Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

Reader Expectations

Here are the sorts of style-related expectations you can expect your readers to have.

  1. Papers should exhibit a tone that is appropriate for the intended audience. Is the vocabulary level right? Does the voice communicate the author's authority?
  2. Sentence lengths and structures should be varied.
  3. Papers should be tight--not wordy.
  4. Papers should employ strong active verbs. (Note, however, that the passive voice has a legitimate use in scientific writing.)
  5. Papers should be clear.

    A good style is, first of all, clear. The proof is that language which does not convey a clear meaning fails to perform the very function of language.

             --Aristotle, Rhetoric

    Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff, in Sharing and Responding, add that perhaps the question should not be "is it clear?" but rather, "is it alive and resonant with meaning?'--perhaps through imagery and metaphor?" Remember, however, that you must discipline your use of imagery and metaphor. Don't use art as an excuse for laziness.

  6. Papers should abide by the specific stylistic conventions of the field. In technical writing, for example, it is often best to continue using the same terms rather than to search constantly for synonyms. In an English class, your professor will likely expect you to do the opposite.
  7. Papers should be correct. Grammar. Spelling. Be alert to the errors that you commonly make in your writing (confusing "effect" and "affect," for example, or "there," "their," and "they're").