As a reminder, here are the requirements for your second essay:
“The remainder of the term will be devoted to a longer researched essay, running five-to-eight pages in length. Students should use no fewer than eight (8) sources, two of which should be from peer-reviewed publications
As before, students should be encouraged to propose their own topics and devise original projects tailored to their future disciplines and/or current interests.”
Before submitting your final draft, do the following:
1. Edit the draft for wordiness. Take a critical look at each sentence and trim out as many words as you can without losing the meaning. Wordy sentences contain many unnecessary words. These sentences feel “watered down”—like you have to do a lot of work to gain a little information.
Good writing is dense and concise; the words in the sentence work hard. Consider the following revisions:
Wordy: A few inches of snow on the ground is all that is necessary in order for a person to be able to go sledding.
Better: A few inches of snow is necessary to go sledding.
Wordy: All of the students who are new to this school are required to attend a meeting that has been scheduled for Friday the 22nd of September.
Better: New students are required to attend a meeting on Friday, September 22.
Note: The problem with wordiness is not about the quantity of words; there is nothing wrong with a sentence having 25 or even 75 words as long as those words add information and detail. When reducing wordiness, be careful not to kill the richness and expressiveness of your writing.
Not wordy: A bird with crimson wings glided from the jungle canopy and landed gracefully on a nearby rock.
Not better: A bird flew from the trees to a rock.
2. Edit the draft for vague language. Look critically at your word choices and ask: Can I think of a more specific word for this?
For example, imagine you’ve written a sentence like this: “In society, we often create interpersonal relationships with people who resonate with our values.” Underlined are words that could definitely be more specific. Does the author mean society or 21st century America? Does he mean interpersonal relationships or friendships or love affairs or workplace collaborations?
If you can’t get more specific, that’s okay. But make sure you’re using words like humans for a reason. Here are some usual suspects when it comes to vague language: They, Those, People, A Person, Individuals, Humans, Adults, Society, We, Us, One, Someone, Everybody, Anyone, Human Beings, Civilians, Citizens, Many, Early, Most, Others, Things, Stuff, Certain, Aspects, etc.
3. See if you can do something about your overuse of the verb “to be” (is, am, was, etc.)
I have a tendency to write with an abundance of these verbs:
It was morning when Jolene stepped into the forest. The sunlight and thick branches were above her, and wildflowers were by the trunks of the trees. There were many critters on the dirt road. This place was Jolene’s favorite spot whenever she wanted time alone.
But through revision (with an emphasis on strong verbs) you can vary the language:
At morning, Jolene stepped into the forest. Sunlight shone down on thick branches, and wildflowers grew near the trunks of the trees. Critters scampered along the dirt road. Whenever Jolene wanted time alone, she came here.
4. Do a search in your document for “ly.” This will help you track down most of your adverbs: “quickly,” “urgently,” “desperately,” etc. Typically eliminating adverbs and making your verbs stronger can help you reduce wordiness, vary language, and do all that other good stuff.
Before: “He ran quickly.”
After: “He bolted.”
See? One word instead of two — without losing meaning. Also “bolted” is a lot more specific and less mundane: excitement in writing.
5. Add more in the way of analysis. After each quotation, you are meant to (1) make some original contribution and (2) connect the quotation’s claim to your topic sentence.
Look to the passages of text that follow any quotation. Ask yourself critically: Have I said anything new here? Or am I merely repeating the ideas in the quotation? Try discussing what the author has neglected to consider in his/her/their quotation. Think up ways to take the argument further. Discuss unforeseen consequences and/or benefits.
If you attempted to “get done” with your analysis in one quick sentence, that won’t do. Lead substantial discussions on the page.
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