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Writing Lab

Writing Lab

Both the Online Writing Lab (OWL) and Virtual Language Lab can help students with:

  • Content
  • Organization
  • Style
  • Composition

Please note: The Writing Lab and OWL are closed during all school holidays and breaks.

Improve Your Writing

Writing Terms Glossary

Glossary of Grammar/Writing Terms

Here are some grammar and vocabulary definitions that you can use in your essay and discussion writing activities.

Improve Your Writing

Glossary of Grammar/Writing Terms

Here are some grammar and vocabulary definitions which you can use in your essay and discussion writing activities.

AdjectiveAdjective - A word that describes a noun.
common errors: San Francisco is a safety (safe) city. The city has many excited (exciting) things to do.
example sentences: She found the museums interesting. Her friend was bored in the museums.
AdverbAdverb – A word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.
common errors: It’s hard to live comfortable (comfortably) in a small apartment. Rents are slow (slowly) starting to fall.
example sentences: I eventually found an apartment. It’s hard to find a place to live quickly.
Agreement of subject and verbAgreement of subject and verb – The number of the verb must always agree with the number of the subject.
common errors: The family are (is) going to fly to New York. Jim, along with his parents, are (is) looking forward to the trip.
example sentences: The storm is coming. The flights have been postponed.
ArticlesArticles - A set of words used before nouns.
common errors: Student got a help from writing lab. Essay became better on third draft.
example sentences: The student got help from the writing lab. The essay became better on the third draft.
Capital/CapitalizeCapital/Capitalize - A letter used in tall form, also known as upper case (H).
common errors: I read the Newspaper (newspaper) yesterday. I like reading the examiner (The Examiner).
example sentences: There was a story about English teaching in Japan. Another story was about bus drivers in San Jose.
CommaComma - A punctuation symbol used to separate parts of a sentence (,).
common errors: She bought pens brushes and paint. She needed paint. Especially for her project.
example sentences: She bought pens, brushes, and paint. She needed paint, especially for her project.
ConjunctionConjunction – A word that often connects two parts of a sentence.
common errors: He did well on the test, but (and) he was going to pass the class. Most people like music, (but) not everyone likes rock and roll.
example sentences: You could order a large pizza or you could have a salad. The restaurant was hot because the windows were closed.
Countable nounCountable noun - A noun that represents something that can be counted in number.
common errors: I love cat (cats). My dog doesn’t like bath (baths).
example sentences: I have five pets at home. All of my pets have many toys.
DraftDraft - One version of something written
Exclamation pointExclamation point - A punctuation symbol used for forceful expression (!).
example sentences: There’s a bird in the room! Open the door and let it out!
FragmentFragment – Part of a sentence that has been punctuated as if it were a complete sentence.
common errors: Designed the house. When Kim designed the house.
example sentences: She designed the house. When Kim designed the house she got six awards.
GerundGerund - A word often ending in "-ing" having the characteristics of both a verb and a noun.
common errors: I expected getting (to get) the job in Los Angeles. I usually have good luck to find (finding) employment.
example sentences: I postponed looking for a job. Finding a job I like is important.
HyphenHyphen - A punctuation symbol used to connect the parts of many words (-).
common errors: She’s a self confident leader. She is the ex president of a company with city-wide offices.
example sentences: She’s a self-confident leader. She is the ex-president of a company with citywide offices.
IndentIndent - To start writing or typing a short distance in from the margin.
InfinitiveInfinitive - The main form of a verb usually used with "to".
common errors: I’m planning playing (to play) board games with my brother. I will enjoy to see (seeing) him tomorrow.
example sentences: This game is easy to play. To succeed, you must study the rules.
Irregular verbsIrregular verbs - Verbs that do not add "-ed" to change form.
common errors: I payed (paid) a lot for my new shoes. Someone stoled (stole) my old shoes.
example sentences: I bought them at a department store. I chose a black pair.
Modal auxiliary verb / Helping verbModal auxiliary verb / Helping verb - This verb indicates a mood or a tense and is used with another verb.
common errors: The rain maybe (may) cause flooding. You is (should) use your umbrella when you go outside.
example sentences: The storm might last two days. You can walk to work in the rain.
Non-countable nounNon-countable noun – Nouns that do not add "s" at the end and show amount in quantity rather than number.
common errors: I drank so many wines for dinner. After that, I needed a hundred sleeps.
example sentences: I drank so much wine / many glasses of wine for dinner. After that I needed a lot of sleep.
NounNoun - A word that indicates a person, place, or thing. A noun is used as the subject or object of a sentence or the object of a preposition.
common errors: These kind (kinds) of reports make me happy. I read about the fire in the night (evening) news.
example sentences: The world news is interesting. I watch the weather report on television.
ObjectObject - The focus of a verb's action.
common errors: They were against. I went to there anyhow.
example sentences: They were against my trip. I went to Rome anyhow.
ParagraphParagraph - The part of a piece of writing, signaled by a space or indentation, that introduces a new topic or idea.
Past perfect tensePast perfect tense - Two events or actions that happened in the past as shown in a verb.
common errors: By 1998, Joe has (had) lived in San Francisco for five years. Before moving to San Francisco he had live (lived) in Mexico.
example sentences: He had worked in Mexico ten years when he lost his job. Joe had never been to San Francisco before he moved there.
Past tensePast tense - Some event or action that happened in a former time as shown in a verb.
common errors: He spended (spent) too much money. At that time, he need (needed) to learn how to save.
example sentences: Saving was not easy for him. He put more money in the bank.
PluralPlural - Indicating more than one.
common errors: College graduates often get two job (jobs). Many peoples (people) want to work in fashion.
example sentences: Women in advertising make good salaries. The pay for workers in sales jobs is not as good.
PossessivePossessive – Indicating ownership or a similar relationship.
common errors: His’ (His) dogs’ (dog’s) name is Spot. He has three animals and spends a lot on his pet’s (pets’) food.
example sentences: The dog is barking because its water bowl is empty. Bob and Janet’s cat drinks water from the pool.
PrepositionPreposition - A word that combines with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase.
common errors: The artist used of curved brushstrokes to soften the picture. The picture had so many hard lines on the background.
example sentences: The artist used curved brushstrokes to soften the picture. The picture had so many hard lines in the background.
Present perfect tensePresent perfect tense – An event or action that started in the past and continues into the present as shown in a verb.
common errors: I have learn (learned) a lot in the library. I go (have gone) to the library everyday for the last two weeks.
example sentences: I have read almost all the books about film. I’ve had a library card for two years.
Present progressive/continuous tensePresent progressive/continuous tense - An event or action that is happening as you speak as shown in a verb.
common errors: Jill write (is writing) a book about acting. She is wanting (wants) to finish it this month.
example sentences: She’s expecting to sell many copies. Jill is using her computer to write the book.
Present tensePresent tense - An event or action that happens now, or usually happens, as shown in a verb.
common errors: Our teacher is wanting (wants) us to take quizzes. I am study (I study) for the quiz every week.
example sentences: A quiz every week helps me learn. I need to be prepared for taking tests.
PronounPronoun - A word used as a substitute for a noun.
common errors: Whose (Who’s) going to give a present to my brother? My parents often give he (him) expensive gifts.
example sentences: Everybody is coming to my brother’s birthday party. The people who come will bring food.
Quotation markQuotation mark - A punctuation symbol used in pairs to mark the beginning and end of a phrase in which the exact words are used (“ “).
QuoteQuote - To repeat something that another has said or written.
Revise / RevisionRevise / Revision - To make a new version of a writing.
Run-on sentenceRun-on sentence - To continue a sentence without a punctuation mark where it should be.
common errors: I like baseball, let's go to a game tomorrow. Jim's a photographer he's going to the ballpark to take pictures.
example sentences: I like baseball. Let's go to a game tomorrow. Jim's a photographer, and he's going to the ballpark to take pictures.
SemicolonSemicolon - A punctuation symbol used to separate major sentence elements (;).
example sentences: Jean lost her books; they fell out of her bag. Here most valuable book was her dictionary; it had green cover.
SentenceSentence - A group of words usually with a subject, verb, and object, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
common errors: She was asking who are you people. You please shut the window.
example sentences: She asked the people who they were. Please shut the window.
SubjectSubject – That which does the action in a sentence.
common errors: Neither wine nor beer are (is) served to the customers. A majority drinks (drink) water.
example sentences: Drinking juice is also allowed. At Café Verde, I had tea.
TenseTense - Verbs change form to show present, past, or future time.
common errors: Yesterday I go (went) to the new movie. The director maked (made) a long film.
example sentences: She will go to the theater. She went the theater. She goes to the theater at night.
Third person subjectThird person subject - A person or thing in the singular.
common errors: The company hire (hires) forty people each year. That (It) has a large budget for personnel.
example sentences: My friend wants a job there. He’s going there soon for an interview.
VerbVerb - An action word.
common errors: She wait (waits) at the bus stop everyday. She should went (have gone) to the bus station.
example sentences: The bus didn’t come for an hour. It was late getting to most of the stops that day.

Schedule time for writing. Start early.

Make time for writing at home and at school; make an appointment with the Writing Lab as soon as you get an assignment.

Allow enough time for research, development of ideas, and revision.

Generate ideas before you start writing.

Write down a quick list of ideas on your topic.

Define the purpose of your writing.

Think about the audience you're writing for.

Focus on ideas. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation can be fixed in later stages of the writing process.

Revise your writing. Try reading aloud to hear mistakes.

Plan your writing. Organize your ideas into paragraphs and organize your paragraphs into a logical beginning, middle, and end.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of copying the work of another and representing it as your own. Some common forms of plagiarism include copying from the Internet, a friend's homework, or a book or magazine without giving credit to the author.

It is OK to copy when:

  • A new artist copies another artist’s work when first learning to draw.
  • A child copies a sentence while learning to write.
  • A traditional story is passed down in writing from one generation to the next and the author is unknown.

In some cultures, copying someone else's writing without giving credit to the author is sometimes acceptable. For a college student in the USA, however, copying without citing the source is NOT an acceptable practice.

Copying is plagiarism when:

  • Anyone copies parts or all of someone else’s concept, artwork, or design and uses it as their own without citing the source.
  • Anyone copies all or part of a newspaper article, book, magazine, essay, or any other writing, and presents it as his/her own writing without giving credit to the writer.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense!
You can lose all credit for an assignment and face other disciplinary action for plagiarizing. See Liberal Arts Guidelines for Evaluation of Online Written Work for more information on plagiarism and the Academy of Art University's official policy regarding it.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Cite your Sources

  • Cite quotations and borrowed ideas. To cite something you need to tell the reader where you found the quote. You need to be aware of, and use the special Modern Language Association (MLA) rules for citing sources. View this page for some examples of in-text MLA citations.
  • Students are encouraged to use A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker for help with MLA style, revision, punctuation, and sentence-style.
  • Enclose borrowed language in quotation marks ( “ “ ). And don’t forget to cite the source

In his book, Jim Gardner describes the statue as being “the absolute best representation of the human figure known to art historians” (94).

You can avoid plagiarizing somebody else's work by paraphrasing, or rewriting their ideas in your own words. You can also summarize, or briefly explain the main ideas of the author's work in your own words. Remember that you will still need to cite your sources. View this page for more information on Paraphrasing and Summarizing. Below are some examples of various ways to put an author's writing into your own words:

Changing the word order:
Original Text.
Many of Bonny Dagger's designs have influenced everything from fashion merchandising to the world of architecture. Her characteristic circles have become a sort of cultural icon the nation over.

Changed Example:
Bonny Dagger's popular circle shapes have been a big influence on styles in architecture, fashion, and more (Davis 40).

Changing the word form:
Original Text:
Many of Bonny Dagger's designs have influenced everything from fashion merchandising to the world of architecture. Her characteristic circles have become a sort of cultural icon the nation over.

Reworded Example:
The circular designs of Bonny Dagger have been influential in fields like fashion merchandising and architecture. They have become icons all over the nation (Smith et al. 876).

Using different words with similar meanings. A THESAURUS is a good reference book to use for this:
Original Text:
Ms. Madunna's films marked the end of a tantalizing era of novel, silent classics. Her stylized moods meshed with the interesting character of each of her films.

Reworded Example:
Katy Madunna's movies were the last in an era of popular, silent films. Madunna's acting style matched each of her unique movies (Peters and Rafael 342).

Works Cited
The examples of text above were actually created for this site and not taken from original texts so a list of works cited is not included here. For an example of a "works cited" list see Examples of MLA Citations.

Paraphrasing is:

Restating in your own words a passage written by someone other than yourself.
Paraphrased versions of a passage include all the details of the original text.

Summarizing is:

Restate in your own words only the main idea(s) of a passage written by someone other than yourself. The details are left out of the summary.

Original text:
When Europeans reached present-day Latin America they found three important civilizations: Mayan, Aztec, and Incan. That we should still call the native peoples of this hemisphere “Indians” perpetuates the error of sixteenth-century Spaniards who wanted to believe they had reached the spice-rich Indies.
(Thomas E. Skidmore, Peter H. Smith. Modern Latin America Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997.)

European explorers who mistakenly thought they had reached India, encountered the Mayas, the Aztecs, and the Incas, three major native cultures of modern-day Latin America. They erroneously called these people “Indians,” a misnomer that persists even today.

Referring to the native groups of modern-day Latin America as “Indians” is a misnomer that has persisted since sixteenth-century European explorers erroneously gave them that name.

What purposes do paraphrasing and summarizing serve?:

  • Add credibility to your argument
  • Can help describe opposing points of view
  • Provide a way to include information without quoting too much
  • Provide important information from an undistinguished passage
  • Provide brief background information

Does the author paraphrased or summarized have to be attributed?:

YES, otherwise is it plagiarism!

This can be accomplished by including the source in the paraphrase or summary:
According to Skidmore and Smith, …

Attribution can also be given after the paraphrase or summary:
European explorers… (Skidmore, Smith 13)

These are just a few examples of the many types of in-text citations. Consult a recently published MLA style guide for a more complete and current list of rules for MLA style.

One author from a book or Internet site and the author is not named in the text:
Include the author’s last name and page number/s.

Being accurate and consistent is important when following the rules of style for documentation (Raimes 96-98).

One author from a book or Internet site and the author is named in the text:
Include the page number/s.

Raimes points out that being accurate and consistent is important when following the rules of style for documentation (96-98).

Two authors:
Include the authors’ last names and page number/s.

Learning word suffixes will increase your ability to recognize and create words (Waldhorn and Zeiger 37).

More than two authors:
Include the first author’s last name alphabetically, followed by “et al.” and page number/s.

In the 1990's, citizens in the United States had over 220 million guns (Boyer et al. 1079).

Author not named:
Use the first few words of the title to shorten it if it’s too long and the page number/s.

The school's exhibit at the Blackhawk museum got an impressive and positive public response ("Impressive Collection," 5).

An Internet site with no author named and no page numbers:
Use the first few words of the title of the site shortened if it’s too long.

One hundred years ago, advertisers developed a flashy, excessive style ("The American").

Works Cited:
Click here to see example Works Cited list entries.

Liberal Arts Guidelines for Written Work

All written work* must meet the criteria below to be accepted for grading. Work that does not meet the criteria will be immediately returned to the student. The student must visit the Online Writing Lab (OWL) for help in revising the work and then resubmit the work no later than the next Module.
A one-letter grade penalty will be applied to all resubmitted work.

All written work must:

  • be spell-checked and grammar checked and proofread for errors not caught by computer check.
  • Always include a heading containing
    Student's Full Name, Class Title & Section. Submission Date, Instructor's Name.
  • be typed and double-spaced.
  • cite references used according to MLA style, (unless otherwise indicated by instructor).

» See examples of MLA Style

Students are encouraged to use A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker for help with MLA style, revision, punctuation, and sentence-style.

The Academy of Art University Plagiarism Policy as defined on page 231 of the 2003-2004 catalog is:
" All writing and artwork must be written in the student's own words. Any quotes or paraphrases from source material must be properly footnoted. Any student who plagiarizes will receive a grade of F for that project and/or the final grade and is grounds for dismissal.

The above policy constitutes an official warning to each student. Any violations will not be given a second attempt to correct. If you have further questions about plagiarism, please see your instructor."

» See also: Plagiarism

Grading Scale
A = outstanding work
B = above average work
C = average work that meets all stated criteria
D = below average work that fails to meet stated criteria in one or more areas
F = work that fails to meet stated criteria in all areas

* Please note that although discussion responses should have proper grammar and spelling and be void of plagiarism, MLA formatting guidelines may not apply to these submissions.

Writing a Compare/Contrast Art History Essay

Important Points of an Art History Image


  • Who is the artist or is the artist unknown?
  • What period or style is it?
  • What is the name of the artwork?
  • To what culture does it belong?
  • Of what material/medium is it made?
  • What is its subject matter?


  • How big is it? Does its medium affect the quality?
  • What are its formal elements (line, color, composition, etc.)?
  • Is it abstract, naturalistic, idealistic, realistic, or a combination?
  • How is the subject being depicted?
  • What is the origin of the style? - Is it a combination of cultural styles?

Function/Symbolism(Often relates to cultural context)

  • What was it used for? Why was it made?
  • It is sacred or secular?
  • Does it communicate a message? Is it asking for something?
  • Does it contain symbolism? What does it mean?

Cultural Context

  • What was happening historically, politically, socially, religiously, intellectually, and/or economically at the time it was made?
  • What were qualities of life at the time and place the piece was made that may have affected its function and style?
  • Do historical events or overall aesthetic tastes relate to the image/story depicted?

Compare and Contrast/Be Concise and to the Point

  • Explore the differences and similarities of the two works being compared using the four topic areas discussed above.
  • Begin your essay with an opening paragraph stating the main point of the comparison? (Remember to add the basics such as identification.) Asking, "Why did the instructor choose these two particular works?" will lead you to this.
  • Each paragraph should discuss what is the same and what is different about the works in regards to each topic listed above. (e.g. one paragraph will discuss what is similar and different regarding style.)
  • Start with main concepts and then move to relevant details. (Remember to state the obvious.)
  • Use complete sentences. Each paragraph should focus on one main concept/topic.
  • Conclude with a paragraph that sums up your main ideas.

Example Essay:

In this essay, I will compare and contrast two ancient sculptures in the round. The first is Nude Woman, or Venus of Willendorf, from the prehistoric period. The small limestone sculpture was found in modern day Austria and dates to circa 25,000 b.c.e. The second image is Khafre, a life-size Egyptian sculpture made of diorite stone from much later, circa 2,500 b.c.e. Both sculptures contain magical or supernatural symbolism, as well as concepts of life and death.

The Venus is probably a votive figure or offering to the gods. She is abundant, perhaps pregnant, probably to symbolize fertility and to bring good fortune in the fields and in human reproduction. Little is known about the sculpture, but life at this time must have been a struggle for survival and she represents the core of the cycle of life. Khafre is a "Ka" statue, meant to be buried with the mummified body of the king of which he is a portrait. It is to serve as a back-up to the mummy to offer a place for the Ka, or soul, to reside at night. The portrait also helps the Ka recognize its residence and body. Most Egyptian art focused on permanence and the afterlife such as this one. Whereas Venus is probably an offering to the gods and a symbol of life to an entire culture, Khafre is meant to retain the individual man's soul and help him travel to and from the afterlife.

The Venus figure is a very small (about 4 ½ inches high) standing naked figure, whereas Khafre is a life-size and clothed seated portrait. They are both stone and both human figures but differ greatly in style. The Venus exhibits a combination of many stylistic elements. It is naturalistic and organic in areas of the body; exhibits full breasts, a round stomach, the pubic triangle, and chubby legs. She is a series of natural spheres. However, it is abstract as well. The head is stylized with no face, so that it represents a "type," perhaps representing the ideal of womanhood. Therefore, she is also idealistic.

Khafre is naturalistic and serves as a portrait, although it is depicted quite flawlessly, and thus is idealized. The Egyptian sculpture has a refined surface and contains precise detail in the face's features and in the reliefs on the throne on which Khafre sits. One feels the block of the stone from which it was carved and is very formal, stiff, and rigid. Khafre's blockiness and dark color add to its strong sense of permanence, common to Egyptian sculptures of royalty.

To conclude, both sculptures reflect the ancient cultures by which they were made and focus on the cycle of life. One concentrates on a type, the other on an individual. Stylistically, they both show elements of naturalism and idealism, although Venus utilizes more organic shapes, while Khafre is more rigid and blocky.

For help brainstorming and organizing the ideas in your essay, you can use the Outlining Worksheet for Compare & Contrast Essays.

Below is a worksheet that you can use as a guide in organizing some of the important points in a compare/contrast essay about two pieces of artwork. You can print it, fill it out, and use it as an outline for your essay.

NOTE: There are many different ways to organize a compare/contrast essay and this outline worksheet serves as only one suggestion. You may want to use this worksheet simply to brainstorm and organize your ideas before writing your essay

Discussion of Image #1Discussion of Image #2
Art Movement
Artist's Ideas
Art Movement
Artist's Ideas
Similarities between Image #1 & #2
Art Movement
Artist's Ideas
Differences between Image #1 & #2
Art Movement
Artist's Ideas

What is sexist language?

The two most common examples of sexist language are:
1. Using "he" to refer to both men and women.
If a person wants to paint well, he must practice everyday.
2. Including gender in titles:
fireman hostess policewoman male nurse stewardess mankind manmade

Why should I avoid using sexist language?

  • It is not acceptable in academic or business settings
  • It often gives inaccurate information
  • It fails to recognize the contributions of both sexes

How can I avoid using sexist language?

1. Instead of using he to refer to men and women, use "he or she"
If a person wants to paint well, he or she must practice everyday.

2. Use the plural form
If people want to paint well, they must practice everyday.

3. You can alternate he and she for different examples
If an athlete wants to compete, he will spend a lot of time training.
A good doctor will give her patients the best possible care.

If you choose option 3, be sure not to use feminine and masculine pronouns for the same example

INCORRECT: The artist wanted to display his work at the exhibit but she missed the deadline
CORRECT: The artist wanted to display her work at the exhibit but she missed the deadline.
CORRECT: The artist wanted to display his work at the exhibit but he missed the deadline.

Instead of including gender in titles, use titles without gender.

firefighter host police officer nurse flight attendant humankind/humanity synthetic/manufactured