CMS Writing Guide
When writing your essay, the tone must match the purpose of the essay. We will be writing formal and analytical paragraphs and essays. To ensure an appropriate tone in your essays, follow these recommendations:
- Avoid first person (I, me, my we, our, us...)
- Avoid second person (you, your)
- Avoid contractions (can’t, won’t, it’s, shouldn’t…)
- Use an appropriate font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
- Be direct in your essay, especially in the introduction. Questions and anecdotes are more appropriate for creative writing in English class than here.
Examples to avoid:
I believe the school day should begin at 10:15am due to studies showing that adolescents have difficulty maintaining focus early in the day.
Have you ever wondered about the best time to begin the school day? I will tell you in this essay.
The thesis statement is a single sentence that states the main idea of your essay. The rest of your essay must support your thesis.
- Make sure your thesis statement is at the end of your introduction and that it is clear, specific, and insightful.
- Formula for essay: A specific topic or subject + An assertion or claim about that topic + list of three reasons why.
- Formula for paragraph: A specific topic or subject is the topic sentence + an assertion or claim is the thesis. (The body will explain the supporting reasons or examples.)
In order to meet the needs of faculty, students, and parents, school days at Columbia Middle School should begin at 9am.
School days at Columbia Middle School should begin at 9am to improve students' sleep habits, allow for before-school instruction, and better align with parents' schedules.
Thesis Statements Presentation
The summary is your explanation of what happened. This is factual.
- Do not rewrite the original piece
- Use your own words
- Refer to the central or main ideas of the piece
Utilizing MRI scans and diffusion tensor imaging, neuroscientist Gregory Berns determined the brain complexity of a thylacine, an extinct dog-like marsupial. Previously the animal was thought of as unintelligent, however, this study proves that thylacines had sophisticated frontal lobes and engaged in intricate hunting habits. This research led to the development of “Brain Ark”, a digital archive of animal brain scans. These images can be accessed by scientists around the world to further knowledge about the connection between the brain and environment. Through these and future investigations, new insight can be gained about human evolution, which is a critical aspect of history.
The analysis is your argument, dissection, evaluation, interpretation, etc. of what happened. When you analyze, you are:
- making connections
- reading between the lines
- making inferences
- drawing conclusions
- Within your essay, your summary will provide necessary context for the analysis. Your analysis will support your thesis.
In the examples below, the analysis is bolded.
Jefferson believed in limited government and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Therefore, he would be disappointed in the direction the country has taken in the centuries since his presidency.
Although the Roman Empire was thought to be invincible, political and economic failures ultimately led to its demise. If a modern-day powerhouse like the United States does not closely examine its own potential pitfalls, a similar fate could come to fruition.
Summary vs. Analysis Presentation
Use transitions of conclusion and consequence or sentence starters when connecting your background information to your analysis.
Transition/sentence starters for analysis:
- As a result
- This being the case
- This shows
- This proves
The Cleveland Cavaliers, dealing with injuries to superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, were forced to rely on inconsistent players such as JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. Consequently, Lebron James was forced to take more shots and play more minutes.
More Transition Words
Integrate quotes into your essay to support your argument.
The Vikings were barbaric savages that disregarded religion. According to the Annals of St. Vaast, “they...razed monasteries and churches to the ground, and brought to their death the servants of our holy religion” (http://www.deremilitari.org).
The Vikings were one of the most resourceful, intelligent societies of their time. Viking ship design was unparalleled; “fast, light, maneuverable, and flexible, it could be simply beached and quickly launched, rowed by oarsmen or sailed in any wind” (Sorabella http://www.metmuseum.org).
Creating In-Text Citations
When completing academic work, it is important to cite other authors and publishers to give them due credit. The in-text citations must align with the Works Cited page added to the end of your paper.
When quoting or paraphrasing an author, the author’s last name must be provided within the sentence itself or the parenthetical citation. The page number(s) must always be placed inside parenthetical citations.
The president relied heavily on the advice of Hamilton, with some seeing him as “tricking the dunderheaded Washington into supporting him” (Chernow 544).
As Chernow notes, the president relied heavily on the advice of Hamilton, with some seeing him as “tricking the dunderheaded Washington into supporting him” (544).
When citing online sources, follow these steps from Purdue OWL:
- Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
- You do not need to give paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your Web browser’s print preview function.
- Unless you must list the Website name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, do not include URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs such as when the name of the site includes, for example, a domain name, like CNN.com or Forbes.com as opposed to writing out http://www.cnn.com or http://www.forbes.com.
This is where you sum up your findings. You do not repeat exact phrases from your thesis, but you should find alternate words to explain why your claim is correct.
In an essay of 3 or more paragraphs, it is a complete paragraph. It should involve synthesis to previous knowledge or whole world significance.
Essay prompt: Why was slavery so difficult to abolish?
Conclusion paragraph: Ultimately, the eradication of slavery was a challenging goal to attain because of racism in the South, the creation of the cotton gin, and the lack of education for slaves. Before the civil war, the atmosphere in the South was tense at best. Most people in the United States had conflicting views on what to do about slavery, and it took quite some time to reach a favorable consensus. However, eventually the abolition of slavery became a reality: black people were now considered free.
Other Writing Tips
Avoid using the word 'thing.' Find a better, more specific word.
Be careful with the use of qualifiers/intensifiers. Find a stronger word instead.
Be careful when making absolute statements. Example:
- X always/never does Y.
- All Yankee fans love Derek Jeter
It only takes one instance for the statement to be incorrect.
When mentioning someone for the first time, provide their title/occupation or other identifying information to provide context for the reader. For example:
New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen
It is okay to be critical of historical figures/events. Not everything has to end with sunshine and rainbows. An example to avoid:
And then the colonists and American Indians lived together in harmony, happily ever after.
Make sure the vocabulary of your essay matches the formal tone. For example, use "possessions" instead of "stuff."
MLA Format Basics
- Font: EVERYTHING is in a standard font and size (12 pt Times New Roman, 11pt Arial, 11 pt Calibri, 12 pt Cambria).
- Spacing: EVERYTHING is double-spaced (including Works Cited lines). No extra space between paragraphs, title, or heading.
- Margins: 1-inch margins all around (File→ Page Setup → Set all to 1”)
- Formal Heading: The items below should be listed along the left side of your header. They should be doube-spaced like everything else in your paper.
- Running Header: Last name and page number are added to the top-right of the header.
- Title: Centered, no underline, no italics, not bold, same font as the body (no fancy stuff!!)
Sample Works Cited
When creating a works cited page, it is important to follow the MLA 8 standards. A more detailed description of these standards is available at the Purdue Online Writing Lab. When creating your works cited page, adhere to the following guidelines for MLA format:
- The works cited page should be located on a separate page at the end of the essay.
- A standard font and size should be used. The font and size should be consistent for the entire works cited page, including the header.
- One-inch margins should be used.
- The words "Works Cited" should be included at the center of the page and should not be underlined, bolded, or italicized.
- Citations should be double-spaced. There should not be any additional lines between entries or between "Works Cited" and the first entry.
- Citations should not be numbered.
- Citations should be in alphabetical order.
- If some of the information is unavailable then skip it. E.g. Do not use "Anonymous" if there is no author.
- A hanging indent should be used for citations beyond one line.
- Book titles should be italicized. Shorter works should be in quotation marks.
- The name of a website should be italicized. The title for an individual page should be in quotation marks.
- The date accessed is used for electronic sources where the publication date is not provided. Date accessed should not be used for print sources.
- The web address is provided for web sites. https:// is not included with the URL. The URL should not be underlined.
Sample A-level Essay
This is an A-level essay. This introduction clearly explains the Electoral College and transitions into a thesis statement. The thesis statement is clear, specific, and insightful. Each of the body paragraphs contains an argument that supports the thesis. Analysis is supported with relevant and accurate evidence. The conclusion summarizes the argument made within the essay, without being too repetitive. Some new insight is included to support the thesis.
There have been over 55 presidential elections in the United States, and they have all determined the President through a system known as the Electoral College. This system gives every state a certain number of electoral votes: two from the Senate plus however many representatives that state has in the House of Representatives; Washington D.C. receives three electoral votes. If a candidate wins the popular vote in a state, all of the state’s electoral votes go to that candidate. If a candidate gets more than half of the 538 total votes in the country, then he or she is elected as the U.S. President. However, the Electoral College has produced faulty results throughout history, and can be taken advantage of by candidates to win an election, even without the popular vote. As shown by the excessive power of voters in smaller states and the unfair freedom permitting some electors to vote against a candidate that has been voted for by the majority of their state, the Electoral College is a flawed and faulty system and needs to be abolished.
In this system, voters in smaller states get more power than is fair. As explained above, each state gets a certain number of electoral votes in the Electoral College—two plus the number of legislators representing that state in the House of Representatives. When voting for something as important as the next leader of a country, every vote should be considered equally by determining the number of electoral votes a state receives solely by population; however, with the Electoral College, this does not happen. Because each state gets two additional votes from the Senate, some states such as Wyoming and Rhode Island get three or four electoral votes when they should really only be getting one or two. Larger states such as Texas and California give up as many as ten votes to these smaller states. The Electoral College distorts the number of votes each state should receive to the point where a vote of a Wyoming citizen is worth four times that of a Californian’s vote. As a result of using this system, a candidate could win an election with only 22% of the popular vote by winning small states by small margins. In other words, massive inequality between voters of different states ensue from this system. As wrong as this may seem, this is not the only faulty aspect of the Electoral College.
One of the most unjust parts of the Electoral College is that in some states, electors can vote against their own states. In other words, on Election Day, people do not directly vote for candidates; they vote for electors, who then vote for candidates. For example, if everyone in a state votes for a Democratic or Republican candidate, then an elector or a group of electors appointed by the winning party attends the collegiate meeting that determines the next president of the United States. However, in as many as 21 states, an amount that can easily tip the scales, an elector, or group of electors, are not required to vote for whichever candidate their state voted for. electors have voted against their own states 87 times in the past. This system is inequitable; it allows the decision of the leader of a country to be decided amongst only a few people.
The Electoral College is an unjust system of choosing the President of the United States as demonstrated by the immoderate amounts of power given to voters in less populated states and the unfair freedom given to some electors to vote against their own states. This system creates a substantial amount of inequality between voters of different states, and consequently, by gaming the system, a candidate can be elected without the popular vote. This has happened five times in the past, and can happen again. Given how important electing the U.S. President is, a faulty system such as the Electoral College may lead to disastrous consequences.
Sample B-level Essay
This B-level essay has an introduction that provides some context for the reader and a thesis statement that outlines the argument being made. The introduction hastily moves from background information to the argument and a smoother transition should be included. The body paragraphs cite evidence to support an argument, but the argument is inconsistent and even contradictory at times (e.g. claims that the Electoral College favors smaller states followed up with additional claims that the it is unfair to smaller states). In addition, quotes should be integrated into the essay.
The Electoral College in the United States government, is the body of electors that choose the President and Vice President. To win the election, a presidential candidate must have the majority of votes in the electoral college. The country receives 538 electoral votes, that are divided across the country. The country also should have a system where the election can no way end in a tie. Therefore, there are some parts to this process that are unfair towards electing a president. The Electoral College should be abolished so the votes are worth the same, and so the election does not end in a tie.
One reason why the electoral vote should be abolished, is so that the votes are equal. The electoral college gives non-equal voting power to states, thus favoring the smaller states with a larger amount of electoral votes. The country has 538 electoral votes, and should be distributed evenly throughout each state. States with a larger population have a larger number of electoral votes making it unfair for states with a lower population such as Wyoming and the Dakotas. “There are 11,500,000 people in Ohio so, to fairly represent them, it should get 20 electoral votes. But the Electoral college doesn’t give Ohio 20 votes, it only gets 18 – two less than it should.” (The Trouble with the Electoral College." YouTube. CGP Grey, 07 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2016). Therefore, abolishing the Electoral College will make it more fair and even towards each state's votes.
Another reason why the electoral vote should be abolished is so the votes do not end in a tie. Currently, the country has 538 electoral votes. This number is even, which means that the election could result in 269-269 tie. If this occurs, the vote goes to the House of Representatives. People consider this unfair because it is not their vote that is being counted. “The rules of the Electoral College system for dealing with a tie are bizarre and scary and create a fairly plausible scenario by which no one would be elected president in time for Inauguration Day.” (10/16/12, By Eric Black |, and By Eric Black | 10/15/12. "10 Reasons Why the Electoral College is a problem.” Minn post Web 13. Oct 2016). This shows that the electoral college is not a good idea because our election may end in a tie.
In conclusion, the United States should move towards a more direct approach in the election process by eliminating the possibility of a tie, and ensuring that each state’s voting power is equal. The Electoral College has been used since 1787, but this practice needs to come to an end. Smaller states are overpowered making bigger and less populated states less important and likewise less valuable when it comes to voting who the next President and Vice President will be. The election ending in a tie is also flawed, since it would not be the people who decide in the end; the vote would be then given to the House of Representatives! After all, in the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, “this is a government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people.” The popular vote should be instituted; and the Electoral College should be abolished.