A Writer’s Handbook – Third Edition
Developing Writing Skills for University Students
  • Publication Date: November 23, 2011
  • ISBN: 9781554810772 / 1554810779
  • 172 pages; 4½" x 7"

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A Writer’s Handbook – Third Edition

Developing Writing Skills for University Students

  • Publication Date: November 23, 2011
  • ISBN: 9781554810772 / 1554810779
  • 172 pages; 4½" x 7"

Written collaboratively by writing instructors at the Queen’s University Writing Centre, A Writer’s Handbook is a compact yet thorough guide to academic writing for a North American audience. This clear and concise handbook outlines strategies both for thinking assignments through and for writing them well. The third edition is revised and updated throughout.

Features of the third edition:

  • Updated citation section (MLA, APA, Chicago, scientific, electronic)
  • Updated section on using and citing electronic sources
  • Expanded coverage of report writing and business letters


“The third edition of A Writer’s Handbook beautifully speaks to and meets the needs of its target readers: university undergraduate students. Casson and the other contributors truly understand the common and most significant issues of undergraduate writing, whether in the humanities or the sciences, and they communicate with refreshing clarity the strategies, techniques, and information students will need in order to write effectively. An accessible, concise, and engaging resource. Highly recommended!” — Michael Johnstone, University of Toronto

“My students will find A Writer’s Handbook immediately helpful; it makes sense of what professors often fail to explain but expect students to know and perform effortlessly.” — Caroline L. Eisner, Director of Academic Writing, AcademicCoachingandWriting.org, and co-editor of Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age

“What makes Casson’s Handbook so unusual is also what makes it most useful to me in my teaching: it is actually readable. My students like it, and they learn from it because they like it. I’m certain that they will continue to like what they read in this new edition.” — John Eustace, Acadia University


chapter one Understanding the Assignment

  • Looking for Action
    Different Verbs, Different Essays

chapter two Planning and Outlining

  • Gathering Material
    Organizing Material—Developing
    Your Thesis and Outline

chapter three Paragraphs

  • The Long and the Short of It
    What/How/Why … Again
    Focus and Coherence
    Beginnings and Endings
    Know Your Project

chapter four Stylistic Decisions

  • Editing with Your Ears
    Content vs. Grammar
    To Be or Not …
    Prepositional Phrases
    Beware Your Thesaurus
    Figurative Language
    Be Precise and Be Realistic

chapter five Essential Grammar

  • Clauses
    Voice: Passive or Active?
    Making Contact: Working with
    She or Her, Who or Whom? It All Depends on the Case

chapter six Punctuation

  • That’s All I Have to Say. Period.
    Connecting Ideas: Commas
    and Dashes
    Connecting More Ideas: Colons
    and Semicolons
    Exclamation Points!
    Ellipses and Brackets: Clarifying
    Quoted Material
    Contraction and Possession:
    The Apostrophe
    Apostrophes and Plurals
    When Not to Use an Apostrophe: Possessive Pronouns

chapter seven Documentation

  • The P Word: Plagiarism
    When to Cite a Source
    When Not to Cite a Source
    Documentation Systems
    • Modern Language Association (MLA) Format
    • American Psychological Association (APA) Format
    • Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago Style) Format

chapter eight Business Writing

  • Reader-Centred Writing: It’s All about You
    Always Look on the Bright Side: Making Negatives Positive
    Creating Information Snapshots: Parallel Structure
    Creating More Information Snapshots: Bullets and Headings
    Formats and Templates: Workplace Communications
    Some Notes on Email

chapter nine Writing in the Sciences

  • IMRAD: Formatting Your Lab Report
    Abstracts: Making the Essentials Concrete
    Passive Voice: It’s Not All about You
    Giving Credit: Documentation Formats
    Tone: Be Direct and Be Objective

appendix 1 Confusable Words: Usage and

appendix 2 Recommended Writing Guides

Leslie E. Casson teaches Writing and Communications at Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College, Kingston, Ontario.