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Writing often feels like you have to be a wordsmith and come up with your ideas clearly and expertly from the jump. This isn't true! If you're a college or high school student, I want you to know that writing well is a skill that takes time. Here are some tips that can help you get started with your essay. 1) Simple Language Is The Best Language.  Something that a lot of writing students do is “over-complicate” their sentences. Students make mistakes like creating really long sentences or using extremely flowery words. These are signs of a student who believes that this is what makes good writing. However, the reality is that the more concise your sentence is, the more powerful your point. This often leaves your sentences with simpler, clearer, and more basic language. If you find that you tend to do this in your own writing, it could be a sign that you may need someone to help flesh out what you’re really trying to say or get a deeper understanding of your... read more

Prompt: Explain the popularity of Science Fiction. Use at least one work from this genre to explain its appeal. Science fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love it (and I suspect many of its readers love it) because despite its trappings of the future, good science fiction is very much a reflection of the time period in which it is written. One of Sci-Fi's major draws for me is that it can highlight and discuss social issues that might be touchy to talk about in the present day. Through the skillful use of spaceships, aliens, utopian planet colonies, and other 'flight-of-fancy' scenarios, a science fiction author can hold a mirror up to the way our current society deals with an issue by showing how their fictional society does. By reading sci-fi from previous eras, then, we can catch a glimpse of what people of that era were thinking about – and what was considered an acceptable 'flight of fancy.' The Skylark of Space, written by E. E. 'Doc' Smith in the... read more

As a retired English professor, I graded literally thousands of essays.  I know what I am doing.  So, you send me your essay for corrections.  You get it back with the equivalent of arterial blood spray on it.  What do you do next?   First, be delighted that someone had the courage to give you an honest opinion.  Do you really want someone to tell you "oh, this is wonderful!" and later get a bad grade?  I hope not.  While it sounds harsh, the best thing your tutor can do is tell you that you have messed up - badly.   Second, go slam a door, kick the couch, or do something really physically tiring.  Chances are, you are furious with your tutor.  You need to work out the frustration that comes with being told that you are not the next great American writer.  Under no circumstances should you call your tutor and yell or send a nasty email.  You are paying for the truth - and you got what you paid... read more

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

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 package... read more

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

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

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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