A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Professional & Technical Communication

Click through article for images.

The focus refers to the main idea of the text. One way to determine this main idea is to figure out the purpose of your essay. An essay should do more than give you a grade; for example, it can persuade an audience, argue a point, or inform a reader. The assignment sheet is a great place to look for the purpose of the essay. What is your instructor asking you to do? The topic, length, variety and amount of research, audience, etc., all coincide with what the assignment requires.

Style is not what we write but how we write it. For our purposes, style includes:

  • grammar (the rules that govern standard American English)
  • punctuation
  • point of view
  • syntax (how we arrange our sentences)
  • word choice/vocabulary
  • figurative language (metaphors, narratives, similes, etc.)

In order to be convincing, a writer needs evidence for her claims. Evidence includes traditional sources such as books and journal articles but may also include anecdotes, photographs, web sources and videos. The kinds of evidence that are appropriate in a particular context depend on the writer’s purpose. Academic culture is an evidence-based culture. Good scholarship requires claims supported by facts, theories, and research. Finding the evidence is not enough, though, as it needs to be successfully integrated into texts.

The organization of a paper matters at the level of the whole essay as well as within each paragraph. The organization of sentences matters within paragraphs, as writers choose which sentences to put in what order and how to create a smooth sense of connection between each sentence. But organization also matters between paragraphs, as writers choose when to present their ideas to their readers for the best effect.

Format describes how we set up everything from the page margins to pictures to the works cited page. Adhering to format guidelines allows readers to easily follow along with the paper and understand where outside sources can be found. Knowing how to use formatting, whether it is MLA or APA, is a key step in the development of an academic writer.

Clancy Ratliff has composed a table comparing WPA outcomes aligned with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts for grades 11-12 (see here). Writing Commons has created a table representing content that supports Ratliff's Common Core State Standards.