Michael Cass
(included in all his writing-course syllabi)


I. Compose an interesting title.

II. Make your first paragraph interesting. And do not begin with a dictionary definition of a word—that is a cheap high-school trick.

III. Be sure your essay has a main idea (a “thesis”) and that it is presented and maintained throughout the essay. KNOW YOUR THESIS. If you don't know your thesis, how can you expect your reader to know it? If your reader doesn't know your thesis, your paper will seem disorganized to him or her. Organize your essay around your ideas about what you read, not around a summary of what you read.

IV. Do not commit monotony: your essay should be intelligent and not obvious. An essay is a “raid on the unexpressed” (Benjamin DeMott). When I ask you to write an essay, I am asking you to go to India and bring back a tiger, alive. Do not go to the Kwik-Mart and bring back a plastic box of Tic-Tacs.

V. Make your essay flow from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. Choppiness makes the reader C-sick.

VI. Compose your sentences in various structures and lengths.

VII. Revise your essay at least once before submitting it. Revision is the secret to good writing. Instead of finishing the first draft of your essay fifteen minutes before the class in which it is due, finish it twenty-four hours before it is due, and then revise it twice.

VIII. Carefully proofread your essay. It shows respect for your reader. If there are more than two spelling, punctuation, typing, or grammar errors per page your essay will be graded no higher than a “D.”