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Good Evidence

One of the most common problems I see in my students' writing is their use of evidence.  What constitutes good evidence?  What is a good source?    The first thing I tell all of my students is that Wikipedia is never an acceptable source.  Why not?  Wikipedia is written and edited by a variety of people who may or may not have expertise in the topic about which they are writing.  Wikipedia is littered with incorrect or dubious information, and should therefore never be cited in a formal essay.   A good, reliable source is one whose credibility can be verified.  Books by known experts, articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and newspaper articles that rely on experts may all be cited in an history essay as proof of a thesis.  Primary sources--interviews with historical actors, memoirs, photographs, artifacts--are also excellent sources of proof in a historical essay, but take care to provide adequate analysis... read more

College Application Essay - Tips for topic and style

Students have a wonderful opportunity to show admissions officers who they really are, by using the college essay to stand out from the crowd. In my experience, if you find a topic that you care about, and you write an essay that speaks from your heart, you will have a successful application experience. Admissions officers have to read dozens of applications per day in the 'busy season'. If you give an application reader a chance to pause, laugh out loud or wonder about the end of the story, and really recognize you as an individual, whether using humor, philosophy, creative writing about a memory or a fictionalized experience, or a profound lesson learned, you will hit a home run!   I am happy to help you get started, and then to edit your results. I do not write essays for students, but I do help you present yourself in the best light possible, and to give you opportunities that you may not find on your own.  Contact me for 3-session essay writing... read more

Ethos: The Power of Rhetoric, pt 3

Good morning, lovely learners! Time to rise and shine and, well, learn.   Today's post is the last in three I've done on Aristotle's Rhetoric Trifecta. We've done pathos--persuasion by emotion--and logos--argument by logic--but now it's time to end this with a final powerhouse punch: ethos.   Ethos is persuasion by authority. A little strange, sure, but if you tilt your head and squint your eyes a little, you'll see why I think this is the most important strategy of the three.   See, you can have the cutest, big-eyed puppies campaigning for you, and dozens of scientists out spouting statistics and studies, but unless you yourself come across as someone who knows what they're talking about--as a reliable, trustworthy source of information--no one will listen to you.  So appearing to your audience, whether in writing or in person, as someone worth paying attention to must be a top priority.   Let's take this blog and my... read more

Logos: The Power of Rhetoric, pt 2

Good morning, writing minions! It’s time for more lessons from a dead white dude. In my last post, I discussed the power of pathos as one of three primary rhetorical techniques Aristotle developed to persuade an audience—techniques that still work today, whether for campaign speeches, college essays, or talking Mom and Dad into a later curfew. Today, it’s time to talk about logos, or the logical argument. And to explain it well, allow one of my favorite television characters of all time take the stage: Abed Nadir, of Dan Harmon’s Community. Abed, a socially awkward young man in community college, offers a piece of chocolate to the female members of his study group whenever they become agitated. This goes unnoticed until his agenda book is opened and the study group sees the calendar marked on certain dates with the female members’ names. It’s alarmingly obvious that he’s been charting the women’s menstrual cycles. Horrified, they ask Abedwhy... read more

Using 'not only . . . but . . . '

I often read student essays that incorrectly use the phrase “not only . . . but . . . ,” as in the following sentence: Incorrect: Video games are not only a source of distraction, but they may force players to think. There’s an easy fix for this often misunderstood construction: include the word also. Correct: Video games are not only a source of distraction, but they may also force players to think. Here’s another example: Incorrect: This not only reduces the advisor’s time but produces fewer alternatives to evaluate. Correct: This not only reduces the advisor’s time but also produces fewer alternatives to evaluate. Notice that in this example, the writer does not use a comma; this punctuation is not necessary with the not only…but also construction if a subject is not given in the second half of the sentence, which would make it a compound sentence. If you don’t understand, consider this example again: Correct: Video games are not only a source... read more

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