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Tutoring For Your Needs • Passion For Education

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Jun 072011

What do “fun, good, bad, fine and boring” all have in common?  They all take away from the meaning of a sentence; they are all weak adjectives.

“Our vacation was a lot of fun.”  Think about that sentence, do you know what the person is trying to say?  From this sentence, I can understand that the author had a good time at the beach.  But what I don’t know is how or why.  As a reader, I am not interested that the author thought that their vacation was fun, but what I am interested in is why they thought it was fun.

“On our vacation we played on the beach, made sand castles and had a bonfire where we laughed and told jokes all night long.”  This sentence is much more descriptive.  The reader gets a sense that your vacation was fun and it is much more interesting.

In order to get readers more interested in your writing avoid using weak vocabulary like “good, bad, fun, fine and boring.”  Explain why things were “good, bad, fun, fine and boring,” instead of telling us they were.

Jun 062011

Yes, the title was done on purpose.  After grading thousand’s of essays, one of the biggest problems I have encountered is the use of repetition in a student’s written work.

Avoiding repetition is easy to do.  When you proofread your work, pay particular attention to areas where you may have repeated yourself and correct any problem areas you might find.

Repetition slows down readers from grasping the true intent of your writing sample and causes confusion.  To be a better writer, avoid repeating yourself.

May 292011

Some of my tips may seem obvious, but after grading 1,000’s of essays, some problems in my students’ writing really stand out.  One common oversight is the failure to indent paragraphs.

Indenting paragraphs is  important in essay writing because it helps organize ideas. It provides a clear separation from the idea before it.  Without indented paragraphs the reader can have a tough time understanding what the assignment is about. They are likely to become frustrated and disinterested.  Not to mention, nobody is excited to read a paper that is full of black ink with no breaks.

Indenting paragraphs makes essays easier to read and establishes clear breaks to allow the reader to process the information that is presented in the essay.

May 242011

A strong introduction lays the foundation for any essay.  The introduction of an essay is designed to grab the reader’s attention and to inform him what the essay will be about.  The introduction has two main components:

  1. The Hook – The hook is designed to capture the interest of the reader.  There are several ways to write effective hooks.  The main idea behind the use of a hook, is to pique the curiosity of the reader and encourage him to read more.
  2. The Thesis – The thesis is arguably the most important part of any essay.  It tells the reader exactly what the essay will be about.  The thesis is typically the last sentence of the introduction.

Be sure to include the hook and the thesis in the introductory paragraph of your essay and your writing will improve immensely.

May 222011

What is the most important component of a well-written essay?  An essay includes a variety of elements, all of which are important and make a well-written essay stand out to potential readers.  The most important component to any essay is the thesis sentence.

The thesis sentence is one of the hardest and most important elements of an essay that students need to understand.  Typically, it is the last sentence of the introductory paragraph and it tells the reader exactly what the essay is going to be about.  In my experience of grading essays, there is a remarkable difference between essays that have a thesis and those that do not.

Essays that do not have a thesis lack structure. They usually wander all over the place often including information that is not related to the essay topic.  It seems the reason for including information that does not address the topic is that when lacking a thesis, the author has no direction. An essay without a thesis is not guiding the reader to come to a conclusion on the topic, one way or the other.

Essays that do have a thesis sentence provi fode structure.  The reader and the writer know what the essay is about and can easily develop an understanding of the points being made.  Every paragraph is then trying to provide evidence that supports the thesis sentence.  Therefore, it actually becomes difficult to get off-topic in your writing.

The best way that I have come up with to teach students to write an essay is to have them figure out their thesis sentence first. In order to write the thesis the student must decide what the question is; every essay is trying to answer a question.  Sometimes the question is written out for the student and other times the student needs to figure out or decide what the question is.  Next, I ask my students to answer that question the best they can in one sentence.  This one sentence will then become their thesis sentence, which I always have them put at the end of their introductory paragraph.

Every subsequent paragraph then provides information to support their answer to the question presented.

Developing a strong thesis sentence is the most important component to a well-written essay.  The thesis leads to everything else in the essay and provides the backbone to your writing.  Develop a strong thesis and you are well on your way to becoming a successful essay writer.

May 152011

Many teachers don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the elements of a successful conclusion.  When I was in school, I was only told that the conclusion should “wrap up” what the essay was about.  A strong conclusion can extremely enhance a writing sample, which is why I advocate the following three elements to improve a conclusion.

  1. The Link – The first sentence of your conclusion should link back to the first sentence, or the hook of your essay.  The “hook,” typically the first sentence to an essay, is designed to grab the reader’s attention and introduce them to the topic of your essay.  The “link” in your conclusion refers them to the hook and provides a reminder of the reason why they began reading this essay in the first place.  By including the “link” you provide a completeness to an essay, bringing the essay “full-circle.”  Where your essay begins is also where your essay ends.
  2. The Re-Statement of the Thesis – The re-statement of the thesis should go somewhere in the middle of your conclusion.  By re-stating the thesis, it reminds the reader what the essay was about.  Do not re-state your thesis using the exact words you used in the introductory paragraph. Re-state your thesis using different words to provide a stronger foundation for your essay writing.
  3. Clever Ending –  Developing a clever ending can leave a lasting impression on your reader. Your audience likes to know that they were taken into consideration when you were writing your essay. The clever ending is a great way to do that.  It can be used to sum up your essay or to reference something in the essay, but most importantly a clever-ending attempts to generate a reaction from the reader.  When the reader feels some kind of emotion in your writing they are more likely to feel a connection to the writing, and a connection to you.

Follow these three elements of writing and watch as your conclusions improve and leave your reader wanting more.

May 142011

The conclusion of an essay is used to remind the reader what your overall essay is about.  Your introduction and body paragraphs are used to explain the topic at hand.  All of your examples and facts need to be presented in the introduction and body paragraphs.  The conclusion should only be used to wrap up your story and what you had written about.  Do not include new facts or examples in your conclusion.

By refusing to put new information in your conclusion, you allow your reader to process what you have written and it signifies a clear ending to your writing sample.  A strong conclusion leaves a good impression on your reader’s mind.

May 132011

Slang has always been a part of the English language and although we use slang to communicate with friends, it is not always appropriate to write in that manner.  Online and text messaging conversations have incorporated an enormous amount of new slang terms into our vocabulary. Frequently, I have found that many students try to incorporate that into their writing for school assignments.  Under some circumstances, slang in classroom writing assignments may be acceptable, but most of the time, students should not use slang in their writing.

How do you know whether or not a word is a slang term? Look it up in the dictionary.  If the word is in the dictionary and it does not say that the word is slang, then it is acceptable to use it in your assignments. Abbreviated text message writing should not be used during writing assignments.  “Wat r u doing 2nite?” is not an acceptable form of writing in the classroom.

Another reason not to use slang vocabulary is that slang words often have double meanings. If you use slang in your writing, the chances are higher that the reader will lose the meaning of what you are trying to say.  When I was in school, many students used the phrase, “my bad,” to indicate that they made a mistake or did something wrong.  However, when used in writing, the reader may not be able to decipher the meaning of your sentence, especially if they are unfamiliar with the slang definition of the word.

Eliminating slang from your writing and using appropriate dictionary vocabulary will help to improve your scholarly writing.

May 122011

One of the most important tools that writers can use is the ability to read assignments aloud.  Reading assignments aloud helps to catch grammatical errors, run-on and incomplete sentences.  Reading aloud helps writers find portions of their writing that need improvement.

When you finish a writing sample, take a break and step away from it.  Come back several minutes later and read it out loud to yourself, incorporating the appropriate pauses for punctuation:  short breaks for commas and longer ones for periods.  If you struggle through reading a particular sentence or phrase aloud then that is a good indicator that your writing could be made better.

I can not tell you how many times I have had a student read their assignment out loud to me and watch as they begin to self-correct problems in their writing.  Hearing yourself read your own work can substantially decrease the number of errors in your writing and help to improve your writing ability.

May 112011

Anyone can write, but only a few people write well.  The key to exceptional writing can be found in the saying, “less is more.”  When writing, many people use more words than are absolutely necessary.  If you’re thinking about using a word, or a sentence or a paragraph, that doesn’t help to explain something, then don’t use it.  How can a writer get better at writing?  By using less words to say the same things.  How does a writer go about improving their writing by being concise?  Proofread.  Proofreading is the key to eliminating words, sentences and paragraphs that are not necessary.  Some of the best writers are great, not because they are good writers, but because they are exceptional proofreaders.  Being able to eliminate words from your writing, makes your story more concise and in doing so, makes your ideas more coherent to the reader.

See how proofreading can help.  Read the sample above and compare it with the sample below.  Which one is easier and thus more enjoyable to read?

Anyone can write, but few write well.  “Less is more,” is the key to exceptional writing.  When writing, many people use more words than necessary.  If you don’t need a word, sentence or paragraph, don’t use it.  How can writers get better?  Use less words to say the same things.  How do writers improve their writing by being concise?  Proofread.  Good proofreading eliminates all unnecessary elements from a writing sample.  The best writers are great, not because they write well, but because they are exceptional proofreaders.  Eliminating unnecessary words from your writing makes your story more concise and your ideas more coherent.

To sign up for The Tutoring Solution’s Creative Online Essay Writing Program click on the following link – http://thecatutoringsolution.com/writingprogram.html