70 Grace

Academic writing is not wholly utilitarian. An elegant and apt turn of phrase is satisfying both to write and to read. While you can’t often summon elegance out of nowhere, you can learn a few structures that are often pleasing to the reader’s ear because they harmonize what you’re saying with how you’re saying it. Here are two rhetorical tricks that you can use to reinforce your points.

Balance. Readers often find balanced sentences and phrases pleasing. The Cleopatra example above (“goddess as a child, queen at eighteen, celebrity soon thereafter”) illustrates parallelism, which is one kind of balance: using parallel structures to convey a parallel idea. This parallelism not only helps Schiff be powerfully concise, it quickly and vividly conveys the idea that Cleopatra led a remarkable life. Williams and Bizup13 offer another example of an elegant sentence in which the two parts are balanced in their structure:
A government that is unwilling to listen to the moderate hopes of its citizenry must eventually answer to the harsh justice of its revolutionaries.

The same sentence with the parallel parts marked:
A government that is unwilling to listen to the moderate hopes of its citizenry must eventually answer to the harsh justice of its revolutionaries.

The balanced structure and contrasting language reinforces the author’s either-or point: “listen” or “answer”; “moderate hopes” or “harsh justice”, “citizenry” or “revolutionaries.” The balanced structure adds rhetorical force to the argument.

Emphasis. Read these sentences out loud, or imagine yourself doing so:

Version 1:
But far and away, the largest weight-inducing food, out-stripping all others, was the potato chip.14

Version 2:
But far and away, the potato chip was the largest weight-inducing food, out-stripping all others.

The first version places a particular rhetorical emphasis on “the potato chip” because it comes last in the sentence after a three-part build-up. The second version says the exact same thing, and it isn’t hard to see that “potato chip” is the key part of the sentence. However, the rhetorical emphasis on “the potato chip” is somewhat weaker. This common rhetorical trick is to put the part you want to emphasize at the very end of the sentence.

These are just two rhetorical structures that scholars have identified. You can find others (Google “rhetorical device”) that you can bring into your repertoire. Most people can’t set out to write elegantly per se, and you certainly shouldn’t spend your writing time crafting elegantly balanced sentences that have little to do with your argument or analysis. But the more familiar you are with these rhetorical structures, the more often you can recognize and use them.


Rewrite these passages to make the “characters” the grammatical subjects and the key “actions” the verbs. That is, make them clearer.

A. The scarcity of research funds for nutritional scientists means that offers by food companies to fund such research may be especially attractive. The implicit pressure to shape the language of the findings to avoid alienation between scholars and companies is worrisome to consider.

B. While educational experiences are an obvious benefit of tribal colleges, the needs tribal communities have for economic development, cultural vitality, and social ties are also addressed by educational institutions.

Take these straightforward passages and make them less clear without changing the meaning. Turn verbs into nouns and make subjects into objects.

A. “Statisticians prepared to use spatial models need to keep the role of the models in perspective. When scientific interest centers on the large-scale effects, the idea is to use a few extra small-scale parameters so that the large-scale parameters are estimated more efficiently.”15

B. “Social scientists will be led astray if they accept the lies organizations tell about themselves. If, instead, they look for places where the stories told don’t hold up, for the events and activities those speaking for the organization ignore, cover up, or explain away, they will find a wealth of things to include in the body of material from which they construct their definitions.”16

Edit these passages for concision, using the three moves described above. Be sure to preserve all of the meaning contained in the original.

A. Each and every student enrolled in our educational institutions deserves and is entitled to competent instruction in all of the key academic areas of study. No student should be without ample time and help in mastering such basic skills.

B. If you really have no choice in regards to avoiding a long and extended bureaucratic process in making your complaint, it is very important that you write down and document every aspect of the case for use by all of the parties involved in the process.

1 Michael Harvey,The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2003), 3.

2 Variously attributed to Albert Einstein, E.F. Schumacher, and Woody Guthrie.

3 Williams and Bizup, Style, 29.

4 http://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/essay-on/History-Of-Magna-Carta/82596. Let this example further demonstrate why you should never, ever even look at these websites.

5Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “Magna Carta.”

6 Aletta D. Kraneveld and others, “The two faces of mast cells in food allergy and allergic asthma: The possible concept of Yin Yang,” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1822 (2012): 96.

7 When you turn a verb into a noun it’s called a nominalization. For example, act: action, write: writings, or think: thought.

8 Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America’s Changing Families (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 34.

9 Harvey, Nuts and Bolts, 1.

10 Williams and Bizup, Style, 130.

11 Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life (Boston, MA: Back Bay Books, 2011), 1. This book is a great read.

12 Talcott Parsons and Edward Shills eds., Toward a General Theory of Action. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 105.

13 Williams and Bizup, Style, 171.

14 Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (New York: Random House, 2013), 328.

15 Noel A.C. Cressie, Statistics for Spatial Data (New York: Wiley, 1991), 435.

16 Howard S. Becker, Tricks of the Trade: How To Think About Your Research While You’re Doing It (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 118.



Writing in College by Amy Guptill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



Rachel Rickel




Let’s face it: knowing when and how to use a comma – let alone a semicolon – can get all of us worried and upset. High school seemed so long ago. That class, maybe English, where the teacher droned on and on about adjectives and adverbs, clauses and conjunctions, and perhaps even went into prepositions, is slightly hazy in your memory. We get it; there is a lot to keep track of. Yet, your college instructors are going to expect you to use all of these elements appropriately in your college papers. Not only will your grammar and use of mechanics in your writing be important to your academic career, but also to your everyday life when you are out and about composing inner-office memos and emails to colleagues. This text is not meant to be the answer to all of your sentence structure questions; however, the items covered here should serve as an overview for your basic grammar problems when it comes to drafting your papers.


Parts of Speech


Before knowing anything about setting up a sentence and properly punctuating it, you should know the terminology for the building blocks of the English language. Grammarians sort the different types of words that make up the English language into different categories that make up what we call the parts of speech. The main categories are:

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Each of these items are then broken down further into smaller and more specific categories. We will not go into that much detail here, but there are additional resources that can guide you through more


of the intricate parts of speech, such as Cleveland State University’s Writing Center page, which you can look over Here.


How Do I Write A College-Level Sentence?


Some of the bigger items to focus on in your writing will be determining if you are making some of the most common mistakes, such as writing in run-ons and fragments. How can you determine which is which? The first step is recognizing what goes into writing clauses – both independent and dependent. Typically there will be subjects and verbs involved. For recognizing the different parts that make up sentences, see the Writing Center’s helpful tips Here

After you visit the Writing Center’s web page, you should be able to recognize if a grouping of words can stand alone as a full sentence. Check your knowledge with the small set of questions below:

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After being able to recognize what constitutes a full sentence, you should be aware of the common problems that most of us have when it come writing: those pesky run-on sentences and sentence fragments.

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For a refresher on how to use the most common forms of punctuation you may wish see an in-depth explanation Here

After looking over the various forms of punctuation, try to test your skills by punctuating the paragraph below:



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How to recognize and use FANBOYS (also known as Coordinating Conjunctions)


Your instructor will often point out in your papers that you have either run-on sentences, or that you have not included the appropriate punctuation with the necessary coordinating conjunctions. They may even call the coordinating conjunctions FANBOYS, which is a mnemonic device for remember the seven most common coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. As you may remember from the definition of coordinating conjunctions earlier in the section, these are linking words that work to join other groups of words, such as clauses – especially independent clauses.

Here are two independent clauses: I like cheese. I do not like bleu cheese.

We can combine them to make something a little more complex by adding a comma and a coordinating

conjunction in between like so: I like cheese, but I do not like bleu cheese.

If you would like to learn more about coordinating conjunctions, you may watch a series of videos by Khan Academy Here

After reading the information above and possibly watching the videos, I suggest you try the activity below in order to make sure you are truly comfortable with the concept of Coordinating Conjunctions, or FANBOYS.



Chapter 8: Multimodal Writing and Visual Rhetoric

8.1 Reading Traditional and New Media







Throughout college, you will be asked to read and respond to a variety of books, essays, articles, and other texts. However, some classes may ask you to read and respond to different types of traditional media such as visual art, graphic novels, music, television, films, and radio or media such as websites, infographics, social media platforms, podcasts, and YouTube videos. Though we may not always be conscious of it, many of us are already engaged in an understanding of culture through various forms of media; we interact daily with all kinds of media and then spend social time discussing our thoughts and reactions to them. ‘Reading’ media makes use of our existing cultural knowledge while engaging our critical thinking and analysis skills. Applying critical reading skills to visual media can differ from reading a traditional text such as an academic essay, however. Here is a three-step process that you can use to analyze media:


Describe the literal content of the media object.


Content is the literal information being communicated by a media object. This might mean describing the types of sounds or lyrics in a song, the setting and characters in a film or television show, or images from a piece of a visual art. Think of describing the content as summarizing the information in an object as opposed to interpreting the information. Use straightforward statements to avoid interpretation. For example, you might describe an exhibit in a modern art museum as such: This picture focuses on a bridge and a river. There are two people standing on the bridge. Using simpler statements will help keep the content and form of the object separate.




Explain the form of the media object.


Formal qualities of a media object are the delivery system for an object’s content. To discuss the form of an object, you will need to consider the way the object has been organized and how to describe that organization. Think of this as describing the ‘shape’ of the media object. To do this, use descriptive statements that explain how an object appears. Let’s return to the picture from before. The painting is very large and takes up the entire wall. It is made of many bright, unnatural colors, and appears to be made with a computer instead of a paintbrush. Your description should aim to explain how the object is being presented to the audience.




Synthesize content and form.


Once you have generated some ideas about the information in the media object (Content) and how



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


that information is presented (Form), you can synthesize the two by combining your observations into a claim about the object. A good starting point is to consider what the goals of the creator may have been: Why did the author present this content in this form? Answering your own questions will help guide you towards a more complete understanding of the object. From this point, you can begin to draft a thesis statement about the purpose and meaning of the media object you are analyzing.


Reading media will help you to think critically about what the object is trying to communicate and how it influences you as a reader. Analyzing media can also help you explore and understand your identity as an individual or a student and how that relates to the culture surrounding you. However, while writing about various forms of media, remember to reference evidence from the object, as there will otherwise be no basis for your claims. Your evidence will, if you are analyzing a film, you may need to cite dialogue or reference the cinematic techniques of a scene as evidence for your conclusions about the meaning of the film. For a piece of music, lyrics, instrumentation, or the structure of the song may be the evidence you include. Once you have completed this process, you should review the object to ensure your claims about the meaning of the piece are supported by your observations on the content and form.


8.2 What is Multimodality?image

A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing







In college writing classes, you often write “traditional” essays. These traditional essays often look the same: paragraphs made up of black, Times New Roman font spaced evenly on a page of white paper. However, in addition to writing, or composing, traditional essays, you might also be asked to compose a multimodal text. A multimodal text is one that “exceed[s] the alphabetic and may include still and moving images, animations, color, words, music and sound” (Takayoshi and Selfe 1). This type of composing practice has been integrated in many First-Year Writing classrooms across the US since the 1990s. Examples of digital multimodal texts (sometimes described as “new media”) include websites, infographics, podcasts, videos while non-digital multimodal texts might take the form of posters, collages, zines, comic books, or graphs. While this is not an exhaustive list, it does demonstrate how common multimodal texts are both inside and outside of the classroom.

For more information about multimodality, please watch the six-minute video created by Sean Tingle, a college writing instructor, by clicking the link below:



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing

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“What is Multimodality?” by Sean Tingle



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


8.3 Digital Composition and Multimodal Texts


Jennifer Schaller and Tammy Wolf




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