This was a really hard essay to write. Not because I couldn't figure out what to write about; I knew almost from the moment I read the prompt that I wanted to write about Dracula. On the contrary, it was hard because I had TOO MANY ideas for this essay – I had so many thoughts buzzing excitedly around in my head that my outlines kept coming out really scattered and disorganized. I went through, no joke, at least FOUR different outlines for this essay – and I refused to even start writing a draft until I'd sorted out what precisely was wrong with my outline, scrapped it for the third time, and started over from scratch. I went through several different organizational schemes, starting with one centered around a favorite Hitchcock quote about suspense that was a good idea, but ultimately, had no place in this particular essay. My outline eventually settled on the format that probably should have been obvious from the start – the one that related most closely to the prompt. My outline...
In today's Writing Rundown, I want to leave the brainstorming process for a bit and discuss responding to a prompt. Take a look at the prompt I used for my last Literature Spotlight, “The Blanks Left Empty”:
AP Literature Open-Ended Prompt, 1975, #2:
Unlike the novelist, the writer of a play does not use his own voice and only rarely uses a narrator’s voice to guide the audience’s responses to character and action. Select a play you have read and write an essay in which you explain the techniques the playwright uses to guide his audience’s responses to the central characters and the action. You might consider the effect on the audience of things like setting, the use of comparable and contrasting characters, and the characters’ responses to each other. Support your argument with specific references to the play. Do not give a plot summary.
Whew! That's a lot of information to sift through. Unfortunately, many high school and college-level writing prompts are as...
Last week in my
Literature Spotlight, I discussed the idea of science-fiction as a reflection of the time period in which it was written. For this week's Writing Rundown, let's take a look at my brainstorming process.
As I mentioned in this blog post, there are many ways to brainstorm for a project. For this one, I decided to use a technique I hardly ever use myself: free-writing. Free-writing is a great tool for projects for which you have the beginnings of a lot of ideas bouncing around in your head, but none are quite fleshed out enough for you to contemplate their connections. It generally requires another form of prewriting such as a word cloud or outline to get it into a state that helps you write the essay, but it's a great place to start.
So, as a brief recap: in freewriting, sometimes called “stream-of-consciousness” writing, you put your pen down on a blank piece of paper and just start writing – and you don't stop writing for at least ten or fifteen...
“It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.”
~(Author's Introduction to A Clockwork Orange, P. xiii)
The protagonist of A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, is a depraved young teen named Alex who has a love for 'ultra-violence.' For the first third of the book, Alex gleefully commits felony after felony, robbing, raping, and beating up random innocents just for the fun of it. At first glance, anyone witnessing his nighttime escapades would probably call him inhuman, a monster. And he is certainly degenerate and warped – but is he really inhuman? After all, humanity has sunk to some pretty low depths in history, and the human race is capable of acts of incredible violence and devastation. What do we really mean when we call someone inhuman? Are there some qualities absent in Alex that we feel should be present in all humans? A sense of morality, perhaps? A Clockwork Orange explores the link between morality, free will, and humanity, and shows...
Late University of Chicago Professor Emeritus Joseph Williams was arguably one of the best writing instructors of our time. I met him years ago when he was teaching a judicial writing course at the National Judicial College. The genius of his approach was to improve clarity in legal and business writing, by asking writiers to first sketch a "story" of their work, including the list of "characters" (nouns) and actions (verbs). By focusing on storytelling, you as a writer are forced to be more concise in explaining information to your reader--in a more active context. Using the "character-action" approach to writing simplifies your lanaguge, places responsbility cleary for following regulatoins, and reduces your use of the passive voice. Consider these two examples:
(Statutory Instrument 1991 No 2680, The Public Works Contracts Regulations 1991, Part 1, 2.4, page 4)
'General saving for old...
College application essays are one of my favorite assignments to work on with students. They are a chance for me to get to know my students better as we brainstorm topics for their personal essays. I get to hear about childhood memories, unique family traditions, and uncommon hobbies. I love helping students find their voice and tell their unique stories to colleges.
My students do not share my enthusiasm for application essays. They feel immense pressure to produce their best pieces of writing to impress colleges. They have also probably heard vague tidbits of advice on how to accomplish this: stand out, don’t be cliché, and be interesting. It’s no wonder that a lot of students have trouble finding a place to start. Here are a few tips to make college application essays less scary:
1. Reading other essays: Read other well-written college application essays. Many colleges release strong application essays from previous years. Reading an array of these essays...
Here is information on what I do, how I bill, and what I need from you. Feel free to read the entire blog, or just skim the bold headings until you see the type of proofreading you need. I look forward to working with you!
For $5 per unit, I will do the following:
Proofread your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. ($5 per 1200 words)
Provide notes explaining the changes I suggest.
Make these changes (tentatively) in your paper and mark them in red print.
Certified in Teaching English as a Second Language
Experienced in proofreading college-level academic writing, having done so as an employee of a nearby college and as a professional tutor
Ethical and attentive to detail
How it works:
Message me and let me know what you are looking for in a proofreader. See the “extras” below for more options, and let me know if you need a service that is not listed.
o $5 per 1200 words for basic...
Are you an ESL learner who needs help with crafting a solid thesis statement? Please check out this very informative website with useful video explanations that break down what a thesis statement is, what a good thesis statement looks like, and why the United States uses this style of academic writing (linear logic).
This website has excellent information on how to correctly cite APA style in your academic papers:
As a high school English teacher I am constantly asked the same question for writing assignments, “how many paragraphs does it need to be?”
I hate this question. I hate that somewhere students were taught that the number paragraphs dictates the quality of the writing. That someone has quantified how many paragraphs make a good essay. I can name names, but for anyone who knows writing instruction and the theories behind it, you know who I am referring to and probably know the disciples of her method. Perhaps you are one of them, preaching the structure of one paragraph for your introduction, complete with hook and thesis. Three paragraphs for your body, full of topic sentences and transitions. Finally the concluding paragraph, I can’t wait to hear you restate your thesis!
My question is a simple one. When do we see this method at work after high school?
When in a college class would a paragraph essay be sufficient for talking about the effects of over-expansion...
Contrary to popular belief, MLA format was not designed by English teachers as a torture technique. It is used to keep you in the legal clear zone while writing. MLA format establishes guidelines that allow you to include academic research without being suspected or (worse) convicted of plagiarism. It also allows those reading, be it professors or scholars in your academic field, the chance to see where you are getting your evidence to support your claims.
The best one stop shop for MLA format is the Purdue Owl, which can be found at this web address: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
This website gives not only the rules, but examples of citing sources in different medias (print, web, video). When in doubt I always look to Purdue. Save yourself time and trouble and bookmark it right now.
With their specific examples you will be on your way to a beautifully cited research paper.
The best advice I can give any student heading into the college admissions process is to read much and read often.
Chances are, you haven't read much of the printed word this summer. Now that it's August, it's the perfect time to pick up a book or a copy of the Times, or even check out a savvy pundit's blog.
Reading helps you brush up on skills you'll need for essay writing and the SAT:
Critical reading & reading comprehension
Grammar & usage
Besides improving these skills, reading helps you become a more well-rounded, informed, and conversant applicant.
Whether you're just beginning the application process or you just need an extra set of eyes on your essays, you'd do well to contact a professional tutor today.
I know how they told you to write it. Now let me tell you how it's really done. Popular misconception is that because you read a paper from start to finish, that the best way to write it is from start to finish. This is, of course, nonsense. The best way to write a thesis paper is as follows.
Write your conclusion first.
That's right... the easiest way to write a 5-paragraph thesis paper is to start with your conclusions first. This is how we think, anyway. When we read about a subject, we are thinking while we read, so that by the time we've finished reading, we already know what we think about it. Those are our conclusions about what we just read/watched/experienced. We're already there, so why not start there? When you start the conclusion you should say something specific about your topic. By then end of your conclusion, you should show how the specific nature of your topic says something large, say, about the nature of life itself.
Too many times I hear the sigh of long breaths immediately following the words "I have to write an essay." I realized early on that I was the only one around, who did not mind the 2000 word count minimum papers. What makes it easy for me? Well, it is not easy, but it has become easier. As a young child, I struggled to learn to read, and it was not until after high school that I began to enjoy it. The best I have found to relieve essay stress is to be fully prepared. Read resources multiple times and be certain the resource is realivant, and breathe. Sit down at your computer with resources available. If you find yourself stuck just revisit the resource and look for inpiration.
The best preparation for the SAT essay section is two-fold: first, learn and use new sophisticated vocabulary words to help in expressing your ideas more clearly; second, practice outlining and writing several essay questions each weekend. I encourage my students to send me essays to grade, in between lessons, since I can help turn a '3' or '4' essay into a '6' score!
Too many times students leave their papers until the last minute. Haven't we all done this at some point in high school and college? Here is the best tip to ease the stress of that last minute essay writing. Breathe! Take a long breath and realize that you CAN do it! Next, write a quick outline of the main topics you wish to cover in your essay. The outline does not have to be long and involved. A list of bullet points is the easiest way to organize your thoughts. Do not forget that the first paragraph is your introduction and the last is your conclusion. Make the last sentence of your first paragraph your thesis statement ( the main topic of your paper). Have at least three supporting ideas or paragraphs. Conclude with a circle ending where you go back to your first paragraph idea or end with a clincher! That is something that "clinches" or closes the essay with a bang! Check off each bullet point as you write...
A key aspect I work on with each college applicant is applying for scholarships. Untold millions are set aside very year to give to students of all types to pay for college. Contrary to popular belief, money is out there for students of all kinds, regardless of ethnicity, family income, or academic achievement. The money is scattered about and I streamline the process, consolidate your scholarship search, and help you edit and craft compelling essays and personal statements.
My work branding, goal setting, and essay writing for college admissions applies directly to scholarship applications.
Corporations, non-profits, and institutions want to give away money to ambitious and prepared students, but your job as a student is to SELL them on you. Identify your brand and convince them that their money won’t be wasted on you. I aim to help every client pay for their investment with me many times over.
It’s almost guaranteed that your investment...
My students at the University of Wisconsin told me that they found the acronym MEAL to be helpful to them when they were writing in-class essays. MEAL is a way to remember how to structure your paragraphs if you are stuck or if the writing process does not happen organically for you.
M - Main Idea - Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence introducing what the paragraph will discuss
E - Evidence - What facts, quotations, artifacts, articles, etc. do you have to support your main idea?
A - Analysis - You cannot just present the evidence, you must tell the reader why your evidence supports your topic
L - Link - How does this paragraph support your overall thesis?
Have you ever received a graded essay handed back with the phrase, "Needs more
structure," or "structure needs work?"
Creating a structure for any written word, whether it is poem, essay, news brief, or novel, is an integral part of the message you intend to convey. Using long, convoluted sentences as means to convince the reader that your argument is very simple will usually only give the opposite impression; simple arguments are best conveyed with short, simple sentences. (For example, the opposite is true in Jonathan Swift's essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which he uses didactic and complex language in an effort to "convince" the people of England that the solution to their hunger and poverty problem is to eat their starving infant children; his complex sentences reflect the sarcastic and satiric nature of his essay, reflecting that he does not see cannibalism as a real solution.)
Structure also helps you keep...
The holidays are almost upon us - school will be out soon -
and parents and students are looking at a 2-4 week hiatus from the regular
routine of school work.
What happens to all of the knowledge and skills learned from
school and tutoring during those weeks?
Well, having been a high school principal for years, as well
as a classroom teacher, my experience is that students often will not read on
their own, review math on their own, or if in an AP class "read
ahead" on their own. If you have tutors in the educational
profession, we also have that time off and our lesson times can be flexible -
so instead of all of those late afternoon, early evening, or weekend
appointments, most of us can now meet with our students in the morning or
So, what would your student gain from tutoring in the winter
1. Weekly reinforcement of knowledge and skills already...