Tools of the Trade:

  1. The first line: This should be AMAZING. It should set the tone for your essay.  Consider using something other than a regular introductory sentence; use something like a joke, a quotation, a provocative statistic, a quotation, a dialogue, a single word etc…
  2.  Sectioning:  Sometimes essays can be “chunked” by numbering, time stamps, dates, bullets, subtitles or chapter stars (***).  These add visual interest and can help you keep your writing organized.
  3. Dialogue:  Using actual speech allows you to be descriptive in a genuinely authentic way – this is a great way to “show and not tell.”
  4. Italics:  This punctuation has rules, but when you use italics correctly they can add interest to your writing.  In brief, use italics for: names of vehicles (cars, boats, trains etc…), foreign words or phrases, emphasis (don’t overuse this), words as sounds (onomatopoeia), direct presentation of a character’s thoughts (check with a guide or your teacher).
  5. Parentheses (brackets): These add a conspiratorial tone to a piece of writing.  Use them as if you were whispering some additional information directly to the reader, like a joke, a punch line, or an aside.
  6. Ellipsis (…): Use these 3 dots (3 only) to add a pause, to create tension, or to end an incomplete sentence.
  7.  Dashes: This is a way to emphatically separate a comment that is not a direct part of the sentence. Dashes can be used in the middle or at the end of a sentence. (Eg. I’m reading another book – yes, vampires again – so you better not interrupt me.)
  8. Rhetorical questions:  These add texture and help create the tone of a piece. Nothing’s better than a thought provoking rhetorical question, don’t you think?
  9. Exclamation Points: It’s been a while since you’ve been able to comfortably use that exclamation point, but the time has come again! Yes! Wicked!
  10. Colon: Admit it; you’re afraid of these. Don’t be, they are simple. Use a colon before a list, to show cause and effect without using a word like ‘because,’ or between two separate sentences when there is a strong contrast you want to highlight.
  11. Acronyms:  Here is another way to add texture, and sometimes humour to your writing.  Only the SAD (Seriously Addicted to Discourse) students use acronyms.
  12. All Capitals: This tool can be used in the same way italics are used, to emphasise a word or phrase.  Consider using all capitals if you feel like something needs to be shouted.  AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR!?
  13. Jokes: Everybody loves a one-liner or even a full joke.  If it’s appropriate and it adds to your piece, go ahead.
  14.  Anecdotes: This is a story from your own experience or someone else’s to prove a point.  For instance, I taught this kid once who used anecdotes in his writing, and he got 98% on the final exam.
  15.  Sarcasm: Sarcasm is amusing when it is properly placed and not overused. But being teenagers, you’re probably not familiar with sarcasm.
  16. Hyperbole: Exaggerating for effect.  I won’t bother explaining this; I’ve explained it about ten million times already.
  17. Understatement: We usually use understatement when we are being humble or facetious. Understatement draws greater attention to the subject.  For instance, describing the Twilight saga as moderately popular fiction.
  18. Metaphor:  Comparing two things by saying one is the other.  (Eg. Mrs. Orme is a bear without her morning coffee.)
  19.   Simile: Comparing two things using ‘like’ or ‘as’.  (Eg. Graduation is like a dream about winning the lottery: the dream is amazing, but eventually you wake up and have to work harder than you did before you fell asleep.)
  20.  Made up words: If it works, make up a word.  Eg. Decaf Poopachino, Fresca is the “Fresciest” etc…
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