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Seminar in liberal studies, essay 1


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Presentation for SUNY Empire State College's MALS graduate students by Dr. Anastasia Pratt

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Seminar in liberal studies, essay 1

  1. 1.  Passive Sentences › Avoid them! Always aim for active sentences. › A percentage of more than 25% is unacceptable. Percentages of less than 10% are ideal.  Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level › The grade level of your pieces should be at least 10 and, preferably, 12.  Flesh Reading Ease Scale › The higher the number, in combination with the appropriate grade level score, the better.
  2. 2.  Titles › Italicize titles. See Hacker, beginning page 384 for more information.  Ellipsis … › Do not begin a quote with an ellipsis. Begin at the required point. › Do not end a quote with an ellipsis. End at the required point. › See Hacker, page 363 for more information.
  3. 3.  Semi-colons have only two purposes: › To separate items in a list e.g. “In Seminar, students will learn to: evaluate texts; participate in an interdisciplinary discussion; and write at a graduate level.” › To combine two complete supporting sentences into one sentence e.g. “W.E.B. Du Bois explored the concept of the Veil; Edward Said focused on the notion of exile.” › See Hacker, beginning page 273.
  4. 4.  Maintain the same number between subject and verb and between subject and subject.  If you begin with “an intellectual,” everything that follows must be singular.  If you begin with “intellectuals,” everything that follows must be plural.  Don’t mix and match!
  5. 5.  Maintain your tense! › Literary works exist in the present. For that reason, you can write things like, “Said explains…” › Historical events occurred in the past. For them, you must write things like, “Du Bois helped to found the NAACP.” › Only use the “had + past-tense verb” construction to indicate that something happened BEFORE a past-tense verb in the same sentence or paragraph.
  6. 6.  Avoid the 2nd person!!  When speaking with or writing for an audience, include yourself by using “we” or “I.”  Alternatively, go with the generic third person (he/she/it/they).  2nd person tends to divide audience and writer/speaker, which can weaken your point.
  7. 7.  Use commas to separate parts of your sentences. › Test your use of commas by reading your paper out loud. Everywhere you stop to take a breath, you should see a comma or an end punctuation mark (period, question mark, exclamation point).  Use paragraphs to separate parts of your essay. › Test your paragraphs by reading your paper out loud. Every time you hear a new idea, you should see a new paragraph.
  8. 8.  Say exactly what you intend to say.  Don’t soft pedal your idea by using words like “may,” “seems,” or “think.”  It’s far more powerful to write, “Said values the amateur intellectual above all other types” than to write, “Said seems to value the amateur intellectual above all other types.”
  9. 9.  Explain your purpose in writing.  Offer a clear and concise thesis/argument/main point.
  10. 10.  With each new paragraph, offer new support for your thesis.  Reiterate your thesis as appropriate.  When necessary, explain how an opposing viewpoint is invalidated by your interpretation.  Explain quotes. › Lead into the quote so that it makes sense; lead out of the quote so that its significance is clear. › See Hacker, beginning on page 362 for more information.
  11. 11.  Read your essay out loud, to yourself, before giving it to another reader.  Your ear will hear problems that your eye will overlook.  That gives you the chance to fill in any gaps, correct any grammatical mistakes, and clarify your point.
  12. 12.  Anything underlined in green is likely to be grammatically incorrect.  Anything underlined in red is likely to be misspelled.  Anything underlined in blue is likely to be a questionable word choice.  Although some of the words you use will be unrecognized by the spell check dictionary, many will not. Check another source before telling the spell checker to “add word to dictionary.”