Alphabetical list of Handouts & Guides

Words of Wisdom

Whatever we conceive well we express clearly.

— Nicholas Boileau

January 2007

MEGAN: Hi, I’m Megan, and welcome to “Write Right,” the new student podcast of the University Writing Center at Texas A&M.  Today on “Write Right,” we’ll be talking about all the terms you’ll find in your writing assignments, and we’ll learn exactly what they mean and how to use them.  Let’s start with “Analyze.”  “Analyze” means “to separate something into parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part.”

SMART GUY: (Clears throat, then a long, loud inhale, then in helium voice) Helium weighs point one seven eight five grams per liter, and nitrogen weights one point two five zero six grams per liter. Since nitrogen makes up about 80 percent of the air we breathe, we can see why helium floats.

MEGAN: Classify: to put something into a category with things of a similar type.

SOPHOMORE CORPS MEMBER: (Yelling at a freshman) Why haven’t you whipped out to me yet, fish?  You aren’t a high enough classification to gain the privilege of avoiding me yet!  Drop and give me four thousand push-ups!!

FISH:Yes, Mam!!

MEGAN: Contrast: to examine two or more things and to show their differences.

ARROGANT MASHA: My car has all its windows intact, but your window is broken. Ha!

MEGAN: Compare: to examine two or more things and show their similarities.



ARROGANT MASHA: (Now disappointed) Both our cars have broken windows.

MEGAN: Criticize: to analyze and make reasoned judgments about something.  You can criticize positively…

ROOMMATE: (Upbeat) My roommate is great!  She always calls when she’s going to be late so I won’t worry!


ROOMMATE: (Complaining) My roommate is awful!! She never does her dishes!  What a slob!

MEGAN: …or both.

ROOMMATE: (Neutral) My roommate is okay.  She’s usually fun to hang out with, but she can be annoying when she starts talking about her beanie-baby collection.

MEGAN: Define: to give the meaning of a term or concept.  The techniques for definition include examples.

SMART GUY: Define, as in “‘sadness’ is defined as affected by unhappiness or grief.”


MEGAN: …synonyms

SMART GUY: Define, as in ascertain, characterize, decide, delineate, denominate, construe, denote, expound, formalize, translate…

MEGAN: (Clears throat loudly to stop smart guy) …antonyms…

SMART GUY: Define, which is the opposite of confound, confuse, distort, and tangle.

MEGAN: …etymology…

SMART GUY: Define, from the late Middle English.  Also in the sense of “to bring to an end” from the old French definer from a variant of Latin definire from de, as in “expressing concern” and finire as in “finish”

MEGAN: …and the dictionary definition.

SMART GUY: Webster’s dictionary defines “define” as “to give the meaning of a term or concept.”

MEGAN: Next, we have “describe”: to give the physical or non-physical qualities or characteristics of something.

MALE STUDENT ONE: She’s furry with big floppy ears and she gets really excited when I feed her meat.

JENNA PURDY: Your dog?

MALE STUDENT ONE: No. My girlfriend.

MEGAN: Discuss: to offer the pros and cons of an issue.

MASHA: There are plenty of pros to naming my child “Suri.”  It is completely original.  In fact, there isn’t even a meaning for it.

KRISTIN: I think the cons, especially the amount of ridicule and personal pain the other children will inflict on a child named “Suri” outweigh the pros.

MEGAN: Also note that “discuss” is sometimes used more broadly to include any of the other terms on the list.  For example, it might mean “write something interesting or significant about a topic.”  Next, we have enumerate.  To make a list of something’s component ideas, aspects, or parts.

MECHANIC: You got your drive shaft, your battery, and your starter, your oil filter, your transmission…

MEGAN: Evaluate: to give a reasoned opinion about something, usually in terms of the merit of a particular work, idea or person.

JENNA PURDY: Yeah, I like the sushi on campus.  It’s not slimy, doesn’t taste too fishy, and the seaweed is always fresh.

MEGAN: Explain: to describe how something functions or give a definition of something.

KHADY YOUM: To start my car, you have to put the keys in the ignition and then stick the screwdriver in the hole where the shifter used to be.  Push down really hard on the screwdriver as you turn the key and push down halfway on the clutch.  Then turn your head 40 degrees to the left, hold your mouth to the right, and squint your eyes as you push the clutch down the rest of the way.

MEGAN: Identify: to indicate or describe what a thing is, what it is composed of, or when and where it occurs.

JENNA PURDY: Look at my new Aggie ring!  It shows people that I went to Texas A&M University and graduated in 2008!  It also shows that I have high moral standards because all Aggies follow the Aggie code of honor.

SEVERAL VOICES: (Reciting, a little monotonous) Aggies do not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.

MEGAN: Illustrate: to give examples or describe something.

KHADY YOUM: I like to avoid embarrassing situations, like my cell phone ringing in class or tripping and falling on my face in front of my class.

MEGAN: Interpret: to comment upon something or explain its meaning.


JENNA PURDY: He says he wants two pieces of bacon and a bowl of lemonade.  (Dog barks again.)  And that we should leave class now.

MEGAN: Outline: to give a historical overview of something, or describe its main parts.

TOUR GUIDE: (Sounds of walking) Texas A&M University began in 1876 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Now it offers degrees in more than 150 courses of study.  (Loud crash, scream or explanation, then frustrated)  OUCH!  Why don’t you guys tell me when I’m about to trip over something behind me!?

MEGAN: Prove: to argue a position by supporting your claims with factual evidence.

KHADY YOUM: It had to be Colonel Mustard with the revolver, because he was the only one in the room at the time and his fingerprints were found on the weapon.  (Dramatic music and audience gasp)

MEGAN: State.


MEGAN: (Annoyed) No…State.  As in “to explain something clearly and concisely.”


MASHA: Texas is a great place to live!

SEVERAL VOICES: [Cheering for the comment – e.g., “Yeah it is.”  “Take that, Oklahoma.” “WHOOP!” Etc.]

MEGAN: Trace: to give a historical overview or outline of some change, or summarize a chronological or sequential order of events.

TOUR GUIDE: (Sounds of walking)  The 58th Legislature of Texas officially changed A&M College of Texas to Texas A&M University in 1963.  The events leading up to this name change were…  (Another loud crash and explanation, then very frustrated)  Okay seriously guys!!  Tell me when something is behind me!!

MEGAN: And finally, summarize: to give the main points or highlights of a longer work, or a condensed account of an article, story, or event.

SMART GUY: This podcast explained what the terms professors typically give on writing assignments meant and gave an example of each in a lighthearted manner.

MEGAN: For more information about these terms or other writing topics, or for a printout of the handout covering all these definitions, please visit us at  Remember, we’re here in the second floor of Evans library to help you with any of your writing, so use the writing center or you’re just wasting your eight bucks a semester.  That’s right, you pay for it anyway.   Thank you for listening to “Write Right.”  Our vocal talent included Masha Sukovic, Katie Hannah, Kristin McKenzie, Jenna Purdy, Khady Youm, and Austin Carlson.   And I’m Megan Schmidt, hoping you’ll join us next time for another exciting episode of Write Right!

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Selecting a Topic

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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