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The Canadian Writer's Handbook

Second Essentials Edition

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

This compact version of Canada's most trusted guide to research, writing, and documentation offers advice that is guaranteed to help writers of all skill levels master the writing process. With streamlined discussions of composition, grammar and style, spelling and punctuation, research practices, and a fully updated documentation section, this is an essential reference for all students.

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


  • "The concision and clarity make the Handbook my first choice for introductory literature and writing classes."
    --Stephen Guy, Grande Prairie Regional College

  • "The writing is clear and accessible without talking down to students. . . . It spends a lot of time on the process work of writing, and not just on the final product."
    --Rhiannon Don, Nipissing University

Important Topics for EAL Students NEW
Part Index
1. The Writing Process: Planning, Writing, and Revising the Whole Essay
1a. Finding and Limiting a Subject
1b. Considering Audience and Purpose
1c. Gathering and Organizing Evidence
1d. Crafting a Thesis Statement
1e. Crafting an Outline
1f. Writing a First Draft
1g. Beginnings
1h. Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
1i. Preparing the Final Draft
2. Paragraphs
2a. Unity
2b. Organizational Coherence
2c. Structural Coherence
2d. Emphasis and Variety
3. Sentence Elements and Patterns
3a. Subject and Predicate, Noun and Verb
3b. Modifiers
3c. Structure Words
3d. Phrases
3e. Independent (Main) Clauses
3f. Subordinate (Dependent) Clauses
3g. Kinds of Sentences: Grammatical Types
4. Working with Sentence Elements to Create Variety and Emphasis
4a. Basic Sentence Elements and Their Modifiers
4b. Variety in Lengths
4c. Variety in Kinds
4d. Variety in Structures
4e. Emphasizing a Whole Sentence
4f. Emphasis by Position and Word Order
4g. Emphasis by Repetition
4h. Emphasis by Contrast
4i. Emphasis by Syntax
5. Common Sentence Problems
5a. Sentence Fragments
5b. Comma Splices
5c. Run-on (Fused) Sentences
5d. Misplaced Modifiers
5e. Dangling Modifiers
5f. Mixed Constructions
5g. Shifts in Perspective: Inconsistent Point of View
5h. Faulty Parallelism
Part III: Essentials of Grammar and Style: Parts of Speech; Diction
6. Nouns
6a. Inflection of Nouns: Number; Possessive Case
6b. Grammatical Functions of Nouns
6c. Nouns and Articles: a, an, and the
7. Pronouns
7a. Pronoun Types
7b. Case
7c. Agreement of Pronouns with Their Antecedents
7d. Pronoun Reference
7e. Pronouns and Inclusive Language
8. Verbs
8a. Transitive, Intransitive, and Linking Verbs
8b. Inflection of Verbs: Principal Parts
8c. Irregular Verbs
8d. Auxiliary Verbs
8e. Verb Tenses and Their Functions
8f. Tense Sequence
8g. Mood
8h. Voice
9. Agreement Between Subject and Verb
9a. Words Intervening Between Subject and Verb
9b. Compound Subjects
9c. Agreement with Indefinite Pronouns
9d. Subject Following Verb
9e. Agreement with Relative Pronouns
10. Adjectives
10a. Kinds of Adjectives
10b. Comparison of Descriptive Adjectives
10c. Placement and Ordering of Adjectives
11. Adverbs
11a. Kinds and Functions of Adverbs
11b. Comparison of Adverbs
11c. Placement of Adverbs
12. Verbals
12a. Infinitives
12b. Participles
12c. Gerunds
13. Connecting Words; Interjections
13a. Prepositions
13b. Conjunctions: Coordinate, Correlative, Subordinate
13c. Interjections
14. Diction
14a. Level
14b. Concrete and Abstract Diction
14c. Euphemisms
14d. Wrong Words
14e. Idiom
14f. Wordiness, Clichés, Jargon, and Associated Problems
14g. Usage: A Checklist of Troublesome Words and Phrases
15. The Comma
15a. The Comma with Coordinating Conjunctions
15b. The Comma with Items in a Series
15c. The Comma with an Introductory Word, Phrase, or Subordinate Clause
15d. The Comma with Nonrestrictive Elements
15e. The Comma with Sentence Interrupters
16. The Semicolon
16a. The Semicolon with Independent Clauses
16b. The Semicolon with Conjunctive Adverbs and Transitions
16c. The Semicolon with Items in a Series
17. The Colon
17a. The Colon with Items in a Series
17b. The Colon Between a Title and a Subtitle
17c. The Colon in the Salutation of a Business Letter
17d. The Colon Introducing a Block Quotation
18. The Dash
18a. The Dash with Items in a Series
18b. The Dash with Sentence Interrupters
19. Parentheses
20. Quotation Marks
20a. Quotation Marks with Direct Speech
20b. Quotation Marks with Direct Quotation from a Source
20c. Single Quotation Marks for a Quotation Within a Quotation
20d. Quotation Marks Around Words Used in a Special Sense
20e. Other Marks with Quotation Marks
20f. Ellipses for Omissions
21. Brackets
22. The Period
23. The Question Mark
24. The Exclamation Point
25. Avoiding Common Errors in Punctuation
25a. Unwanted Comma Splice
25b. Unwanted Comma Between Subject and Verb
25c. Unwanted Comma Between Verb and Object or Complement
25d. Unwanted Comma After Last Adjective of a Series
25e. Unwanted Comma Between Coordinated Words and Phrases
25f. Commas with Emphatic Repetition
25g. Unwanted Comma with Short Introductory or Parenthetical Element
25h. Unwanted Comma with Restrictive Appositive
25i. Unwanted Comma with Indirect Quotation
25j. Unwanted Question Mark After Indirect Question
25k. Unwanted Semicolon with Subordinate Element
25-l. Unwanted Colon After Incomplete Construction
25m. Unwanted Double Punctuation: Comma or Semicolon with a Dash
25n. Run-on (Fused) Sentences
26. Formatting an Essay
26a. Format
26b. Syllabication and Word Division
27. Abbreviations
27a. Titles Before Proper Names
27b. Titles and Degrees After Proper Names
27c. Standard Words Used with Dates and Numerals
27d. Agencies and Organizations Known by Their Initials
27e. Scientific and Technical Terms Known by Their Initials
27f. Latin Expressions Commonly Used in English
27g. Terms in Official Titles
28. Capitalization
28a. Names and Nicknames
28b. Professional and Honorific Titles
28c. Place Names
28d. Months, Days, and Holidays
28e. Religious Names
28f. Names of Nationalities and Organizations
28g. Names of Institutions and Sections of Government, Historical Events, and Buildings
28h. Academic Courses and Languages
28i. Derivatives of Proper Nouns
28j. Abbreviations of Proper Nouns
28k. Titles of Written and Other Works
28-l. First Words
28m. Personification or Emphasis
29. Titles
29a. Quotation Marks for Short Works and Parts of Longer Works
29b. Italics for Whole or Major Works
29c. Titles Within Titles
30. Italics
30a. Names of Ships and Planes
30b. Non-English Words and Phrases
30c. Words Referred to as Words
30d. For Emphasis
31. Numerals
31a. Time of Day
31b. Dates
31c. Addresses
31d. Technical and Mathematical Numbers
31e. Parts of a Written Work
31f. Fractions
31g. Numbers of More Than Two Words
31h. Commas with Numerals
32. Spelling Rules and Common Causes of Error
32a. ie or ei
32b. Final e Before a Suffix
32c. Final y After a Consonant and Before a Suffix
32d. Doubling of a Final Consonant Before a Suffix
32e. The Suffix ly
32f. Troublesome Word Endings
32g. Changes in Spelling of Roots
32h. Faulty Pronunciation
32i. Confusion with Other Words
32j. Homophones and Other Words Sometimes Confused
32k. Hyphenation
32-l. Plurals
32m. Apostrophes to Indicate Omission
32n. Possessives
33. The Research Plan
33a. Formulating Research Questions
33b. Designing a Timeline
33c. Identifying and Evaluating Sources
33d. Producing a Preliminary Bibliography
33e. Notetaking
34. Writing the Essay
35. Acknowledging Sources
36. Quotation, Paraphrase, Summary, and Academic Integrity
36a. Legitimate Paraphrase
36b. Illegitimate Paraphrase
36c. Paraphrase and Quotation Mixed
36d. Summary
36e. Maintaining Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism
36f. Integrating and Contextualizing Quotations
37. Documentation
37a. The Name-Page Method (MLA Style)
37b. The Name-Date Method (APA Style)
37c. The Note Method (Chicago Style)
Appendix A: Checklist for Use in Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
Appendix B: Sample MLA-Style Research Paper NEW
Common Mechanical Errors NEW

Instructor's Manual:
- 10 Teaching documents adapted from The Canadian Writer's Handbook, 6e
- Sample essay using APA style NEW
- Sample essay using Chicago style NEW
Kobo E-Book (ISBN 9780199025596)

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 - 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

  • A thoroughly Canadian approach to spelling and usage makes this a suitable choice for Canadian classes.
  • Written by a team of Canadian experts; previous editions of this text have been classroom-tested for over 30 years.
  • A streamlined treatment of the essential aspects of the writing process - from composing a sentence to conducting research - helps students at all levels write with greater confidence, clarity, and skill.
  • Integrates a wide range of clear examples that demonstrate how students can apply the principles discussed in the text to their own writing.
  • An easy-to-navigate, colourful design - with a How to Find What You Need page and marginal thumb tabs - helps students quickly find the information they need.
  • Student-friendly and accessible - students can read the book from beginning to end or consult certain sections as needed, while helpful cross-references guide readers to related sections.
  • Coverage of academic integrity and plagiarism emphasizes the seriousness and importance of ethical writing and researching.
  • Coverage of topics important to EAL learners are marked with an EAL icon throughout and are now listed at the front of the book.
  • A checklist for revising at the end of the book will help students through the revising, editing, and proofreading stages of their writing to ensure they are submitting polished work.
  • A list of marking symbols and abbreviations found on the inside back cover will help students recognize and understand common symbols that might appear on their edited work.
  • An indispensable and highly useful reference for students throughout their entire undergraduate careers and beyond.
New to this Edition
  • Updated documentation section provides expanded coverage of online sources such as blog posts, tweets, emails, and social media videos
  • Colour-coded in-text and reference citations highlight common elements to help students construct citations with ease. (Section 37)
  • Up-to-date MLA, APA, and Chicago style documentation guidelines, along with examples for each, demonstrate how students should document their research.
  • 2016 MLA update
  • Expanded coverage of how to integrate quotations and how to paraphrase properly helps students properly incorporate sources. (Section 36)
  • Condensed appendix - Checklist for Use in Revising, Editing, and Proofreading (Appendix A) is now more streamlined, making it even easier for students to use.
  • Sample MLA research paper at the end of the text (Appendix B) and sample APA and CMS research papers on the companion site provide students with models of effective writing.
  • List of Common Mechanical Errors at the end of the text provides students with a handy proofreading tool.