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Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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Readers also expect paragraphs to relate to each other as well as to the overall purpose of a text. Establishing transitional sentences for paragraphs can be one of the most difficult challenges you face as a writer because you need to guide the reader with a light hand. When you are too blatant about your transitions, your readers may feel patronized.

To highlight the connections between your ideas, you can provide transitional sentences at the end of each paragraph that look forward to the substance of the next paragraph. Or, you can place the transition at the beginning of a paragraph looking backward, as Valerie Steele does in the following example:

Can a style of dress hurt one's professional career? True to form most academics deny that it makes any difference whatsoever. But a few stories may indicate otherwise: When a gay male professor was denied tenure at an Ivy League university, some people felt that he was punished, in part, for his dress. It was "not that he wore multiple earrings" or anything like that, but he did wear "beautiful, expensive, colorful clothes that stood out" on campus. At the design department on one of the campuses of the University of California system, a job applicant appeared for her interview wearing a navy blue suit. The style was perfect for most departments, of course, but in this case she was told--to her face--that she "didn't fit in, she didn't look arty enough."

Another bit of evidence that suggests dress is of career significance for academics is the fact that some universities (such as Harvard) now offer graduate students counseling on how to outfit themselves for job interviews. The tone apparently is patronizing ("You will need to think about an interview suit and a white blouse"), but the advice is perceived as necessary.

The phrase "another bit of evidence" beginning the second paragraph refers back to the topic sentence that began the first paragraph, "Can a style of dress hurt one's professional career?"

When evaluating your transitions from paragraph to paragraph, question whether the transitions appear too obtrusive, thereby undercutting your credibility. At best, when transitions are unnecessary, readers perceive explicit transitional sentences to be wordy; at worst, they perceive such sentences as insulting. (After all, they imply that the readers are too inept to follow the discussion.)

Vary the length of paragraphs to reflect the complexity and importance of the ideas expressed in them. Different ideas, arguments, and chronologies warrant their own paragraph lengths, so the form of your text should emerge in response to your thoughts. To emphasize a transition in your argument or to highlight an important point, you may want to place critical information in a one- or two-sentence paragraph.

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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