Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tips and Suggestions: Essay 1 and Beyond

Resource for revision: Conventional Language

(a) When revising, increase your focus on your level of craft in your writing.

For example, how are you framing your essay? Effective essays often create a motif, pattern, or rhetorical strategy at the beginning and the end of the essay and then use some element of that frame to give the essay cohesion (in high school, you probably thought of that as a thesis).

(b) Begin to challenge yourself as a writer by demanding precise word choice. How careful are you being with your verbs (how often are you using "to be" and "to get" forms when a dynamic and concrete verb would be more effective)?

(c) Be able to identify your intended tone, and then take that your word choice and syntax (word order) maintain and support that intended tone (even if you tone shifts, you must control that shift with appropriate word choice and the rhythm of your writing).

(d) Take care with pronouns. Is your use of "it" effective and clear? Especially note pronoun/antecedent agreement (11): If you establish a singular primary reference ("the person," for example), the following reference must remain singular ("she/he," not "they").

(e) Always drive your writing by being specific. Vague is always a failure in writing as it is the result of careless omission of information. Ambiguous is purposeful, and can be very effective. Specific always works. Always. The writer's job is ultimately to engage and communicate, not baffle and alienate.

(f) This cannot be stressed enough: Making a claim is insufficient; a claim is simply a start to any conversation. Once you make a claim as a writer, you must provide evidence and elaboration to make your case clear and powerful. The vast majority of any non-fiction piece will tend to be the evidence and elaboration. A string of claims without evidence or elaboration is the sign of novice (and likely careless, purposeless) writer.

When revising, read your own piece (or have a peer or two read it) and mark your claims. Then, evaluate how many claims you make and how much care you take to prove those claims are valid, credible, and worth your readers' time.

(g) As you approach a final version of each essay, begin to take better care with formatting your final document and take extra care to use the formatting features of your word processing program. For this course, your style sheet guideline is APA, but always note the expectations of any writing assignment in varying settings.

(h) Don't ignore paragraph and sentence variety. Readers respond much better to short, rather than long, paragraphs (forget what you learned in high school). And both paragraph and sentence length are enhanced by seeking to use variety of lengths but above all else appropriateness of length to the meaning of the paragraph and sentence. Young writers tend to associate rhythm with the concerns of a poet or lyricist, but prose writers take care with rhythm also.

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