1    Choose a specific topic and stay focused on that topic.

This is the most important rule: all others deal with how it is said; this one deals with what is said. 


A.   Focus by writing a single sentence in the first paragraph that clearly states your opinion. 

DO NOT write an essay that merely gives information about the topic.  Instead, make a specific claim about the topic is called a thesis statement.   Learn about thesis statements in a web page or through a 94k PowerPoint

B.   Choose a smaller, more specific topic.  Rid the thesis statement of such vague words as everyone, anywhere, all the time, whenever, no one, etc.

 Don’t write a vague thesis as No one should be racist

Instead, write one that is much more focused, such as Racism in business loans plays an important role in the lagging rates of African-American business ownership.

C.   Avoid topics that will turn into lists. 

All the equipment needed for horses / to scuba dive / to repair bikes. 
All the people in the band / on the team / who played James Bond. 

Instead, write a thesis statement that declares an opinion: Sean Connery’s performance as James Bond set the tone for later presentations of the character, such as Roger Moore’s

D.   Be sure that all parts of the paper are working to prove the point made in the intro. 

It should be clear why all parts are included in the paper; it should be clear how they are attempting to prove the claim made in the introduction. 

E.  Write about your topic, not about yourself. 

Avoid beginning sentences with “I think that…  or “In my opinion…”

This shifts the attention from the topic to the writer. 



 “Figure out what you have to say.  It's the one and only thing you have to offer.”

Barbara Kingsolver

“Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.”

Sholem Asch

[G]ood topics for writing were not usually the hugest ones the kids could think of.  I knew that topics like “my family” or “childhood” or “love” or “success” were most likely not going to be successful for student writers. 

Randy Bomer

Time for Meaning  pg 71

Think small.  The best things to write about are often the tiniest things – your brother’s junk drawer, something weird your dog once did, your grandma’s loose, wiggly neck, changing a dirty diaper, the moment you realized you were too old to take a bath with your older brother. 

Ralph Fletcher