Trope – The “shape,” the framework for a narrative, how we’re supposed to read it. This is a letter. My friend is telling me this. This is a report on something that really happened. We use “trope” loosely now to mean everything from plot to genre, but strictly trope means this framework. Most stories have [...]


Quotations – In an essay, quote your sources to support your argument and tell your story. As a rhetorical strategy, quotation helps you by showing how the work of other writers supports your current project. Quotation also helps you by forcing you to slow down and analyze one image, thought, or logical link at a time. Find [...]


Theme, simple – A story’s theme is its emotional point, around which the narrative action revolves cataphatically. The theme is verboten, meaning it can’t be said: In good writing, the theme is never stated within the story. This is because the theme is the emotional effect on the reader produced by the story. A microwave [...]

That/Which/Who/Whom (Pronouns)

That/Which/Who/Whom (Pronouns) – These rules are both simple (that and which = not used to describe people; who = used to describe people; whom = used when the person being described is the object of an action—when something happens to this person) and complex (find out more). Here are some examples illustrating the simple aspect: [...]


Tone – The narratorial stance toward the story and its readers. If a first-person narrator says, “Ugh, I hate telling stories about my childhood, but I can’t seem to get this one event out of my mind…” then we know that the tone is reflective but also a little annoyed. If a third-person narrator says, [...]

Quality of Evidence

Quality of Evidence - When researching, it is important to gather evidence of high quality to help prove your thesis. The New York Times and other newspapers, no matter how well written, are not peer-reviewed. They are not scholarly, but journalistic. While journalistic evidence may be quite useful, it is not as high-quality as scholarly evidence. Understand [...]


Paratext – Paratext (”side text”), meaning frame or way-into the text pur sang. The text isn’t just, say, a novel; it’s an experience: A sexy cover catches your eye; a screaming title and subtle subtitle play with your naughty lizard brain; a table of contents or epigraph or short foreword make you want to learn [...]

Fable versus Parable


Fable versus Parable - Narratology, criticism, and folkstudies give us plenty of rubrics by which to determine what is or is not a certain type of traditional story. For example, according to Wikipedia, a fable is “a brief story that features animals, plants, objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates a moral [...]


Exaggeration - Amplification of rhetoric. The most common type of exaggeration is hyperbole. Hyperbole is overstatement, plain and simple: “That test last week was so hard it made blood shoot out of my nose, just looking at it!” Understatement is, well, understatement:  “Was your dreaded five-hour final exam in chemistry as hard as I heard it was?” “Oh, [...]

Essay Structure

Essay Structure – Every text has its own beautiful organic structure. These are VERY ROUGH guidelines for a general “academic essay.” Please consider them. They make sense. They can help you, if you are feeling lost. PLANNING 0. Research – what are you going to write about? what evidence supports your idea? (Intermezzo 1. Outlining, brainstorming, [...]