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(Communicating Effectively Continued...)

Style

     In the judgment of the Humanities and Fine Arts faculty, the following are crucial areas for attention in content, organization, and expression.

Content

An essay should:

1. Contain a clear introduction, developed body, and adequate conclusion

Example of a clear introduction:

     Athletics on both the Olympic and college levels is developing more and more parity every year. Because of the fierce competition, athletes need any extra edge to make them the best. Some find that edge in a special diet or training program. Others break the rules of amateur athletics to gain their edge. Many are using forbidden, dangerous, performance enhancing chemical techniques in order to better their performance. However, drug testing, along with the harsh effects of drugs, is turning these athletes away from their dreams. Specifically, there is a wide variety of drugs to suit the number of different demands of athletes. An analysis of the types of drugs being used, the effects of the drugs on their users, and the preventative measures being taken by the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association is worth examining.

 

Example of an adequate conclusion:

 

     Therefore, the price that Cal pays for her stubbornness and refusal to yield is enormous. She is denied by her own mother. She is denied entrance back into the culture that she chooses to relinquish. She is denied the opportunity to display her heritage so that others may witness her long-forgotten pride. In short, Cal fails to realize the intrinsic value of her heritage.

 

2. Include a thesis statement that expresses a subject and point of view or contains a controlling idea

Sample thesis statements:

Informative: White's conflict with himself and his struggle to come to terms with the passing of his own youth and inevitable destiny strikes a deep chord of familiarity in all of us.

Persuasive: To prevent the United States' total dependence on foreign oil, we must continue to explore alternate kinds of fuels.

 

3. Include specific details and supporting details when developing ideas

 

4. Avoid claims that cannot be supported

 

5. Contain a topic sentence in each paragraph which is developed by including specific supporting details

Sample paragraph with a topic sentence:

     The myth that people who are intelligent do not need help is an untrue one. They actually need more help because they are smart. School districts across Iowa and the nation are coming up with a variety of programs to reach these youngsters. Still, the basic question seems to be: How do I know if I have a gifted child? This is a question often asked these days because of the emphasis on gifted children that has not been evident before.

 

6. Say what the writer means, since a work cannot be judged by what the writer meant to say.

 

Organization

An essay should:

1. Rely on transitions within the paragraph and within the essay to unify writing and to ensure a logical flow of ideas

The following transitional expressions can be used to achieve unity and coherence:

Addition

in addition, also, furthermore, further, moreover, besides, equally important, next, then, and, finally

Example

for example, for instance, thus, namely, specifically, to illustrate

Comparison

in comparison, similarly, in a like manner, likewise, in the same way

Contrast

in contrast, however, but, nevertheless, on the contrary, still, yet, on the other hand, at the same time

Concession

of course, certainly, to be sure

Result

accordingly, consequently, thus, therefore

Summary

in brief, in short, in conclusion, on the whole, finally, hence, as a result

Time

first, second, third, fourth, next, before, after, soon, later, during, meanwhile, then, finally, subsequently, eventually, in the future, currently

 

2. Avoid extremely long paragraphs and long quotations

 

3. Avoid a series of short paragraphs

 

4. Have a clear beginning, a middle, and a conclusion

 

5. Include ideas in a logical sequence

Example of a logically written paragraph:

     The factors most used in recognizing gifted children are positive personality characteristics. However, giftedness lies not so much in the possession of a certain number of traits as it does in the degree or combination of traits. The following characteristics may be possessed by any child, but when many of them are possessed in a high degree, it may well be an indication of giftedness. These characteristics include a fondness for elaboration, resourcefulness, motivation, curiosity, and conceptualization.

 

Expression

An essay should:

1. Achieve coordination of ideas through parallel structure

Example:

Driving a car with a manual transmission requires mastering the gears, coordinating the clutch and gas pedals, and attending to the sounds of the engine.

To drive a car with a manual transmission, you need to master the gears, coordinate the clutch and gas pedals, and attend to the sound of the engine.

 

2. Whenever possible, rely on the active rather than the passive voice.

Passive: The ball was thrown by Bill.

Active: Bill threw the ball.

Note: The passive voice will suffice when the writer doesn't know or does not wish to identify the agent or when the activity is more important than the agent.

 

3. Contain a variety of sentence beginnings and sentence structures, such as simple, compound, complex, periodic, loose, and balanced.

Simple: He was born in 1929.

Compound: The temperature is 64 degrees, and the sky is clear.

Complex: Although he didn't know the answer, he still raised his hand.

Compound-Complex: Once the decision was made, several hundred troops were ordered home, and the government halted production of additional weapons.

Periodic: When all the students arrived, the test began.

Loose: The test began when all the students arrived.

Balanced: When all the students arrived, the test began since everyone needed to be present for instructions.

 

4. Avoid cliches and colloquialisms such as "climb the ladder of success," and "ripe old age."

 

5. Be written to communicate, not merely to impress.

 

6. Avoid jargon which is, as Maxine Hairston has defined, "writing characterized by wordiness, a preponderance of abstract terms, excessive and irresponsible use of the passive voice, euphemisms, weak verbs, pretentious diction, and cliches, excessive caution, and the absence of strong words and statements" (150).

 

7. Avoid needless words or unnecessary repetition of words as:

Needless words: It is my opinion that the United States must . . . .

Better: The United States must . . . .

Needless words: At the present time there is . . . .

Better: There is . . . .

Needless words: The main character changes due to the fact that . . . .

Better: The main character changes because . . . .

Needless words: The Senate proposed a discussion of the policy, but that proposal for a discussion was tabled after it was discussed.

Better: The Senate's proposal to discuss the policy was tabled.

 

8. Try to paraphrase from an outside source rather than rely only on direct quotations

     Original: "Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are the road signs placed along the highway of our communication--to control speeds, provide directions and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to halt, before gradually starting up again" (Iyer 80).

     Paraphrase: Iyer states that the purpose of punctuation marks is to guide readers through written text. Punctuation marks help to facilitate communication between the writer and reader. A comma indicates where a pause should be. A period indicates a concluding thought. A semicolon indicates the close relation in meaning between two thoughts (Iyer 80).

 

9. Contain only specific, concrete language rather than general, abstract language.

General: The car gets good gas mileage.

Specific: The Geo gets about 50 mpg on the highway and 45 mpg in the city.

Abstract: I like good food.

Concrete: I like the taste of hot peppers combined with chopped tomatoes and bits of garlic, all whirled together into a fiery blend of flavors.