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Online Writing Handbook

For advanced high school writers and college writers the rules of the ‘game’ seem to change. It isn’t enough to paraphrase information found via Google searches or in textbooks. Teachers talk about “original arguments” and aren’t even that interested in giving feedback on grammar and mechanics. The assumption is that students can begin to work on higher level skills, since basic skills have been adequately mastered. Throw in ‘scholarly research,’ MLA or APA (or other, more exotic citation systems) citation formatting, and longer projects than perhaps students are used to and the result can be a significant challenge. But with great challenge comes great opportunity. In the right academic environment these changes can be liberating, because for possibly the first time students feel they are writing with purpose. The goal isn’t just to repeat the same old character analysis of Holden Caufield in The Catcher in the Rye, but to do something original.

Often, the ‘rules’ of earlier writing classes (like “never use ‘I'”) are allowed to expire, and students can find a more personal voice writing about subjects that are more important to them. From a student’s perspective, the 11trees Writers’ Toolkit attempts to demystify the basics of advanced undergraduate and high school writing. From “how do you create an in-text citation for a graphic novel” to “how can I come up with an original thesis,” we will dig into the aspects of writing most crucial to success. Writers’ Toolkit is a growing online resource and a powerful add-in for Microsoft Word (and soon Google Chrome, to support the millions of Google Docs and Office365 users out there) that brings this crucial information inside the space most of us use to write.

Jump to a topic via the menu on the write or click an area below to get a short overview of how each competency in writing can contribute to your success.

Argument: the Key to College-Level Writing

Writing at the advanced high school and college levels is largely about argument or rhetoric (a ‘term of art’ or more specific term for the same thing). It might have been enough to have a thesis that was the equivalent of a main idea in the writing you did earlier in your academic career, but the emphasis will shift to originality as you progress. So it isn’t enough to write a paper that ‘argues’ that the drinking age should be lowered to 18, or the US should have never invaded Iraq. Those are both main points that could fuel a 4 or 5 page report (or an entire book), but they aren’t original. What are you going to bring to the table to make your writing worth reading for your audience? So argument is about originality. You need to support your original argument with evidence, clear writing, and skilled organization, but without the ‘original’ part you aren’t going to get very far in any serious writing course. We have combined some hard-won tips with a standard approach to explaining argument in the links below. Good luck!

Dig into Argument

How to Research and Document Your Work

Research is crucial for writers trying to argue a point and be judged as credible. Including quality research, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, is often one of the most challenging aspects to writers moving into advanced high school and college work. Crucial concepts include:

  • Developing quality sources
  • Citing information properly
  • Creating accurate Works Cited pages

Research & Documentation

Using Evidence to Advance Your Argument

Using evidence well is a hallmark of mature writing – whether the task is an argumentative academic paper, a business report, or a short story. Misusing evidence, selecting evidence that lacks credibility, or failing to properly analyze evidence can hurt image in your reader’s mind. Using evidence is tied, of course, to finding evidence. So take a look at our section on Research for ideas on how to find credible evidence. Once you’ve got some good, detailed material to work with you can employ techniques described here to integrate it into your writing.

Use Evidence to Power Your Writing

Grammar & Mechanics

Grammar and Mechanics includes punctuation, proof-reading, and sentence structure. By the time you are in college-level writing class, little attention will be paid to teaching these basics – you’ll be assumed to know them. And if you don’t? Goofing up relatively simple grammatical issues is the equivalent to showing up to school in your underwear. You might just get away with it if you’re a genius…

Hone Your Grammar

General Writing Strategies

Do you just start writing? Probably a good idea – get out a rough draft, some rough ideas – anything. But at some point you’ve got to step back and strategize: what are the goals of the writing assignment or task? How can I best approach my audience to get my point across?

Think First: General Strategies

Types of Writing

From book reports to business plans, writing can take many shapes. What are the expectations for each type? What examples are there (both effective and ineffective)? What rules must you follow, and which ones can be broken in the right circumstances?

Types of Writing: Get in the RIGHT Game