Wordsmith: A Guide to Paragraphs and Essays / Edition 3

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Encouraging writers to think logically and communicate clearly, this practical and comprehensive book presents writing and grammar in an organized and appealing way, with myriad examples and exercises to support concepts and hone skills. KEY TOPICS Using a structured yet flexible approach, it systematically covers all the steps of the writing process; explores strategies for creating topic sentences and writing paragraphs (with a sample paragraph shown in its progress from idea to finished essay); and shares nine different methods of development with model paragraphs. It presents a separate “mix and match” grammar section with minimal jargon, maximum clarity, and a wealth of exercises, and a selection of short, entertaining readings–complete with reading comprehension questions and writing assignments–that introduces students to the connection between reading and writing.

For individuals who want to improve their written communication skills.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131949850
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 5/5/2006
  • Series: MyWritingLab Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Table of Contents


1. The Writing Process.

2. Preparing to Write.

3. Writing Paragraphs: Topic Sentences.

4. Writing Paragraphs: Support.

5. Writing Paragraphs: Unity and Coherence.

6. Revising, Proofreading, and Formatting.

7. Showing and Telling: Description, Narration and Example.

8. Limiting and Ordering: Definition, Classification, and Process.

9. Examining Logical Connections: Comparison-Contrast, Cause-Effect and Argument.

10. Writing an Essay.

11. Writing Summary Reports.


12. Verbs and Subjects.

13. Subject-Verb Agreement.

14. Verb Shift.

15. Sentence Variety.

16. Run-on Sentences.

17. Sentence Fragments.

18. Pronoun Case.

19. Pronoun Agreement, Reference, and Point of View.

20. Adjectives, Adverbs, and Articles.

21. Capital Letters.

22. Words Commonly Confused.

23. Word Choice.

24. Commas.

25. Other Punctuation.

26. Apostrophes.

27. Quotation Marks.


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Preface: Updates to the Second Edition

For the convenience of instructors, the new Instructor's Edition provides answers to exercises as an integral part of the text. The back pages of the Instructor's Edition contain icebreaker activities, suggestions on using the chapters and readings, an examination of grading issues, and model syllabi for ten-week and fifteen-week courses.

Updates to Part 1: Composition

  • The section on writing paragraphs has been expanded. The number of exercises has doubled, and there are now three chapters on paragraph writing instead of one. Separate chapters on writing a topic sentence, supporting the essay, and providing unity and coherence allow students to focus separately on each aspect of the paragraph.
  • A chapter on writing a summary report has been added to help students make the transition, from personal writing to academic writing. The chapter includes a discussion of the differences between academic and personal writing, a section on paraphrasing and summarizing, and a model summary report.
  • The chapter "Revising and Proofreading" is now titled "Revising, Proofreading, and Formatting." It discusses various methods of formatting a paper and provides general instructions on formatting handwritten and word-processed documents.
  • A new Progressive Writing Assignment allows students to choose a topic and develop it as they move from prewriting in Chapter 2 to revised draft in Chapter 6. Each chapter's assignment guides students through one step of the paragraph. In Chapter 2, students focus on prewriting. In Chapter 3, students complete a topic sentence and outline, and in Chapter 4, theyprovide support for the topic sentence. The Chapter 5 Progressive Writing Assignment guides students through the process of checking for unity and coherence, and in Chapter 6, students revise and proofread. By the time they finish the chapters they have a completed the entire paragraph, step by step. I have used some form of the Progressive Writing Assignment in my own classes for years. Here are some of the advantages I have found in using a Progressive Writing Assignment:
    • It guides students through each step of the writing process and each part of the paragraph.
    • It promotes understanding of how each part of the paragraph relates to the other parts.
    • It provides the opportunity for instructor or peer feedback at each stage, resulting in a strong, carefully written composition.
    • It emphasizes process and careful crafting. It allows instructors, if they wish, to assign some form of credit to each portion of the assignment, thus placing emphasis on the process as well as the product.
  • Boxes in the methods of development chapters (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) specifically point out connections among the methods of development. In addition, these chapters now end with assignments headed "Mixed Methods." These assignments deliberately direct students to mix the methods in the chapters. For example, an assignment in Chapter 7, "Showing and Telling: Description, Narration, and Example," asks students to use techniques of narration and example in a single paragraph.

Updates to Part 2: Grammar

  • Practices in the grammar chapters now have titles to remind students exactly which principles are being discussed and practiced.
  • Minor changes have been made throughout the text. For example, a chart summarizing five methods for correcting run-on sentences has been added to Chapter 16, "Run-on Sentences."
  • Eight Editing Exercises have been added at the end of the Part 2, Grammar.

Updates to Part 3: Readings

  • Three carefully chosen readings have been added and three old ones removed. The additions include Cara DiMarco's "Setting Boundaries," which discusses the process of setting personal boundaries and models the techniques of process and example. Shoba Narayan's essay, "I Wonder--Was It Me or Was It My Sari?" is a delightful narrative that shows how the author's decision to wear the clothing of her native India for a month affected people's perception of her. Finally, in the haunting narrative "What If My Friends Hadn't Run?" Bill Pippin reexamines a longago impulse to pick up a gun in anger.

Preface To the Instructor

Thank you for choosing Wordsmith: A Guide to Paragraphs and Short Essays, Second Edition, as your textbook.

Like you, I am a teacher of writing. Like you, I struggle to find the best way to teach a subject that, on its surface, seems as simple as touching pen to paper. Yet writing is remarkably complex, incorporating the personality and experience of each writer and each reader. It requires adherence to agreed-upon rules of grammar, punctuation, and form. It is, in fact, a craft that might be best taught to a small group of students in a series of unhurried sessions and individual conferences over an extended period of time. But our reality is the fifty-minute hour, the class of twenty or more, the term that is measured in weeks. How best to handle that reality?

Most of us constantly refine our teaching methods, striving to make difficult concepts clear and tedious details interesting. Most of all, we try to ignite the spark that will help our students see writing as a meaningful, life-enriching activity. A good textbook should reinforce our efforts. I have spent considerable time trying to analyze what a good textbook should do, above and beyond presenting information in a given field. Here is what I have come up with: The book should be orderly and user-friendly, with a flexible format. Explanations should be clear and supported by numerous exercises and examples. The book should contain much more than is strictly necessary: it should be a smorgasbord, not just a meal. Finally, if it includes a little bit of fun, so much the better--for us and for our students. I have written Wordsmith with those principles in mind.

Features of Wordsmith: A Guide to Paragraphs and Short Essays

  • A three-part layout allows the freedom to mix and match writing chapters, grammar chapters, and readings.
  • A structured yet flexible approach to writing encourages clarity and creativity.
  • A direct, conversational, student-friendly approach is used throughout.
  • Lighthearted chapter openings promote a positive and playful approach to learning.

Although each of you will use the book in a different way and adapt it to your own students' needs, the following overview of each section may give you some ideas. For more ideas and for sample ten- and fifteen-week syllabi, check the Instructor's Guide in the back of the book.

Part 1: Composition

Part 1, Composition, takes the paragraph as its primary focus but provides an extensive chapter (Chapter 10) on the five-paragraph essay and a chapter (Chapter 11) on the summary report. Include or omit these chapters, as you prefer. The book begins with an overview of the writing process (Chapter 1), followed by a chapter on prewriting (Chapter 2). Planning and drafting, the next two steps in the writing process, are addressed in Chapters 3, 4, and 5. Chapter 6 addresses revising and proofreading.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 address methods of development. I have sacrificed some flexibility by grouping the methods, so let me explain why. The first reason is philosophical. I believe it is more realistic to group the modes, since they are seldom used in isolation in "real-world" writing. Modes with a similar purpose are grouped together, and the optional "Mixed Methods" assignments at the end of the chapter show how the modes can be used together in a single piece of writing. The second reason for grouping modes is more practical. No matter how hard I try, I can never cover nine rhetorical modes in one term. Grouping them allows me to assign a chapter containing three modes and address only one or two in depth. If all three rhetorical modes chapters are assigned, students are exposed to all nine modes even if they practice only a few.

Special Features of Part 1: Composition

  • A student paragraph is presented in all drafts and stages along with a transcript of a student writing group's discussion of the work in progress. (Chapter 1)
  • A section "For Right-Brained Writers" gives tips for students who tend to think in terms of "the whole" rather than in terms of a step-by-step process. (Chapter 1)
  • The five steps in the writing process are presented in the order in which most writers address them: prewriting, planning, drafting, revising, and proofreading. (Chapters 1-6)
  • Methods of development are grouped into three chapters to highlight their relationship to one another and to allow students to read about all methods even if they use only a few. (Chapters 7, 8, and 9)
  • Two paragraphs provide models for each method of development. (Chapters 7, 8, and 9)
  • Throughout Part 1, topics for paragraph, essay, and journal writing provide a basis for assignments and encourage further practice.
  • Students are introduced to academic writing in Chapter 11, "Writing a Summary Report."

Part 2: Grammar

Part 2, Grammar, can be used in a variety of ways: with direct, in-class instruction, in a lab setting, as a supplement, or for independent study. Part 2, Grammar, also works well for instructors who want to address more difficult grammar topics in class while assigning easier material or review material for independent study.

In the grammar chapters, explanations are clear and each topic is taken one skill at a time, with numerous practice exercises for each skill. At the end of each chapter are review exercises in increasing order of difficulty, ending with a paragraph-length editing exercise.

Special Features of Part 2: Grammar

  • Explanations are clear, logical, and user-friendly.
  • Step-by-step, easy-to-understand presentation is suitable for classroom discussion or independent study.
  • An abundance of practice exercises allows instructors to assign as much or as little as they wish, without the need for supplemental exercises.
  • Text boxes--Real-World Writing, Building Connections, Grammar Alert, and Punctuation Pointers--add liveliness and interest.
  • Practice exercises allow immediate review of each skill, while review exercises at the end of each chapter allow practice on increasing levels of difficulty.

Part 3: Readings

Part 3, Readings offers essays by professional writers. In any craft, the works of accomplished artisans can inspire the apprentice. These essays model writing at its best: entertaining, challenging, and thoughtprovoking. Each reading is followed by a comprehension exercise that includes questions about content, questions about the writer's techniques, and related topics for discussion and writing. Diversity in authorship, subject matter, and rhetorical method is emphasized.

Special Features of Part 3: Readings

  • High-interest readings provide professional models, reinforce reading skills, and serve as springboards for discussion and assignments.
  • Questions help students understand both the content of the essays and the writer's techniques.
  • Suggested topics for journal, paragraph, and essay writing connect students' writing to ideas they have explored in the readings.

Preface: To the Student

A Look at the Future

Outside the classroom window, two students pass by, laughing and clutching graduation robes packaged in plastic bags. But inside, the atmosphere is tense as the professor passes out term papers. These papers count as one-third of the course grade.

The professor sweeps by and drops a paper on the desk of Carl, who sits next to you. Carl opens his paper, then rubs his temples as if he has a sudden headache. You shoot him a questioning look. He unfolds his paper, and you see the large red F and the scrawled words. "Your writing skills are unacceptable!" You think of graduation, and realize that Carl will probably not march.

The professor sweeps by again, this time dropping a paper on your desk. Holding your breath, you open it and look at your grade.

No Time Like the Present

Writing is not the only skill you need in college, but it's one of the more important ones. In the classroom and beyond, the people who do well are most often those who think logically, who consider all the possibilities, and who communicate clearly. Writing can help you develop those skills.

In the college classroom, those who stand out also tend to be good writers. They write clearly, they state their ideas completely, and they don't embarrass themselves with poor grammar or misspelled words.

Perhaps, like most people, you feel like there's room for improvement in your writing skills. Maybe you feel that your grammar is not up to par, or you're just never sure where to put commas. Or perhaps you go blank when you see an empty page in front of you, waiting to be filled.

But there's good news. Whether your writing needs a little help or a lot, you can be a better writer. Writing is not a talent bestowed by fate, it is a skill, like driving a car, playing a guitar, or designing a Web page on the computer. It is built through your own hard work and improved by practice.

How can you become a better writer? You're in the right place, enrolled in a writing course, and you are holding the right object in your hand--this textbook. But the real key is not the course, the textbook, or even your instructor. The key is you. If you take guitar lessons but never practice, how well will you play? Or think of weight training--if you buy a book about it but never exercise your muscles, how much change will occur? You have a book on writing and a "personal trainer"--your instructor--ready to help you, so exercise your writing muscles as much as possible. If you work at it, you will amaze yourself.

There's no time like the present to shape your future.

How This Textbook Can Help

Wordsmith: A Guide to Paragraphs and Short Essays, Second Edition, is designed to help you on your journey to becoming the writer you want to be, the writer your future demands. Read on to find out how each section can help you develop your writing skills.

Part 1 Composition

Part 1, Composition, gives you an overview of the writing process and provides step-by-step instructions for writing a paragraph, the basic building block for any longer piece of writing. Part 1 also presents nine methods of paragraph development: description, narration, example, definition, classification, process, comparison-contrast, cause-effect, and argument. Finally, it introduces the essay, perhaps the most flexible and adaptable form of writing that you will ever learn. Shrunk down a bit, it can be used to answer a question on an essay test. Expanded a bit, it can be used to write a research paper, a term paper, or even a master's thesis.

Part 2: Grammar

Part 2, Grammar, provides wide coverage of grammar and punctuation. Some of the concepts covered are probably review for you while others are new. The chapters are user-friendly and take a step-by-step approach, so that you can work with them in class or on your own.

Feel free to use the chapters in this section as a reference. If you aren't sure of a comma rule, look it up. If you aren't sure of your subject-verb agreement, check it out in the chapter entitled "Subject-Verb Agreement." You will gain knowledge as you improve your writing.

You can also use the chapters as a way to improve your grammar. If your instructor marks several sentence fragments on your paper, don't wait until the topic is covered in class. Work through the chapter on sentence fragments on your own so that you can correct the problem now.

Part 3: Readings

Part 3, Readings, contains readings from professional writers. You will notice differences between the journalistic writing of these professionals and the academic form you are encouraged to use. Topic sentences are not always placed at the beginning of each paragraph. The language is often informal. But these are merely differences of audience-writing in the academic world is expected to be more formal than journalistic essays written for a general audience. You will see similarities, too. The essays have the same qualities you are encouraged to incorporate in your paragraphs: direction, unity, coherence, and support.

Good readers make good writers. The more you read, the better your writing will become.

Just the Beginning

Writing is hard work. But it is also worthwhile. The more you write, the more skilled you become. Whatever your major, whatever your vocation, writing will serve you well. May this book mark just the beginning of your journey as a writer.

Pamela Arlov

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