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The Concise Canadian Writer's Handbook

Third Edition

The late William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, The late Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes

This streamlined version of Canada's most trusted guide to research, writing, and documentation delivers invaluable advice on every aspect of the writing process, from composing a sentence to producing a full-length research paper. This new edition features an expanded documentation section that includes more coverage of online sources, as well as colour coding to help students recognize the common elements among in-text and reference citations.

Readership : University and college students taking any course with a substantial writing component.


  • "The major strengths of this text are its ease of use and its conciseness. . . . I would not consider any other text for use in any course that covers the fundamentals of writing."
    --Cindy Soldan, Lakehead University

  • "This is a great book. It is accessible for students, has great built-in resources (such as the appendix and revisions symbols), and is thorough, with plenty of examples."
    --Julie Morris-Warkentin, Sheridan College

- List of Online Student Workbook Exercises
- Common Mechanical and Spelling Errors
- Important Topics for EAL Students
- Preface
1. Kinds of Paragraphs
a. Functions of Paragraphs
b. Kinds of Paragraphs: Methods of Development
Unity, Coherence, and Emphasis in Paragraphs
2. Paragraph Unity
3. Paragraph Coherence
4. Coherence Through Organization: Beginning, Middle, and Ending
a. The Beginning: Topic Sentences
b. The Middle
c. The Ending
5. Structural Coherence
a. Parallelism
b. Repetition
c. Pronouns and Demonstrative Adjectives
d. Transitional Terms
6. Emphasis in Paragraphs
7. Length of Paragraphs
a. Too Many Long Paragraphs
b. Too Many Short Paragraphs
c. Variety
Review: A Sample Paragraph with an Analysis
The Whole Essay
8. Unity, Coherence, and Emphasis
a. Unity
b. Coherence
c. Emphasis
9. The Process of Planning, Writing, and Revising
a. Finding a Subject and Pre-writing
b. Limiting the Subject
c. Considering Audience and Purpose
d. Gathering Evidence
e. Classifying and Organizing the Evidence
f. The Thesis Statement and the Outline
g. The Importance of Outlining
h. Kinds of Outlines
i. Sentence Outlines
j. Constructing Sentence Outlines
k. Writing the First Draft
l. Notes on Beginnings
m. Revising
n. Preparing the Final Draft
o. Proofreading
10. Argument: Writing to Convince or Persuade
a. Subject
b. Audience
c. Evidence
d. Organization
e. Being Reasonable
f. Including the Opposition
g. Using Induction and Deduction
h. Detecting and Avoiding Fallacies
11. Writing In-Class Essays and Essay Examinations
12. Sentence Patterns and Conventions
a. Subject and Predicate, Noun and Verb
b. Articles and Other Modifiers
c. Sentence Pattern 1: subject + verb
d. Sentence Pattern 2A: subject + verb + direct object
e. Sentence Pattern 2B (passive voice): subject + passive voice verb
f. Sentence Pattern 3: subject + verb + indirect object + direct object
g. Sentence Pattern 4A: subject + linking verb + subjective complement (predicate adjective)
h. Sentence Pattern 4B: subject + linking verb + subjective complement (predicate noun)
i. Sentence Pattern 5A: subject + verb + direct object + objective complement (adjective)
j. Sentence Pattern 5B: subject + verb + direct object + objective complement (noun)
k. Sentence Pattern 6 (expletive): there or it + linking verb (+ complement) + subject
l. Other Elements: Structure Words
m. Independent (Main) Clauses
n. Subordinate (Dependent) Clauses
o. Functions of Subordinate Clauses
p. Phrases
q. Appositives
r. Absolute Phrases
s. Order of Elements in Declarative Sentences
t. Order of Elements in Interrogative Sentences
u. The Structure of Imperative Sentences
v. What Is a Sentence?
w. Minor Sentences
x. Fragments
y. Major Sentences
z. Kinds of Major Sentences
13. Nouns
a. Inflection of Nouns
b. Grammatical Function of Nouns
14. Pronouns
a. Personal Pronouns
b. Impersonal Pronouns
c. Interrogative Pronouns
d. Relative Pronouns
e. Case
f. Demonstrative Pronouns
g. Indefinite Pronouns
h. Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns
i. Reciprocal Pronouns
15. Agreement of Pronouns with Their Antecedents
a. Antecedents Joined by and
b. Antecedents Joined by or or nor
c. Indefinite Pronoun as Antecedent
d. Pronouns and Inclusive Language: Avoiding Gender Bias
e. Collective Noun as Antecedent
f. Agreement with Demonstrative Adjectives
16. Reference of Pronouns
a. Remote Antecedent
b. Ambiguous Reference
c. Vague Reference
d. Missing Antecedent
e. Indefinite you, they, and it
17. Verbs
a. Kinds of Verbs: Transitive, Intransitive, and Linking
b. Inflection of Verbs: Principal Parts
c. Irregular Verbs
d. Inflection for Person and Number
e. Auxiliary Verbs
f. Inflection of do, be, and have
g. Time and the Verb: Inflection for Tense
h. Sequence of Tenses
i. Verb Phrases in Compound Predicates
j. Tenses in Writing About Literature
k. Mood
l. Voice: Active and Passive
18. Agreement Between Subject and Verb
a. Words Intervening Between Subject and Verb
b. Compound Subject: Singular Nouns Joined by and
c. Compound Subject: Parts Joined by or or a Correlative
d. Agreement with Indefinite Pronouns
e. Subject Following Verb
f. Agreement with Collective Nouns
g. Nouns That Are Always Singular or Always Plural
h. Plurals: criteria, data, media, etc.
i. Agreement with Relative Pronouns
j. Titles of Works and Words Referred to as Words
19. Adjectives
a. Kinds of Adjectives
b. Comparison of Descriptive Adjectives
c. Articles: a, an, and the
d. Placement of Adjectives
e. Order of Adjectives
f. Adjectives Functioning as Nouns
20. Adverbs
a. Kinds and Functions of Adverbs
b. Forms of Adverbs
c. Comparison of Adverbs
d. Placement of Adverbs
21. Verbals: Infinitives, Participles, and Gerunds
a. Infinitives
b. Tense and Voice of Infinitives
c. Split Infinitives
d. Participles
e. Tense and Voice of Participles
f. Gerunds
g. Tense and Voice of Gerunds
h. Possessives with Gerunds
i. Verbals in Absolute Phrases
22. Prepositions
a. Functions of Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
b. Placement of Prepositions
c. Common Prepositions
d. Two-Part Verbs; Verb Idioms
23. Conjunctions
a. Coordinating Conjunctions
b. Correlative Conjunctions
c. Subordinating Conjunctions
24. Interjections
Part IV: Writing Effective Sentences
Basic Sentence Elements and Their Modifiers
25. Basic Sentence Elements: Subject, Verb, Object, Complement
a. Subject
b. Finite Verb
c. Direct Object
d. Subjective Complement
26. Modifiers
a. Adjectival Modifiers
b. Adverbial Modifiers
c. Overlapping Modifiers
d. Using Modifiers: A Sample Scenario
Sentence Length, Variety, and Emphasis
27. Sentence Length
a. Short Sentences
b. Long Sentences
28. Sentence Variety
a. Variety of Lengths
b. Variety of Kinds
c. Variety of Structures
29. Emphasis in Sentences
a. Endings and Beginnings
b. Loose Sentences and Periodic Sentences
c. The Importance of the Final Position
d. Changing Word Order
e. Movable Modifiers
f. Using the Expletive and the Passive Voice for Emphasis
g. Emphasis by Repetition
h. Emphasis by Stylistic Contrast
i. Emphasis by Syntax
j. Emphasis by Punctuation
30. Analyzing Sentences
a. The Chart Method
b. The Vertical Method
Common Sentence Problems
31. Sentence Coherence
32. Fragments
33. Comma Splices
34. Run-on (Fused) Sentences
35. Misplaced Modifiers
a. Movability and Poor Placement
b. Only, almost, etc.
c. Squinting Modifiers
36. Dangling Modifiers
a. Dangling Participial Phrases
b. Dangling Gerund Phrases
c. Dangling Infinitive Phrases
d. Dangling Elliptical Clauses
e. Dangling Prepositional Phrases and Appositives
37. Mixed Construction
38. Faulty Alignment
39. Shifts in Perspective: Inconsistent Point of View
a. Shifts in Tense
b. Shifts in Mood
c. Shifts in Voice
d. Shifts in Person of Pronoun
e. Shifts in Number of Pronoun
40. Faulty Parallelism
a. With Coordinate Elements
b. With Correlative Conjunctions
c. In a Series
41. Faulty Coordination: Logic, Emphasis, and Unity
42. Faulty Logic
43. Internal Punctuation: The Comma
a. The Comma with Independent Clauses Joined by a Coordinating Conjunction
b. The Comma with Short Independent Clauses Not Joined by a Coordinating Conjunction
c. The Comma Between Items in a Series
d. The Comma Between Parallel Adjectives
e. The Comma with Introductory or Concluding Words, Phrases, and Clauses
f. The Comma with Non-restrictive Elements
g. The Comma with Sentence Interrupters
44. Internal Punctuation: The Semicolon
a. The Semicolon Between Independent Clauses
b. The Semicolon Between Items in a Series
45. Internal Punctuation: The Colon
46. Internal Punctuation: The Dash
47. Parentheses
48. Brackets
49. End Punctuation: The Period
50. End Punctuation: The Question Mark
51. End Punctuation: The Exclamation Point
52. Quotation Marks
a. Direct Speech
b. Direct Quotation from a Source
c. Quotation Within Quotation
d. Words Used in a Special Sense
e. Other Marks with Quotation Marks
53. Ellipses for Omissions
54. Avoiding Common Errors in Punctuation
a. Run-on (Fused) Sentences
b. Comma Splice
c. Unwanted Comma Between Subject and Verb
d. Unwanted Comma Between Verb and Object or Complement
e. Unwanted Comma After Last Adjective of a Series
f. Unwanted Comma Between Coordinated Words and Phrases
g. Commas with Emphatic Repetition
h. Unwanted Comma with Short Introductory or Parenthetical Element
i. Unwanted Comma with Restrictive Appositive
j. Unwanted Comma with Indirect Quotation
k. Unwanted Question Mark After Indirect Question
l. Unwanted Semicolon with Subordinate Element
m. Unwanted Colon After Incomplete Construction
n. Unwanted Double Punctuation: Comma or Semicolon with a Dash
55. Formatting an Essay
56. Abbreviations
a. Titles Before Proper Names
b. Titles and Degrees After Proper Names
c. Standard Words Used with Dates and Numerals
d. Agencies and Organizations Known by Their Initials
e. Scientific and Technical Terms Known by Their Initials
f. Latin Expressions Commonly Used in English
g. Terms in Official Titles
57. Capitalization
a. Names and Nicknames
b. Professional and Honorific Titles
c. Words Designating Family Relationships
d. Place Names
e. Months, Days, Holidays
f. Religious Names
g. Names of Nationalities and Organizations
h. Names of Institutions, Sections of Government, Historical Events, and Buildings
i. Academic Courses and Languages
j. Derivatives of Proper Nouns
k. Abbreviations of Proper Nouns
l. I and O
m. Titles of Written and Other Works
n. First Words
o. With Personification and for Emphasis
58. Titles
a. Italics for Whole or Major Works
b. Quotation Marks for Short Works and Parts of Longer Works
c. Titles Within Titles
59. Italics
a. Names of Ships, Trains, and Planes
b. Non-English Words and Phrases
c. Words Referred to as Words
d. For Emphasis
60. Numerals
a. Time of Day
b. Dates
c. Addresses
d. Technical and Mathematical Numbers
e. Parts of a Written Work
f. Statistics and Numbers of More Than Two Words
g. Commas with Numerals
61. Spelling Rules and Common Causes of Error
a. ie or ei
b. Prefixes
c. Suffixes
d. Final e Before a Suffix
e. Final y after a Consonant and Before a Suffix
f. Doubling of a Final Consonant Before a Suffix
g. Changes in Spelling of Roots
h. Confusion with Other Words
i. Homophones and Other Words Sometimes Confused
j. One Word or Two?
k. Hyphenation
l. Plurals
m. Apostrophes to Indicate Omissions
n. Possessives
62. Spelling List
Introduction: Style and the Larger Elements of Composition
63. About Dictionaries
a. Kinds of Dictionaries
b. Features of Dictionaries
c. Three Sample Dictionary Entries
64. Level
a. Slang
b. Informal, Colloquial
c. "Fine Writing"
65. Figurative Language
a. Inappropriate Metaphors
b. Overextended Metaphors
c. Dead Metaphors
d. Mixed Metaphors
66. Concrete and Abstract Diction; Weak Generalizations
a. Concreteness and Specificity
b. Weak Generalizations
67. Connotation and Denotation
68. Euphemism
69. Wrong Word
70. Idiom
71. Wordiness, Jargon, and Associated Problems
a. Wordiness
b. Repetition
c. Redundancy
d. Ready-Made Phrases
e. Triteness, Clichés
f. Overuse of Nouns
g. Nouns Used as Adjectives
h. Jargon
72. Usage: A Checklist of Troublesome Words and Phrases
73. Finding Resources
a. Libraries
b. The Internet
74. The Research Plan
a. Academic Proposals
b. A Preliminary Bibliography
c. A Working Bibliography
75. Taking Notes
a. The Note Itself
b. The Source
c. The Slug
d. Recording Your Own Ideas
76. Writing the Essay
a. Keeping Track of Notes in Your Drafts
77. Acknowledging Sources
a. "Common Knowledge"
78. Quotation, Paraphrase, Summary, and Plagiarism
a. Legitimate Paraphrase
b. Illegitimate Paraphrase
c. Paraphrase and Quotation Mixed
d. Summary
e. Maintaining Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
f. Integrating and Contextualizing Quotations
79. Documentation
a. The Name-Page Method (MLA Style)
b. The Name-Date Method (APA Style)
c. The Note Method (Chicago Style)
d. The Number Method
Appendix: Checklists for Use in Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
- Omnibus Checklist for Planning and Revising
- Specialized Checklist for Writers with English as an Additional Language

Printed Workbook:
ISBN 9780199021147 - 256 pp.
- Over 150 exercises range in difficulty so that students can practice their skills as they advance through a course
- A complete answer key at the back of the workbook gives students the opportunity to check their progress and comprehension
Additional Online Exercises:
- More than 90 online exercises to accompany Parts II-VII of the text
-- See pp. xvi-xviii for exercise list
Companion Website:
- 10 grammar quizzes
- Sample essay using Chicago style NEW
Instructor's Manual:
- 10 Teaching Documents adapted from the companion site of The Canadian Writer's Handbook, 6/e NEW
E-Book (ISBN 9780199021109)

William E. Messenger (now deceased) and Jan de Bruyn, both professors emeriti of the University of British Columbia, produced the first edition of The Canadian Writer's Handbook (main volume) in 1980. Judy Brown (now deceased) joined the project as an editorial consultant on the third edition; she was senior instructor and associate head in the English department at UBC. Ramona Montagnes is the head of the Writing Centre at UBC, where she teaches composition courses for the Writing Centre and the English Department.

The Concise Canadian Writer's Handbook - William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes
The Canadian Writer's Handbook - The late William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, The late Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes
The Canadian Writer's Handbook - William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes
Writing English - The late William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes

Special Features

  • Uses Canadian examples, spelling, and usage throughout to address the unique concerns of writers in Canada.
  • Easy to navigate thanks to coloured tabs, numbered sections and headers, and the How to Find What You Need page.
  • Portable, coil-bound format offers thorough coverage of the fundamentals in a concise handbook, making this the perfect supplement for all courses with a writing component.
  • Extensively classroom-tested with previous editions having been used by thousands of students over the past 30 years, this handbook offers clear, accessible examples and explanations.
  • Includes MLA guidelines (2016 update) for documenting sources and preparing reference lists, as well as APA, Chicago, and CSE guidelines, guaranteeing students have access to the most current documentation styles available.
  • Sample essays in MLA and APA format provide students with models of effective and ineffective writing.
  • Coverage of academic integrity helps students understand the importance of this issue while offering advice on how to correctly integrate and acknowledge sources. (Section 78)
  • Numerous boxed tips on overcoming common challenges help students with proofreading, research, and writing issues.
  • Comprehensive list of marking symbols and abbreviations located on the inside back cover will direct students to sections in the handbook that discuss specific writing problems, such as faulty parallelism (fp, //) or dangling modifiers (dm).
  • English as an Additional Language (EAL) information indicated by icons that highlight topics of particular interest to EAL students - such as idioms and mixed constructions - and an appendix containing a specialized checklist for EAL writers.
  • NEW Important Topics for EAL Students are now listed at the beginning of the book.
  • Practice exercises available in the printed student workbook - with additional exercises on the companion site - allow students to apply and improve writing skills.
New to this Edition
  • List of common mechanical and spelling errors at the beginning of the book includes section numbers, offering students a handy proofreading tool.
  • Updated section on documentation helps students properly cite their work and avoid plagiarism. (Section 79)
  • Presents current documentation guidelines for MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles, including the 2016 MLA guidelines update.
  • Helpful tables demonstrate how each in-text citation matches its reference entry.
  • New colour coding highlights common elements of in-text and reference citations so students can easily construct citations.
  • Expanded coverage of how to cite online sources such as blog posts, tweets, emails, and social media videos.
  • Improved cross-referencing of related concepts, particularly among the sections on sentence structure and parts of speech, guides students from one point of understanding to the next.