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Brownstein's Style Rules

Assignment Summary

Thesis and argument:

Conceive of your argument in narrative terms. You're not just listing facts, you're telling a story. In a personal argument, the story might be: I used to think one thing, now I think another. In a researched argument, it might be: Many people believe Y about X, but I am going to show you how and why that is not so. In an analysis it might be: When you look at this text superficially, it appears one way; but if you look more closely, another meaning is revealed. The story of your essay is about a conflict between two or more perceptions, and your job as a writer is to resolve those conceptions.

Paragraphs and progression:

Each new paragraph should give the reader a new piece of information, a new fact in the progress that is your story. Every paragraph should also give a reader a sense of what is to come. Think of these as the chapters in your story, each chapter (except the last) should have something of a cliff-hanger ending–that is, an ending which points the reader to the next set of events. Another way (maybe the opposite way) to conceive of this is what I've called the old-new contract: each paragraph gives new information and in some sense refers the reader back to the previous paragraph.


Cut out the fat. Avoid repetition, cut out needless words, and let the verbs and nouns carry the weight of your meaning. So a sentence like It is generally considered true by most people that the problem with repetitive and wordy sentences is that repetition and wordiness generally make a sentence feel like it means a little bit less than it actually means and the words of the sentence get to be a little less meaningful could be rewritten as Brevity compels the reader's attention; excess words dull the mind.

Instructor's Comments

genre correctness and style
course WRT 101 and up
activity type not applicable
skills thesis development, holistic (generative) revision, paragraph-level revision, sentence-level revision
duration not applicable
handouts: none
contributor: Gabriel Brownstein