed in the topic sentence and provide the detail such as facts and examples. When the topic sentence comes first, the supporting sentences answer the questions the reader will develop in their minds after reading the topic sentence. In this case, the last sentence (concluding sentence) can either return the reader to the topic at the beginning of the paragraph or act as a connection to link the information with that coming up in the next paragraph. When the topic sentence comes last, the supporting sentences build up arguments and examples to make a case for the main idea contained at the end.

Useful Tip: No writer starts with a perfect paragraph. Well formed paragraphs are the result of drafting and revising, aimed at giving the reader a coherent piece of information. There is no set length to a paragraph, but in university essays it is easier to work with paragraphs that are between four and eight sentences long.




A well constructed paragraph contains sentences that are logically arranged and flow smoothly. Logical arrangement refers to the order of your sentences and ideas. There are various ways to order your sentences, depending on your purpose. For example, if you want to describe historical background to an event or something that happened to you, you would order your sentences according to the sequence of action, from beginning to end. However, if you want to describe important points to your argument you may want to start with the most important point first and arrange the following point according to level of importance.

Useful Tip: As you write you may remember something that you wanted to say earlier and include it in your paragraph. This is simple if you are using a word processor. However, you have to make sure that the new sentence does not end up out of place.



Not only should sentences and ideas in a paragraph be logically arranged, but they should also flow smoothly. Expressions such as next, then, after, when and other signal time sequence; expressions such as an example of, the most significant example, to illustrate are used to identify the example in the sentence. Such expressions provide a link between the ideas presented. Although you do not need to include a linking word or phrase in every sentence, you should use enough of them to help your reader follow your ideas clearly.



Each sentence in a paragraph should relate to the topic and develop the main idea. If a sentence does not relate to or develop that idea. If your paragraph repeats and elaborates key words there is less chance of writing irrelevant material. Consider the topic sentence: Smoking cigarettes can be an expensive habit. The following sentences in the paragraph need to discuss why smoking is expensive, both from a financial as well as a health point of view. Repeating the key words "smoking" and "expensive" or finding synonyms for these words allows you to keep your writing focussed on the main idea of a paragraph.



If a sentence does not relate to or develop the main idea, it is irrelevant and should be omitted. Cutting out the irrelevant material is part of the task of revising. Consider the topic sentence: Smoking cigarettes can be an expensive habit. If a sentence in the paragraph discusses how to blow smoke rings, it is out of place; it does not discuss the expense of smoking. A paragraph that has sentences that do not relate to or discuss the main idea lack unity.



The point of view a writer develops in an essay and within each paragraph cannot just be based on personal opinion, but must be backed up with evidence, examples and the opinion of experts. At the whole essay level the point of view is called the thesis statement. Within a paragraph the point of view is often broadly expressed in the topic sentence. The topic sentence is often re-stated within the paragraph with more specific detail given and evidence provided in support of the point of view, usually from the reading done for the essay. The sources referred to back up the writer. Any additional comments by the writer should aim to make the writer's point of view clear.

The words or ideas taken from other sources need to be clearly signaled as belonging to another person. This is done by referring to the author as well as the source of the words or ideas. The method of signaling used in these examples is the Harvard style of reference to sources. The setting out of the references is the American Psychological Association (or APA) style of referencing. Every department has its own preferred way, or style sheet, which they expect students to follow.

Useful Tip:

An exercise book can be used for noting quotations from one's reading on one side of the page and comments on the opposite page. It is a good way to keep notes on an essay topic together and to develop the skill of commenting on the viewpoints of others.



There are three main types of paragraphs in an academic essay: introductory paragraphs, the body paragraphs and the concluding paragraphs. These types of paragraphs are located in the introduction, the body of the essay or in the conclusion, respectively. Each of these types of paragraphs fulfils a different function for the reader (the teaching staff marking the essay).

The introductory paragraph(s) provides the reader with any necessary background information before leading into a clear statement of the writer's point of view. The point of view, or thesis statement, is a brief but very specific statement of the position the writer will take in the essay. The introductory paragraph may also present an overall plan of the way the essay's argument will be developed, as well as any limits the writer will place on the topic.

The body paragraphs which follow all flow logically from the introductory paragraph. They expand on the thesis statement and each in turn is clearly focused on a single issue with plenty of supporting detail or evidence from concrete and relevant examples, or from the reading which the writer uses to support the point of view. Arguments by other writers against the point of view taken by the essay writer should also be presented (and argued against) in the body paragraphs. The body paragraphs carefully build up the writer's point of view in detail.

The concluding paragraph(s) summarises the points made, repeats the overall point of view, and explains why the writer took the position held. It may also indicate wider issues not covered in the essay but of interest and relevant to the point of view.

USEFUL TIP: The concluding and introductory paragraphs are usually best written last when the writer is clear about the point of view and the structure of the entire essay.