Example and rules Editing the Essay, Part One

Example and rules Editing the Essay, Part One

Those who have gone through the ecstasies and agonies of writing an essay knows the satisfaction (and often the sadness) of finishing. Once you’ve done all of the work of figuring out what you want to express, arriving at an arguable and thesis that is interesting analyzing your evidence, organizing your thinking, and contending with counter-arguments, you may possibly believe that you’ve got nothing left to do but run spell-check, print it out and await your professor’s response. But what spell- check can’t discern is what readers that are real think or feel when they read your essay: where they may become confused, or annoyed, or bored, or distracted. Anticipating those responses could be the job of an editor—the job you are taking on as you edit your very own work.

As you proceed, keep in mind that sometimes what might appear like a problem that is small mask (be a symptom of) a larger one. A poorly-worded phrase—one that seems, say, unclear or vague—may just need some tweaking to correct; nonetheless it may indicate that your particular thinking hasn’t developed fully yet, you are not exactly sure what you need to say. Your language may be vague or confusing because the idea itself is. So learning, as Yeats says, to “cast a eye that is cold on your prose isn’t just a matter of arranging the finishing touches on the essay. It is about making your essay better from the inside (clarifying and deepening your opinions and insights) and from the outside (expressing those ideas in powerful, lucid, graceful prose). These five guidelines can really help.

Read your essay aloud .

We can sometimes lose sight of the larger picture, of how all the sentences sound when they’re read quickly one after the other, as your readers will read them when we labor over sentences. Whenever you read out loud, your ear will pick up a few of the problems your eye might miss.

While you read your essay, remember the “The Princess while the Pea,” the story of a princess so sensitive she was bothered by an individual pea buried beneath the pile of mattresses she lay upon. As an editor, you need to be like the princess—highly alert to anything that seems slightly odd or “off” in your prose. So if something strikes you as problematic, don’t gloss on it. Investigate to locate the nature associated with problem. It’s likely that, if something bothers you just a little, it shall bother your readers a great deal.

Be sure all your words are doing work that is important making your argument .

Are typical of the words and phrases necessary? Or are they just using up space? Are your sentences sharp and tight, or are they loose and dull? Do not say in three sentences what you could say in one, and don’t use 14 words where five will do. You need every word in your sentence to add as much meaning and inflection as you can. Yourself what “own personal” adds when you see phrases like “My own personal opinion,” ask. Is not that what “my” means?

Even small, apparently unimportant words like “says” are worth your attention. In the place of “says,” could you use a word like argues, acknowledges, contends, essay writers believes, reveals, suggests, or claims? Words like these not merely make your sentences more lively and interesting, they offer useful information: he or she said that thing; “said” merely reports if you tell your readers that someone “acknowledges” something, that deepens their understanding of how or why.

3. Bear in mind the idea of le mot juste. Always look for the most wonderful words, probably the most precise and specific language, to say everything you mean. Without using concrete, clear language, you can’t convey to your readers precisely what you think of a topic; you can easily only speak in generalities, and everyone has recently heard those: “The evils of society are a drain on our resources.” Sentences like this could mean so many things which they wind up meaning nothing at all to your readers—or meaning something completely different from everything you intended. Be specific: What evils? Which societies? What resources? Your readers are reading your words to see what you think, what you have to say.

If you’re having trouble putting your finger on just the right word, consult a thesaurus, but only to remind yourself of one’s options. Never choose words whose connotations or contexts that are usual don’t really understand. Using language you’re new to may cause more imprecision—and that will lead your reader to question your authority.

4. Beware of inappropriately elevated language—words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or jargony. Sometimes, in an effort to sound more reliable or authoritative, or maybe more sophisticated, we puff up our prose with this specific sort of language. Usually we only end up sounding like we are trying to sound smart—which is a sure sign to our readers that individuals’re not. Because you think they’ll sound impressive, reconsider if you find yourself inserting words or phrases. If the ideas are great, you don’t need to strain for impressive language; if they’re not, that language will not help anyway.

Inappropriately elevated language can result from nouns getting used as verbs. Most parts of speech function better—more elegantly—when they have fun with the roles these were meant to play; nouns work well as nouns and verbs as verbs. See the sentences that are following, and listen to how pompous they sound.

He exited the space. It’s important that proponents and opponents of the bill dialogue about its contents before voting onto it.

Exits and dialogues work better as nouns and there are many ways of expressing those ideas without turning nouns into verbs.

He left the room. People should debate the professionals and cons with this bill before voting.

Every now and then, though, this might be a rule worth breaking, as in “He muscled his method to the front regarding the line.” “Muscled” gives us lots of information that might otherwise take words that are several even sentences to express. And since it’s not awkward to see, but lively and descriptive, readers will not mind the shift that is temporary roles as “muscle” becomes a verb.

5. Be tough on your own most dazzling sentences. You may find that sentences you needed in earlier drafts no longer belong—and these may be the sentences you’re most fond of as you revise. We are all guilty of trying to sneak inside our sentences that are favorite they don’t belong, because we can’t bear to cut them. But great writers are ruthless and can get rid of brilliant lines if they’re no longer relevant or necessary. They already know that readers will likely be less struck by the brilliance than because of the inappropriateness of those sentences and they allow them to go.


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