Writing Center Resources


  • Check the Purdue OWL (just enter “Purdue OWL MLA”):  
  • MLA Style Center (enter: style.mla.org)
  • UNC writing handouts -> Citation Resources ->Citation Tutorial
  • Use the MLA Handbook (if in the Writing Center or you have a copy), 8th edition (2016); 9th edition released April 2021 



  • Ask the student if the instructor prefers “Notes - Bibliography” (raised, or superscript, number in-text) or “Author-Date” (in-text citation in parenthesis) For “Notes - Bibliography” you will also need to know whether it is endnotes or footnotes.
  • Purdue OWL (enter: Purdue OWL Chicago)(good sample papers here)
  • UNC writing handouts ->Citation Resources -> Citation Tutorial
  • Chicago Manual of Style -> (in browser: Chicago manual of style quick guide): 
  • Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (2017) 

FOR FACULTY: The Council of Writing Program Administrators' document "Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices" might be helpful in working with students on academic integrity issues.

Practice tests are available for grammar review. Students may use these tests independently, for their own test-and-check purposes, or they may be directed to these tests by their instructor in preparation for a grammar test. 

While the tests are separated by "Fall" and "Spring," there is no difference in the format or focus of the tests.  If you would like extra practice, you can certainly do both "seasons" of the tests.

Introduction to Academic Writing
Expository Writing

PIE is an acronym: P stands for Point; I stands for Illustration; E stands for Explanation/Evaluation.  Each PIE paragraph consists of a topic sentence and, typically, three PIEs.

Topic Sentence: The topic sentence serves as the "umbrella sentence" for a body paragraph.  It contains the controlling (or main) idea of the paragraph. Some academic writers identify the major subdivisions (the Points) of the controlling idea in the topic sentence. 

Points name one of the primary statements you are making to prove your topic sentence's controlling idea.  Your points should be parallel in form and content. Often, in Introduction to Academic Writing or Expository Writing, the Point will name a type of the rhetorical element you are analyzing. For example, a type of support is expert opinion. A type of language is picturesque language. A type of logical fallacy is hasty generalization.

Illustrations are quotes from the text. Use a signal phrase for every quote! Make sure that every quote you use is integrated into one of your own sentences. 

Explanation/Evaluation provides analysis based on the illustration. It often answers: What is the author's intention? What is the effect on the reader? How is it effective or ineffective? Why is it effective or ineffective? Be sure to use the evidence you provide in the Illustration! You should have at least two or three sentences of evaluation.

The PIE paragraph format, for each paragraph, often contains three PIEs.  However, a paragraph could contain two or even one PIE if the E is well developed.

The PIE paragraph structure, for a single paragraph, could be diagrammed as follows:

Topic Sentence (contains controlling idea)
Point Sentence 1
Illustration Sentence 1
Explanation/Evaluation Sentences 
Point Sentence 2
Illustration Sentence 2
Explanation/Evaluation Sentences
Point Sentence 3
Illustration Sentence 3
Explanation/Evaluation Sentence

The following definitions and explanations are quoted or adapted from the following texts:

  • The Structure of Argument
    by Annette T. Rottenberg
  • The Little, Brown Handbook
    by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane Aaron

Evaluation of Evidence

  • Facts are statements whose truth can be verified by observation or research.
  • Statistics are facts employing numbers.
  • Examples are specific instances of the point being made.

Questions to ask about all types of evidence.

  1. Is the evidence up to date?
  2. Is the evidence sufficient?
  3. Is the evidence relevant?

Evaluation of Examples (distinguish between real and hypothetical examples)

  1. Are the examples representative?
  2. Are the examples consistent with the experience of the audience?

Evaluation of Statistics

  1. Do the statistics come from trustworthy sources?
  2. Are the terms clearly defined?
  3. Are the comparisons between comparable things?
  4. Has any significant information been omitted?

Expert Opinion
An expert opinion is the judgment formed by an authority after they have examined the evidence.

Evaluation of Expert Opinion (Authorities)

  1. Is the source of the opinion qualified to give an opinion on the subject?
  2. Is the source biased?
  3. Has the source bolstered the claim with sufficient and appropriate evidence?

Vocabulary for writing about an author's use of language:
Diction is the choice and use of words.
Tone is the sense of a writer's attitude toward self, subject, and readers. Tone is revealed by words and sentence structure as well as by content.

Types Of Language

Emotionally Charged Language is language that affects perceptions. Emotive language is designed to elicit certain feelings from the reader.

Questions to ask: Is the language emotionally charged? How does it affect the reader? What emotion does the reader experience? Why?

Connotative Language a word may also carry an association with one or more feelings that shape the reader's response to it. We call these associations the connotations of the word. Thus, a word may take on a meaning quite different from its dictionary meaning (denotation).

Questions to ask: How do the connotations of the word sway the reader's opinion? What other word(s) might the writer have used? Why? How does this connotation serve the writer's agenda?

Slanting is the practice of selecting facts or words with connotations that favor the arguer's bias and discredit alternatives.

Question to ask: Does the writer's choice of words betray his or her bias or special interest?

Picturesque Language can create images. Such words convey a writer's thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Questions to ask: What images does the writer create with words? Do the picturesque words strengthen or detract from the argument?

Intensifying is a strategy a writer uses to focus on or draw attention to anything that would make his or her case seem stronger and the opponent's case seem weaker.

Downplaying is a strategy used to dismiss or divert attention from weak points or from points that would make an opponent's case look good.

Questions to ask: Which words are intensified? Downplayed? (Look for adjectives.) What effect does this have on the reader?

Abstract words name qualities and ideas.

Concrete words name things we can know by our five senses of sight, hearing, touch taste, and smell. (Concrete details are often used to create images.)

Questions to ask: Does the writer use abstractions? Does the writer assume the reader agrees with his or her definition of the term? How does that assumption strengthen or weaken the argument?

Figurative Language (figures of speech) - These expressions suggest meanings different from their literal meaning in order to achieve special effects.

A metaphor is an implied comparison between two unlike things.

A simile is an explicit comparison, using like or as, between two unlike things.

Questions to ask: Do the metaphors or similes help the reader understand the claims the writer is making? How?

A euphemism is a pleasant or flattering expression used in place of one that seems disagreeable.

Slang consists of expressions used by members of a group to create bonds and often exclude others.

Jargon is the specialized language of a group (usually a professional group).

A slogan is an attention-getting expression used in politics or advertising to gain support for a cause or product.

A cliché is a worn-out expression or idea.

Fowler, H. Ramsey and Jane E. Aaron. The Little, Brown Handbook. Fifth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.
Hirschberg, Stuart. Strategies of Argument. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1996.
Rottenberg, Annette T. The Structure of Argument. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.


A reasonable tone is generally the most effective. Tone indicates a writer's attitude towards the topic and towards the audience. Some attitudes include showing negative emotions, such as anger, hate, irony, sarcasm, and pessimism; positive emotions include respect, sincerity, hope, nostalgia, optimism, or pleading a "poor me" role; a cool, uninvolved distance may affect readers positively or negatively. Careful: do not duplicate your Point and/or evidence in a paragraph on credibility!


The author's word choice may be formal or informal, depending upon the audience, the topic, and the occasion, but should reveal a natural, not an artificial vocabulary. Careful: do not duplicate your Point and/or evidence in a paragraph on language!


The most important aspect is clarity, so nothing is misunderstood.


An author's voice can be seen in word choices: repetitions for a cumulative effect, slang to connect to a particular audience, jargon to establish authority, and repetitive sounds to create musical pictures.

Sentence Structure

An author's style can be seen in sentence structures, including length, complexity, and incompleteness. Often, a sentence structure that is easy to comprehend is said to be reader friendly.

Grouping of Information

Short blocks of information in paragraphs may work effectively to pile up so much information that the reader ceases to evaluate each piece of evidence; moreover, the overload can push the reader towards a hasty conclusion to side with the author's argument. Indented blocks of information may call attention to themselves. Effective grouping of information can be especially helpful for a reader if the subject or argument is complicated.


The format can influence readers. Subheadings may lend artificial organization to the essay or may clarify issues. Even punctuation contributes to style: common words in "quotation marks" may appear as doubtful; words in italics may look unnecessarily emphasized; an excess of exclamation marks can make the author sound hysterical; an excess of question marks may make the author sound uncertain.


The title may offer clues to a writer's style. Is it clever? Comprehensive? Does it predict the subject matter? Alienate readers? Betray an agenda?

The Introduction and Conclusion

The writer's introduction can provide a "hook" (something to entice the reader) or establish what the essay/argument is about (provide a summary; establish a thesis). The writer's conclusion can definitely affect a reading experience. Does the conclusion impact the reader with a powerful emotional plea? Does it ignite controversy? Is it a plea for some action? What feeling is the reader left with?

Be careful not to duplicate your points and/or evidence with these aspects of style under other rhetorical elements in other paragraph

The following explanations are quoted or adapted from The Structure of Argument by Annette T. Rottenberg (Bedford, 2nd ed., 1997) and Bridging the Gap (2003) by Brenda D. Smith.

According to Rottenberg, "All arguments are composed with an audience in mind" (13). Rottenberg stresses that "In writing your own arguments, you should assume that there is a reader who may not agree with you" (13). So, writers must "speak" to those readers who may be most reluctant to agree.

Rottenberg refers to Aristotle's theory of argument that "credibility-what he calls ethos-" is "the most important element in the arguer's ability to persuade the audience to accept his or her claim" (14). Aristotle considered "intelligence, character, and goodwill" most essential in assessing credibility.

So, readers should ask themselves if and how the author demonstrates the following qualities:

  • Intelligence
  • Character
  • Goodwill

Questions to ask:

  • What evidence from the text reveals these qualities?
  • What effect does the presence or absence of these qualities have on the reader?
  • How does this reaction affect the argument?

Rottenberg also stresses that "a thoughtful and judicious tone" is important in acquiring credibility.

Listed are some words that can be used to describe an author's tone (from Bridging the Gap): 


Questions to ask:

  • What tone (see above) does the writer employ?
  • What evidence from the text reveals this tone?
  • What is the effect of this tone on the readers? (Perhaps you can break "readers" down into possible constituencies.)
  • How does this tone detract from the argument?

You could thus focus your points in the paragraph on the three criteria from Aristotle - intelligence, character, and goodwill - or on a combination of one or two of them and tone. You might also find that an author creates goodwill through tone.