Sunday, November 14, 2010

Significant Moments: This Case Has Been Screaming for Attention for Years

I am alone, at dawn, on the mountaintop. Below, through the milky mist, I see the bodies of my friends. Some that have rolled down the slopes lie like disjointed red dolls; others are ashen statues surprised by the eternity of death.  Stealthy shadows are climbing toward me. Silence. I wait. They approach. I fire against dark silhouettes in black pajamas, faceless ghosts. I feel the recoil of the machine gun; I grip it so tightly my hands burn as incandescent lines of fire cross through the sky, but there is no sound. The attackers have become transparent; they are not stopped by the bullets that pass right through them, they continue their implacable advance. I am surrounded. . . . Silence. . . .
My own scream wakes me, and I keep screaming, screaming. . . .
Isabel Allende, The Infinite Plan.
That is how I felt about it.
Joseph Conrad, The Arrow of Gold.
. . . I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed. I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.

Essay Tips

The essay is one of the most common and popular forms of writing. Essays can be creative or academic, casual or formal, personal or public. Most students are introduced to essay form in middle or high school, and are expected to have become comfortable with it by the time they reach college. However, no matter how strong a writer is or how facile with essay form, there is always room for improvement. The following essay tips are intended for writers of all abilities, as each essay tip can be applied or implemented in various stages of a writer's development.

Essay Tip #1:
Write a strong thesis. This is one of the most important essay tips. A thesis is the backbone of an essay. Strong theses are clear, direct, and specific, and invite thought. An essay with a strong thesis has limitless potential.

Essay Tip #2:
Use strong language. Good writers use colorful, expressive, and concrete language. All writers can revise for strong language by carefully considering how they can change their words to be more concrete and specific. For instance, a writer can change a word like "want" to a word like "covet" or "desire." Both of these words convey a far more specific meaning than "want."

Essay Tip #3:
Be clear. Most student texts suffer from a lack of clarity. Often, this is because their writers have not fully identified what they think about the topic on which they are writing. Clarity can be achieved by challenging each word or sentence and attempting to make it more direct and precise.

Essay Tip #4:
Stay focused. Though it may be tempting to include a side note or tangential story in an essay, this should be avoided. These ideas should be saved, as they may be the foundations for whole essays in the future; however, when writing an essay, every paragraph must relate directly to the topic of the essay. Those that don't relate are distracting.

Essay Tip #5:
Go beyond the obvious. Good essays demonstrate complex and mature thought. The writer should convey that he or she has engaged fully with the topic and thought extensively about it and its implications. If the essay is for a class, this means that the writer should go far deeper than what has been discussed in class lectures or presented in course readings.

Essay Tip #6:
Be creative. This is one of the most neglected essay tips. Students assume that academic writing must always be dull, formal, and standard. This is not the case. There is much room for innovation, even within the parameters of essay conventions. Students should strive to express themselves and find new ways of working within those conventions to be original and compelling.

Perhaps a person with poor language skills will tend to have a problem with good writing that will tend to use strong language. I am attracted to the symmetry of that idea. Poor language skills/difficulty processing strong language. It reminds me of something one of my law professors used to say: "It's all the same case."


Gary Freedman said...

Isabel Allende:

Gary Freedman said...

I don't want a book contract. I desire a book contract. I covet a book contract!

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