TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO WRITE BETTER
In reading your essays for the exam, I was concerned about a number of problems that I saw. I realize that when you are hurrying to finish an essay and are trying to do a good job, that many careless
errors occur. A certain amount of that is to be expected: for example, “She
doesn’t mean that people isn’t changing….” This individual would normally never do that; she was in
a hurry, but you can see why proofreading is critical to success. Attention to
details makes a difference in the way your paper is received by me and the AP readers in May.
So now it is time to take stock and see what we can do immediately to fix some of these problems.
- Your paper must be legible. Handwriting counts. On
several papers, I simply gave up trying to figure out what the people were saying because it was impossible to read the handwriting. From now on, if I can’t make it out, and I really do try, I will fail the paper
automatically. The AP people are forgiving; as much as they can, they will try
to read the essay, and I have had students who have passed the test even with abysmal handwriting. However, if you make reading a pleasure for the examiner and not a chore, that has got to work in your
favor. Also, large childish scrawl makes a paper look amateurish and unsophisticated. Good handwriting matters; the onus is on you to communicate your ideas; it should
not be the reader’s job to untangle the mess.
- Put quotation marks around sentences, phrases, or even single words that
you have lifted out of the passage. Many people just copy the line without putting quotes around it.
This is an absolute must; otherwise, you are plagiarizing the poem.
- Use the last name of the writer. You are not acquainted with Ms. Boland. You do not have the right to call her Eavan. Just use last
names. It’s standard form.
- Don’t start every paragraph in the same way. Can you imagine how monotonous it is to read:
quotation, explanation, quotation, explanation, quotation, explanation. I darn
near fell asleep!!!! Don’t even start paragraphs with a quotation. Quotes should fit neatly and snuggly inside the paragraph. If you are only going to use a phrase or one word, it should fit nicely into the rest of the sentence.
- Don’t over-quote. Some people quote more than they write.
This is a miserable excuse for an essay: long quotes and one sentence for commentary or explanation. Then another long quote or several short ones: look how I filled up my essay. Stringing quotes is not the way to go. Select judiciously
those quotes that will advance your ideas.
- Write more. Some people wrote two sides and a bit of a third. Skipping lines and allowing for handwriting, this would only amount to one side of a page in a test booklet. That’s not enough!! The more
you write, the more likely you will nail what they want you to see.
- Don’t make sweeping statements about life or any one group in particular. I actually read the following:
- “All women gossip.”
- “Of course, the women are always crazy….” THEY ARE???
- “Women have an innate quality to nurture…” ALL OF THEM??? GO TELL THAT TO LIZZIE BORDEN! The whole point of the poem is that women have been stereotyped and they are not all alike!!!
- Don’t be so literal all the time: “Women are cashiers…” or
“Women killed the king and then went and made bread.” Women’s
breath looked like the smoke from fire-eaters. These are supposed to be metaphors
for unfulfilled lives, not things they were actually doing.
- Don’t write sentences that make no sense or say nothing. I actually read the following:
- “However vindicating of household jobs the employment industry
might be for women, they are not completely free.” PLEASE SOMEBODY
TELL ME WHAT THAT MEANS!
- “In the history books, women are even written about as if they
don’t exist.” ILLOGICAL!!!
IF THEY ARE WRITTEN ABOUT, THEN THEY MUST EXIST!!!!
- “Boland accepts the fact that she will never be anything but
a housewife.” HOW DO YOU KNOW SHE IS THE SPEAKER, AND ISN’T THE
ENTIRE POINT OF THE POEM THAT WOMEN ARE SO MUCH MORE??
- “We are defined by what we forget.” Boland speaks of how all women are defined by what they forgot.” SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME
WHY THIS PERSON FELT THE NEED TO WRITE THAT SECOND SENTENCE!!
- FINALLY, WE COME TO THE MOST IMPORTANT PART:
Analyze, don’t summarize. Some people think if they simply restate what the poem is saying and they do so accurately, then they have
completed the assignment. EEK!!!! Did
you look for and consider the following:
- diction??? What do individual words or phrases mean and indicate about the theme??
- tone??? What was the attitude that the writer had, what emotions are being transmitted to
you? How do they change?
- style?? What was her syntax like? What
kind of language did she use?
Did she use repetition of words or concepts?
d. literary devices??? metaphors?? similes?? anything??