Honors English II

Need help with the rules of writing?  The Economist’s Style Guide is here.

Need Inspiration? Runnin’ low on the fuel to get it done? Listen to Randy‘s ideas! In 2007, Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, delivered a one-of-a-kind last lecture that made the world stop and pay attention. This moving talk will teach you how to really achieve your childhood dreams. Unmissable.

Essay advice from Kem the Merciless

ESSAY WRITING DEMYSTIFIED — the seven building blocks of the traditional essay –  with some of my own commentary, of course. :)

GrammarCheck.net will assist you with simple spelling and grammar “adjustments” to your written text.  Enjoy!


  • Students are issued a copy of Helena High School’s HHS Research Guidebook, a resource for information about proper research documentation and the MLA citation style used in the Helena District I schools. — this link has MLA info that is out of date for Works Cited formatting.
  • Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) has great formatting info — easy to access
  • Not sure how to cite a source? Go to Son of Citation Machine and follow the directions for MLA format.
  • More citation help with Easy Bib




  • !!! Even Gabriel Garcia Marquez used the anecdote as a compelling hook for his readers!
  • ***Writing Introductions – why bother to write a good introduction? And more….
  • ***Sample Introductions and Conclusions
  • ***Crafting your introduction and conclusion(from Mr. Pogreba’s AP page)
  • ***Self-Assessment for Essay Writing – works for how to structure the essay, too
  • After you have mastered the anecdote intro (or feel reasonably proficient- or just need another approach :)), try beginning with a startling fact or with a vivid example. Make certain that your content connects with the rest of the introductory paragraph — don’t neglect coherence just to be jazzy. It will undermine your argument.
  • Writing a proper introduction
  • Pay attention to the info about anecdotes, startling facts, and historical connections — do NOT start with a quotation!!
  • Introductory paragraph — start with a great first sentence —

“First impressions are so important. How many times have you heard that? It is true that the first impression—whether it’s a first meeting with a person or the first sentence of a paper—sets the stage for a lasting opinion.

The introductory paragraph of any paper, long or short, should start with a sentence that piques the interest of your readers.

In a typical essay, that first sentence leads into two or three sentences that provide details about your subject or your process. All of these sentences build up to your thesis statement.”


  • Visual Thesaurus — get ready to play with words
  • ***Avoid Weasel Words
  • ***Tense use when Discussing Literary Works When discussing works of literature, be sure to use present-tense verbs:  Alice Walker’s Grange Copeland displays his frustration through neglect. Use past tense only to describe historical events:   Thus sharecropping, like slavery before it, contributed to the black man’s feeling of powerlessness. When you write about literary and artistic works created in the past, generally follow MLA style and use present-tense verbs: As Eudora Welty notes, “learning stamps you with its moments.” “Childhood’s learning,” she continues, “is made up of moments. It isn’t steady. It’s a pulse.”



USAGE and CONVENTION and WRITING ERRORS GUARANTEED TO DRIVE EDELEN images3NUTS! – Okay, maybe pet peeves would be a better descriptor.

  • who vs that referring to humans or inanimate objects? use WHO referring to human beings. Use THAT (please!) in reference to animals or inanimate objects.
  • all of a sudden vs all of the suddenjust wrong, that’s all
  • spaces in compound words eg. with out, some times, through out, on to
  • its vs it’s — possession vs a contraction of “it is”
  • misspelling a word from the prompt or from the directions for the assignment
  • using contractions in a formal essay, except, of course, in a direct quotation
  • NAKED QUOTES — arrgh — embed those quotations — use signal phrases or colons
  • paraphrases left uncited — Failure to cite another’s ideas is plagairism.
  • punctuation of student essay or story or poetry titles – use NO punctuation
  • intensifiers, “all or nothing language”, and Weasel Words — very, really, totally, absolutely, truly, completely, always, only, never – they are toxic to your writing — AVOID them — they suck the life out of your prose.
  • weak words — things, stuff, like
  • self-evident and unnecessary phrasing — “I will prove”, “I believe”, “I will show”. Of course you believe it, will prove it, will show it — you are making the argument already.
  • use of first person, except in a memoir writing
  • use of second person
  • ending a sentence with a preposition — listen to your sentence — prepositions at the end sound so awkward
  • use of cliches — each and every time, hold your horses, back to the drawing board, and on and on
  • tense shifts — start with present tense and stay there — your flipflopping makes your reader tense! See the link Verb Tense When Discussing Literature above
  • number shifts — If you refer to a single person in the subject, then all further references in the sentence must be single in nature. Example: “The bravest of individuals is the one who obeys his or her conscience.” — single subject = single pronoun references
  • use active voice whenever possible — The boy bit the dog. (active voice) or The dog was bitten by the boy. (passive voice)
  • This followed by a verb is an error of omission — you must use a noun after “This” for the sake of clarity. For example: This is a real wreck. This car is a real wreck. Ask yourself which sentence gives the reader the clearer image?

Regarding those essays — a few powerful reminders!!!

  • Every essay is an argument.
  • A mnemonic for the intro is ANT — attention-getter, necessary info, a surprising thesis statement
  • You must choose an anecdote for the attention-getter, provide necessary information (author/title/a brief plot summary), and an argumentative and surprising thesis statement that all tie together in content. Otherwise, your introduction lacks coherence.800pxhenry_david_thoreau_quote__lib
  • You must begin every body paragraph with a topic sentence that is an assertion/argument of an aspect of your thesis statement.
  • You must ensure that EVERY SENTENCE IN YOUR BODY PARAGRAPH works to advance the reader’s understanding of the topic (which announces the point of the paragraph) and contributes to the proof of the thesis contention.
  • You must incorporate context for the quotation or paraphrase you use to support the contention of the thesis/topic sentence.
  • You must analyze the correctly cited quotations or paraphrases in light of their support of the topic with language like This _(noun)__ shows, demonstrates, implies, suggests, is important because, and so on. See The Language of Paragraph Analysis for more ideas. DO NOT mistake plot summary for analysis and commentary. Analysis means that you break down the idea and iterate its importance to the advancement of the idea of the thesis/topic.
  • You must tie-back to the anecdote in the conclusion and finish with an answer to SO WHAT?


Great Practice links for help with literary terms, verbals, and comma use

On another note or two —

What Sophomores are reading these days —

  • The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyers
  • Terrific review of Twilight in The Atlantic Monthly“What Girls Want” by Caitlin Flanagan – read pages 2 & 3
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Shack by William P. Young
  • Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
  • Eat, Pray, Love by

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Useful links and downloads for essay writing — Vision and ReVision– and you can always go to the HHS Writing Guide *** particularly useful links

Learn to Think Better: Tips from a Savant — interesting article — worth your time

General Information and Academic Integrity at HHS