Conventions for Writing for Literature

  • All events in literature are referred to in the present tense, if they are fictional, even if the piece is written in the past tense. Only use the past tense if referring to events that occur in the past of the piece of literature, or actual historical events.

                        Gatsby is in love with Daisy.

                        Ahab is obsessed with Moby Dick.

                        Prior to the events in the book, Gatsby had been a soldier.

                        Moby Dick had taken Ahab’s leg.

                        F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote during the Jazz Age.

                        Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick during the nineteenth century.

  • Titles of poems, chapters, essays, short stories and articles are placed in quotation marks. Titles of books, plays, movies, newspapers and periodicals are italicized.

                        “A Rose for Emily”


                        Moby Dick


                        “Discovering Themes in Poetry”

  • Works of literature that are the subject of an essay must be mentioned (title and author/poet) in the essay’s introduction.

  • Upon first mention, an actual person’s name is always first and last. Subsequent references should be just the last name.

                        First mention:  Sylvia Plath

                        Subsequent mentions: Plath

  • Character names should follow the conventions of the piece.

Jay Gatsby, in The Great Gatsby is referred to by the narrator as “Gatsby” but Tom Buchanan is called “Tom.”  Therefore, in an essay on The Great Gatsby, use the names “Gatsby” and “Tom” to reference these characters.

  • When quoting lines of poetry, line breaks must be preserved with a slash (/).

“Sundays too my father got up early / and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold.”

  • In-text citations appear before periods but after quotation marks since they are part of the sentence but not the quote.

As Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell succinctly put it: “Sometimes the poem’s speaker is anonymous” (834).

  • Question marks are an exception to this rule only if a question is being quoted—in which case the question mark goes within the quotation marks. If however, a quotation is being used in a question posed in an essay, the question mark falls outside the citation, as in any other sentence that contains a citation.

Hamlet is skeptical, perhaps frightened, of his father’s ghost and even asks, “Where wilt thou lead me?” (1).

Why else would Willy be reminded of “another damned-fool appointment” (807)?


About Ms. N's Rhyme and Reason

Hi, In the beginning was the word. Hence begins the history of humankind, in all domains of evolution. The thriving of civilizations has depended on how articulate were their teachers- the ones who descended with the learned art to their offspring generations. This phenomenon of transmitting of genetic code of learning has been at the heart of my inspiration to teach. This art somehow has transformed into a mantra for me, and it has never ceased to amaze me. Although to become a perfect teacher one might take a lifetime, but if one tries to be perfect, one negates the reason to experiment and fail. Hence, I may have faltered in some of my approaches, but my aspiration has been to try rectifying the short-coming, to connect again with the subject-matter and my pupils, to demystify the intended outcome, to enthuse the learners again, and to keep the cycle going.
This entry was posted in A Level Literature in English, Course No.9695, Writing Skills. Bookmark the permalink.

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