Example and rules Editing the Essay, Part One

Those who have been through the ecstasies and agonies of writing the satisfaction is known by an essay(and quite often the sadness) of finishing. Once you’ve done all of the work of finding out what you would like to express, coming to an arguable and interesting thesis, analyzing your evidence, organizing your thinking, and contending with counter-arguments, you may feel that you’ve got nothing left to complete but run spell-check, print it out and await your professor’s response. Exactly what spell- check can’t discern is exactly what readers that are real think or feel when they read your essay: where they may become confused, or annoyed, or bored, or distracted. Anticipating those responses could be the working job of an editor—the job you are taking on as you edit your own work.

While you proceed, understand that sometimes what may seem like a problem that is small mask (be a manifestation of) a more substantial one. A poorly-worded phrase—one that seems, say, unclear or vague—may just need some tweaking to fix; but it may indicate that your particular thinking hasn’t developed fully yet, you are not exactly sure what you need to say. Your language might be vague or confusing because the idea itself is. So learning, as Yeats says, to “cast a cold eye” on your prose is not just a matter of arranging the finishing touches on the essay. It’s about making your essay better from the inside (clarifying and deepening your thinking and insights) and from the outside (expressing those ideas in powerful, lucid, graceful prose). These five guidelines will help.

Read your essay aloud .

We can sometimes lose sight of the larger picture, of how all the sentences sound when they’re read quickly one after the other, as your readers will read them when we labor over sentences. Once you read out loud, your ear will pick up a number of the nagging problems your eye might miss.

As you read your essay, remember the “The Princess therefore the Pea,” the story of a princess so sensitive she was bothered by an individual pea buried underneath the pile of mattresses she lay upon. As an editor, you want to end up like the princess—highly alert to something that seems slightly odd or “off” in your prose. So if something strikes you as problematic, do not gloss over it. Investigate to uncover the nature of this problem. It’s likely that, if something bothers you only a little, it will bother your readers a great deal.

Be sure your entire words are performing important work in making your argument .

Are all of the phrases and words necessary? Or are they just trying out space? Are your sentences tight and sharp, or are they loose and dull? Do not say in three sentences what you could say in one single, and don’t use 14 words where five is going to do. You would like every word in your sentence to incorporate as meaning that is much inflection as possible. If you see phrases like “My own personal opinion,” ask yourself what “own personal” adds. Is not that what “my” means?

Even small, apparently unimportant words like “says” are worth your attention. In place of “says,” could you use a expressed word like argues, acknowledges, contends, believes, reveals, suggests, or claims? Words like these not merely make your sentences more lively and interesting, they supply useful information: if you tell your readers that someone “acknowledges” something, that deepens their comprehension of how or why he or she said that thing; “said” merely reports.

3. Bear in mind the thought of le mot juste. Always try to look for an ideal words, probably the most precise and specific language, to state that which you mean. Without using concrete, clear language, you cannot convey to your readers exactly what you consider an interest; it is possible to only speak in generalities, and everybody has recently heard those: “The evils of society are a drain on our resources.” Sentences similar to this could mean so many things which they wind up meaning very little to your readers—or meaning something completely different from everything you intended. Be specific: What evils? Which societies? What resources? Your readers are reading your words to see what you think, what you need certainly to say.

If you should be having trouble putting your finger on simply the right word, consult a thesaurus, but simply to remind yourself of one’s options. Never choose words whose connotations or contexts that are usual don’t really understand. Using language you are not really acquainted with can result in more imprecision—and that can lead your reader to question your authority.

4. Beware of inappropriately elevated language—words and phrases which are stilted, pompous, or jargony. Sometimes, in an effort to sound more reliable or authoritative, or even more sophisticated, we puff up this sort to our prose of language. Usually we only end up sounding like we’re wanting to sound smart—which is a sure sign to our readers that individuals’re not. Because you think they’ll sound impressive, reconsider if you find yourself inserting words or phrases. If the ideas are great, you should not strain for impressive language; if they are not, that language will not help anyway.

Inappropriately elevated language can be a consequence of nouns being used as verbs. Most elements of speech function better—more elegantly—when the roles are played by them these people were meant to play; nouns work nicely as nouns and verbs as verbs. See the sentences that are following, and tune in to how pompous they sound.

He exited the room. It’s essay helper important that proponents and opponents with this bill dialogue about its contents before voting on it.

Exits and dialogues are better as nouns and there are numerous means of expressing those ideas without turning nouns into verbs.

He left the space. People should debate the pros and cons of this bill before voting.

Every now and then, though, that is a rule worth breaking, like in “He muscled his option to the leading of this relative line.” “Muscled” gives us a lot of information that may otherwise take words that are several even sentences to express. And because it’s not awkward to read through, but lively and descriptive, readers won’t mind the shift that is temporary roles as “muscle” becomes a verb.

5. Be tough on the most dazzling sentences. You may find that sentences you needed in earlier drafts no longer belong—and these may be the sentences you’re most fond of as you revise. We are all guilty of trying to sneak in our sentences that are favorite they do not belong, because we cannot bear to cut them. But great writers are ruthless and can dispose off brilliant lines if they are not any longer relevant or necessary. They know that readers will be less struck by the brilliance than by the inappropriateness of these sentences and they let them go.