Checklist for Essay Three


____  1.           Are the margins only ONE inch on all four sides, not 1½ or 1¼ ?

____  2.           Is the essay double spaced throughout? 

____  3.           Is the essay in 12-point Times or Times New Roman font throughout?

____  4.           Have you removed extra spaces between the title and the remainder of the essay, between each of the paragraphs, or between indented quotations and the words that follow?

____  5.           Do you have a title reflective of your topic?  

____  6.           Is title centered with no bold, italics, or underlining?

____  7.           Are the first letters of words (and only first letters) of the title capitalized, besides articles or prepositions? Is the first letter of the subtitle capitalized even if an article?

____  8.           Do you have your last name and the page number in the margin on the top right corner of the essay?

____  9.           Are the page numbers and last name inside the margins, ½ inch from the edge of the page?


____  1.          Have you used the present tense for literature, criticism, and even the relevant historical context; e.g. “Marx argues … ,” “Dickens shows … ,” or  “the British colony expands …”?

____  2.          Have you avoided rhetorical questions, answering those questions instead to advance your argument and better transition between discrete points?

____  3.          Have you avoided expressions such as “I think” or “I believe,” which are unneeded since you should think/believe every sentence in your essay?

____  4.          Have you avoided plot summary in the essay, imagining your audience to have read the literary works already, although they may be unable to remember them in detail or in depth?

____  5.          Have you varied how you refer to your main topic, developing and refining it as the essay proceeds?

____  6.          Have you avoided gendered language by using the plural (“bosses are cruel when they … ,” not “a boss is cruel when he … ”), using “humankind” for “mankind,” “human” for “man,” etc.?

____  7.          Do you use active voice rather than passive voice?  Look for “verbed by object,” “is verbed,” or “have been verbed” constructions.  Ask yourself who or what is doing the “verbing,” and then make that person or object the subject of the sentence or clause.

____  8.          Are your sentences parallel in structure, especially sentences with lists or emphatic expressions like “not only X, … but also Y” or “X more than Y”?

____  9.          Did you avoid informal or vague language: thing, idea, a bit, bad, feeling, notion, etc.?

____  10.      Do you have awkward repetition of words in sentences or phrases within paragraphs?

____  11.      Are your sentences wordy?  Have you only used words that enhance your meaning and removed words that clutter or distract from it?

____  12.      Have you avoided, whenever possible, awkward, weak, and wordy constructions like “there are,” “it is,” “It is a book that,” “He is a man who,” which subordinate your main point?

____  13.      When you have two adjectives in a row that mean precisely the same thing, have you selected the strongest one and deleted the other for more power and concision (“fragile child” not “weak and fragile child”)?

____  14.      Have you used concrete nouns after the word “this” to clarify what you mean to refer to and to nuance the topic that you are discussing by renaming it with greater precision?

____  15.      Have you avoided overdependence on the weak connection “and,” especially by not using that connection twice in the same sentence?  Some ways to do this include using commas for two adjectives (“malevolent, manipulative demon,” not “malevolent and manipulative demon”); using the conjunction “for” for cause/effect relationships, “yet” or “but” for contrasting ones, and “or” for options; and subordinating clauses, “She was going to the store, thinking of her algebra class,” not “She was going to the store and thinking of her algebra class”).

____  16.      Have you varied your sentence structure, not beginning every sentence with a character’s or author’s name or with pronouns referring to him or her (e.g. “Dickens … .  He … .  He … .”)?

____  17.      Have you combined short, choppy sentences together where they repeat: “While he was talking to his daughter, who was then about to be married, she looked out the window,” not “He was talking to his daughter.  She looked out the window.  She was then about to be married.” 

____  18.      Have you used vivid verbs that have precise meanings, avoiding “to be” verbs whenever possible, especially the word “being” which is rarely useful?  Try transforming nouns into verbs: “validates” rather than “is a validation of,” “results” rather than “is a result of,” or “exemplifies” rather than “is an example of.” 

____  19.      Have you avoided the verb tense “is swimming” or “are thinking” which is unneeded (and unnecessarily vague) in most cases?

____  20.      Have you avoided verbs like “tries to,” “attempts to,” or “seems to,” which are sometimes unnecessary and lesson the power of the point your are making?

____  21.      Have you used the word “that” when needed in formal writing (“Dickens believes that the poor are overworked,” not “Dickens believes the poor are overworked”)?

____  22.      Have you avoided the second person pronoun “you” and used “we” or “one” instead?

____  23.      Have you used the positive forms of words (“prohibiting,” instead of “not allowing”; “without reason,” instead of “with no reason”)?

____  24.      Have you used the word “who” when you are referring to people or characters (“People who have little economic security,” not “People that have little economic security”)?

____  25.      Have you avoided ending sentences with prepositions: “He was alienated from the very culture that he aspired to be a part of” rather than “He was alienated from the very culture of which he aspired to be a part”?

____  26.      Do your subjects and verbs agree, consistently plural or singular or past or present tense?

____  27.      When you use pronouns like “it,” “which,” or “they,” is what you are referring to clear?

____  28.      Are there any awkward shifts in pronoun; e.g. from “one,” to “people,” or to “you”?


____  1.          Is the introductory paragraph complete, indicating how the topic is relevant to the world itself and only afterwards specifying how it applies to the particular literary texts that you will discuss?  

____  2.          Is the first sentence of the essay compelling, inspiring a reader to read further?

____  3.          Do you contextualize the literature that you will be addressing, specifying the full name of the author and full title of the work?

____  4.          Do you have an argumentative thesis statement at the bottom of the introductory paragraph? Is that thesis evocative, explicit, and polemic?  Is it an argument that someone would be interested in mulling over more deeply?  Could a thoughtful person disagree with it?

____  5.          Is the thesis pertinent to everything that you actually discuss in the rest of the essay?

____  6.          Is the thesis too narrow or broad in scope for the length of the essay?  Does it require that same amount of pages to prove or can you really prove it within in that space?

____  7.          Does the thesis focus on, and make an argument about, the literary work, not some general phenomenon in the world at large, making clear what interpretation of the literary work your essay sets out to delineate and defend?

____  8.          Do you have argumentative topic sentences at the top of each of the body paragraphs that follow?  Are these sentences too factual or descriptive to warrant a paragraph-length discussion?  Do each of the topic sentences argue, assert, or claim something that someone else would need persuasion and proof in order to adhere to?

____  9.        Do you assert your own argument in the topic sentence before moving on to a quote or argument of someone else?

____  10.    Do you actually and fully develop the argument in the topic sentence within the same paragraph and prove only that one argument alone?

____  11.    Do you support the argument expressed in the topic sentence sufficiently within the paragraph?

____  12.    Do your body paragraphs have coherence?  That is, do each of the sentences in the paragraph relate to a single unified idea expressed in the first sentence?

____  13.    If you have a tangent, can you combine it with another sentence or provide a transitional idea between it and another sentence to make it relate to the topic sentence, as well as to the other sentences in the paragraph?

____  14.    Have you subordinated clauses that have to do with basic plot or context, highlighting your main argument or topic by focusing on it in the main part of the sentence? 

____  15.    Does every sentence in the essay convey an idea of your own, none dealing with plot or context exclusively?  If not, can you connect the more factual sentences to those actually expressing arguments?

____  16.    Are the body paragraphs roughly equal in length, with equal attention given to each facet of the argument?

____  17.    Do you have at least one paragraph break per page, with distinct topic sentences for and transitions between the paragraphs? 

____  18.    Are there more than two paragraph breaks on one page?  If so how might you combine the disconnected paragraphs into a unified argument and paragraph, or better develop or support the points expressed within each paragraph?


____  1.          Are titles of texts formatted correctly, with underlining or italics for book titles and quotation marks for the short works (poems, chapters, short stories) found within books?

____  2.          Have you placed commas and periods inside quotation marks?  Push the control and H buttons simultaneously to replace them easily at once: substituting (”,) and (”.) for (,”) and (.”).

____  3.          Have you introduced quotes, ensuring that every sentence in the essay has words of your own?

____  4.          Have you fluidly integrated quotations into your own sentences by using ellipses and brackets?

____  5.          Have you indented quotations exceeding four regularly sized lines one inch from the left margin?

____  6.          When you quote passages, especially long, complex, or theoretical passages, have you expressed your understanding of the author’s meaning or argument clearly in your own words?

____  7.          Have you shown how quotations pertain to your own argument before moving on to a new idea?

____  8.          Have you included parenthetical citations with the page numbers and, if necessarily, author’s last name?

____  9.          Have omitted the author’s name from the parenthetical citation if you have already mentioned it within the sentence or quoted the same source in the last citation?

____  10.      Have you put the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, not directly after the quote?

____  11.      Have you made sure to put all periods after the parenthetical citation and removed periods and commas from the end of quotes: “XXXX” (90)., not “XXXX.” (90). or “XXXX,” (90)??  

____  12.      Have you only put ellipses ( … ), without brackets or parentheses, in the middle of the quoted passages, not at the beginning or end (or both)?

____  13.      Do you have a space before and after ellipses: “XXXX … XXXX,” not “XXXX…XXXX”?

____  14.      Have you made sure not to put commas automatically before quotations or titles, punctuating the sentence exactly as if there were no quotations or titles n it?