Rules for writing proper, cogent expository prose





Top 10 Rules for Writing Proper, Cogent Expository Prose

gd & st

#10: Be invisible.

Do not use "I" or "me". Yes you are writing the paper. The reader knows it. To refer to yourself and what you think is both redundant and self-aggrandizing. Oh, and stating “I think…” generally means you weren’t.

#9: Don't point fingers.

Do not use "you" or "your" or "you're". That's like pointing at someone in public and it's just bad manners. Instead, be inclusive. If you must use a pronoun to refer to the reader(s), use ”one” or okay, if you must: "we" "our" or "us."

#8: Give it to 'em straight!

The opening paragraph shows where you're headed with your essay. The last sentence is this opening paragraph might as well, or better yet should, include a THESIS. Don't be afraid to have your thesis in the form of a question. Write this paragraph last!

#7: No time traveling!

Make sure that all your verb tenses match. If you are writing about a piece of fiction, it is perfectly acceptable to keep all verb tenses in the present tense:


When Julio is a young boy, he realizes how much he loves books; later, when Julio is an adult,

this love for books is what gets him in trouble.

No preps at the end!

Unless it is a phrasing issue, bury your prepositions in the middle of a sentence.


Julio is questioning the world he lives in.



Julio is questioning the world in which he lives.


After all, a preposition is the word you are not to end a sentence with. Wait a minute…!

Semi-colon or Colon? That is the question...

Don't know which to use? Look at what you're saying. A semi-colon is used when you have two complete sentences that are connected by their theme. A colon is used to start a list or to introduce an idea that is not a complete sentence. Note how each is used in the following sentences:




Julio realized that he would not cry if his wife were to die suddenly; he did not love her, and he would not miss her.

Julio thought quickly about the things he'd want to bring: his books, a flashlight, and some warm clothes.

Julio realized there was at least one thing he would not miss: his wife.

Convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Make sure you provide clear evidence to reinforce your theory of the crime...I mean, to reinforce your thesis. A very important note on this rule: evidence is NOT the same as plot summary.

Instead, tell them what the details


. I repeat: NO PLOT SUMMARY! Always remember that your reader has already read the book; don't tell them what it's about yet again…

#3: DPQ! (Don't Plunk the Quote!)

All quotes should be embedded in the text, meaning that you should introduce your idea and provide context before


the quote into your own prose. (I call this IPD.) Quotes longer than three lines should be set apart from your text and should look exactly as they look in the book itself; skip a line and indent, and you do not need to use quotation marks – setting the quote apart suffices. Shorter quotes should be merged directly into your text.

#2: Bring it on home.

After you have argued the case in the main body of your essay: those middle paragraphs, return to your original idea: your thesis question at the end of your opening paragraph and in this final paragraph sum things up and point out how your thesis has been proved/your question answered.

And the Number One Rule for Writing Proper, Forceful Expository Prose is…






print out a paper and then just hand it in without looking it over very, very carefully.

You must

always re-read the paper after it has come out of the printer

to make sure all the bits and pieces are there and to catch any errors you might have previously overlooked. Remember: you want to be proud to have your name at the top of the page!