Sit back and just listen . . . If you’re talking a lot, you’re probably blocking good feedback.
“Don’t let anyone give you advice unless they also give you the perceptions and reactions it is based on, that is, unless they describe what they see and how they are reacting.  For example, if a reader says,”The organization is confusing in your piece,” make sure she goes back and describes the sequence of parts in your piece as she sees them, and/or the sequence of her reactions as she was reading.” -Elbow & Belanoff


  • revision logs
  • technology tools (color coding, comment bubbles, <F>)
  • time management – Good writing takes time.  Starting early enough to allow for writing new material and planning revision time will benefit you.  I swear it!
  • editing symbols


  • Slay your darlings – or in the words of William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”  Whether you are writing the great American novel or a report for your company, you put a huge amount of yourself into that text.  We have to willing to take out information, sections, pages – anything that is not moving your writing towards your claim.  If you can’t bear to delete it, put it in a “purgatory” file for later use.
  • watch list – list of things you know you have problems with, from conceptual down to grammatical.  Do you tend to be wordy?  Do you use the same phrases over and over?  Are you circular in your logic?  Your watch list will evolve as you work on problems.
  • reading out loud
    • extra “The movement of air” by Cynthia Selfe (pp 616-634 talking about the relationship between written text and “aurality”)
    • record yourself –  sometimes it helps to verbalize things you are having trouble articulating in writing.  Explain whatever you are trying to explain out loud, and record it – on your laptop, mp3 recorder, or even your voice mail – then go back and write it down.  It can help to have an audience in mind (or in reality):  how would you explain this to your parents or your roommate?
    • first-time reader : Read your draft as though you had never read it before.  With each sentence, and each new idea introduced, ask yourself: if I had no knowledge of this topic, if I had never read this before, would I understand what the language refers to?
  • print it out – the computer screen has a different ethos than the printed page so, even if you intend the final text to be electronic, it can be helpful to print out the document and literally see it in a new context.
  • reverse outlines   [new document, comment bubble or marginalia]
    • after the fact . . .Give Outlines Another Chance
    • mid-draft outline ….even if you didn’t begin with an outline, often the organization of your thoughts – or even you claim – changes by the time you’ve written a significant portion of your draft.  Construct a (new) mid-draft outline to help clarify what you have to say.  Or use the reverse outlining tools to re-think your claim and points of proof.
  • thesis tracking
    • identify words and terms key to your thesis or claim
    • use control <F> to locate those terms in your draft
    • do they show up?  where?  how often? are they absent?
    • think about where your claim appears, how it moves through the draft, and how you can improve
  • Ask for help – identify areas of your draft you are struggling with and would like feedback on.  Select each area, insert a comment bubble, and include questions for your peer reviewers and instructor.


  • genre analysis long form heuristic 2015
  • audience analysis
  • activity worksheet form
  • Give Outlines Another Chance
  • fastwrite or freewrite : One of the toughest parts of writing is just beginning.  Freewriting is useful because (like the ‘madman’ concept) it is about writing anything and everything that comes to your mind about the subject, the evidence, what you might want to say, just so you have something to work with.  Give yourself a time limit or a length (i.e. 500 words, or 2 pages) and write whatever comes to your mind about your subject.  Sometimes this just clears the cobwebs so you can start an outline and get to what is really important.  You can also cherrypick,  then do blow ups or cut downs or a mid-draft outline to see what material in the freewrite can be directly used in your developing piece of writing.
  • cherrypicking : This is especially useful after freewriting but can also help if you one particularly convoluted paragraph is giving you trouble.  Read through the selection, underlining phrases, whole sentences or words that seem particularly striking to you—perhaps they seem very well-phrased or articulate, or express an idea concisely.  Then re-write or copy and paste these underlined sentences into a new document or paragraph.  You will probably need to do blow ups or a freewrite around these phrases so that they make sense, but you will be one step closer to saying exactly what you want to say in a way that is memorable and makes sense
  • Madman, architect, carpenter & judge
  • map / spider / whirlybird
  • outlineGive Outlines Another Chance
  • PowerPoint / argument map assignment
    • PowerPoint outlines
    • Argument maps
  • blow ups
  • Tweet your claim – use 140 characters to state your claim.  You don’t have to send the tweet, just use the concept to focus your thinking.


  • Critical Thinking Chart – these questions are a good review for any piece of writing you do
  • Rhetorical analysis is a powerful tool for understanding what others write and for revising  our own writing because every author faces the same challenges. Rhetorical analysis is a way to examine how information is conveyed, the assumptions an author makes about the audience, the author’s motives and strategies chosen to persuade.  when writing.
  • Smith Questions
  • GUIDED QUESTIONS – questions you or your instructor have written that encapsulate the purpose of this piece of writing.  Central ideas or style or format points you absolutely should look for.


  • Frankenstein activities
  • color code ideas & proofs  (also see the Frankenstein activities)
    • highlight each main idea, point of proof or claim in a separate color
    • highlight every time that idea occurs in your paper in that idea’s color
    • in theory, we want all the blue ideas in one place and all the yellow ideas in one place and so forth – or we want a pattern throughout:  blue, pink, yellow … blue, pink, yellow
  • paragraph structure & development
    • highlight the topic sentence in yellow, summaries (or paraphrases) in green, quotations in pink, and your own analysis or explanation or discussion in blue
    • consider the balance of colors:  too much of one and not enough of another?
    • consider whether everything in the paragraph stays focused on supporting the topic sentence
  • claims & support
    • highlight each claim you make in yellow
    • highlight the support for each claim in blue
    • consider whether any claims lack support or are insufficiently supported
  • thesis tracking
    • identify words and terms key to your thesis or claim
    • use control <F> to locate those terms in your draft
    • do they show up?  where?  how often? are they absent?
    • think about how your claim moves through the draft and how you can improve


  • cite checking – compare the information you bring into your draft against the original source, asking the following questions
  1. Does the paper accurately reflect what the source says?
  2. Is the information from the source properly quoted, summarized or paraphrased?
  3. Is the citation properly formatted?
  • color code your sources  (do this for the whole paper or section by section)
    • highlight each citation (i.e., Able 12) for your first source in yellow – and highlight all the material from that source in yellow
    • highlight each citation for the second source (i.e., Baker 159) in blue – and highlight all the material from that source in blue
    • highlight citations and material from the third source (i.e., Charlie 65) in green …. and so on
    • consider the balance of colors:  have you relied too heavily on one source or not enough on others?
  • types of evidence
    • identify and highlight a type of evidence in one color:  for example, yellow for expert opinions and quotations
    • look for various kinds of evidence:  quotations, expert opinions, statistics and studies, personal stories or testimony, anecdotal evidence, analogies or examples, comparisons and contrast


  • alternate introductions & conclusions – identify the strategy you are currently using and write an alternate intro or conclusion using a different strategy.  Then keep one, combine the two or write a third using a new strategy.
  •  how is my intro/conclusion? –  comment on the strategy you used to grab the begin or end your draft, how effective you think the strategy was, and what you suggest for improving it
  • questions at the end
  1. To what extent does the paper stay focused on supporting the thesis?
  2. What aspect of the paper is most likely to persuade the target audience?
  3.  What did you find most interesting or insightful in the paper?
  • transitions
  • Why paragraph?
  • methods of appeal – use comment bubbles or color coding to identify those places in your paper where you make effective appeals to logos, pathos and ethos; explain your strategy for each example; and comment on how do you hope this appeal will influence your target audience
  • has anyone seen my claim? – Identify the author’s claim (from the introduction or as soon as you find it), select it, insert a comment bubble, and respond to these questions:
  1. how effectively does the introduction prepare the reader for the claim?
  2. how easy was it to identify the claim?
  3. what direction do you predict the paper will take in support of the claim?


  • reading backwards – read your draft out loud from the end to the beginning, sentence by sentence, pausing between sentences to take time to think about what you are hearing and not thinking about anything other than “is this the best possible sentence for right here?”
  • rewrite the sentence – using all new words more than 3 letters long
  • 80% exercise – count the words in your sentence; calculate 80% of that number; then rewrite the sentence so that it has no more than the 80% number of words . . .  repeat
  • buried words – turning passive nouns into action verbs
  • “to be” – use control <F> to find places where you can substitute action verbs for nouns
  • Action verbs – go through and eliminate the verbs “feel,” “think,” and “believe” in your draft, replacing these weak verbs with strong Action verbs
  • the good, the bad and the ugly –  identify two passages you are particularly proud of (perhaps because the writing is clear, the evidence is strong, the example well suited to your audience, the paragraph is well organized)  – or problematic – and work on them


  •  five (5) questions – finding a researchable question
  • keywords & disciplines
  • Wikipedia & Google
  • follow the wrong keyword to the right one
  • search by discipline
  • recognize the good stuff
  • mine bibliographies
  • get to the full text
  • speed read by computer


  • annotated bibliography
  • matrix for notes


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