Literary Essay Guidelines
 
                                   

Below is a general list of Do's and Don'ts about composing your essays on works of literature:
  1. Avoid irrelevant personal references: I think; I have always loved; to me; in my view; etc.

  2. If you read the author's personal life into his works, be sure to support your idea with concrete biographical evidence.

  3. Avoid ritual praise of the author, or great books, or reading, etc.

  4. Avoid general pronouncements about the value of an author or a work; the most significant writer of fiction; one of the finest ever written.

  5. Avoid announcing that you do not have enough space to cover the whole topic adequately or suggesting that the reader investigate for himself. Also avoid announcing that you are in the midst of writing an essay.

  6. Relate what you have discovered in a work to the entire work, but make your introductions and conclusions brief.

  7. You may present material in the same order in which the author presents it, but your paper must not be a mere paraphrase or summary. You must justify such organization by showing development of thought, tone, character, plot, etc.

  8. Do not be afraid to quote and analyze in detail.

  9. You may discuss the characters in the works; how they contrast with one another (in the same story), how the writer presents them (by author’s analysis, objective dialogue and action, point of view, etc.), what ideas they stand for, their relationships with one another.

  10. Construct an interesting title that reflects the thesis and subject of your essay.  Follow the guidelines in the Manuscript Conventions handout.

  11. How to refer to authors by name: James Joyce, or Joyce, but NOT Mr. Joyce, James, or Jim. Flannery O’Conner, but NOT Miss O’Conner, or Flannery.

  12. Do not let this sheet of instructions inhibit you from developing any idea.

  13. Type your paper, and double space throughout. Use one-inch margins on all four sides.

  14. Do not make page references in your prose. For example, "on page 10 the hero walks into the woods: or "On page 75 it says...." Instead, state ideas and quotations directly, using MLA in-text parenthetical citations to credit your sources.

Do not use a folder or a cover sheet. On the first page, include your name, the course number, the instructor, and the date in the upper left corner. Fasten the pages with one staple or paper clip.
 

 


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Copyright © Darren Chiang-Schultheiss, 1997- 2011 All rights reserved
As a courtesy, please obtain permission before linking to this website.
Send mail to Darren Chiang-Schultheiss with questions or comments about these web pages.