Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tips for Better Writing

Common Mistakes from The Namesake Essays

Your essay needs a creative title. Using the title of the novel, play, or short story is not okay.

Make sure you get the title of the book being discussed correct. Look at the cover of the book. Underline book titles and capitalize important words of the title.

Include the author when discussing the title the first time you mention the book.

Don’t use numerals for numbers under 10—you have to write them out.

Your body paragraphs need topic sentences that are tied to your provable thesis statement. Your paragraphs need summary sentences and transitions.

In the conclusion make a connection to the world and the significance of the text.

You should focus on ANALYSIS instead of on retelling the plot. Speaking of analysis, your quotes need to advance your analysis, not prove plot. It’s not interesting for you to tell me that Ahsima is lonely and then offer a quote that reads, “Ashoke, I feel so lonely.” The explanation of your quotes has to include DISCUSSION—what is the author SAYING? What’s the message? What’s the point? Why is this significant? SO WHAT?

Never, EVER, EVER use “I” in a paper (I believe, I think, In my opinion). You can’t write in the second person either. Every time you write, “you,” replace it with “Jackie Roehl” and see if it makes sense. It won’t. Write in the third person ONLY.

Don’t start or end a body paragraph with a quote. Quotes need to be discussed and used as proof of your argument and to further your analysis.

The text is a NOVEL, not a STORY. For future reference, the text might be a PLAY, not a STORY. Make sure you write the correct genre distinction.

It’s/its. Of/have. Your/you’re. Witch/Which. They’re/There/Their. Whether/Weather. To/Too. Then/Than. Make sure you know the differences. Don’t rely on spell check.

Don’t forget your friend the apostrophe, but ignore him when he’s not needed.

Don’t include long quotes in your paper—use only what’s necessary.

Refer to authors by their last names. “Lahiri writes…” She’s not Jhumpa.

Double space your paper and also follow the MLA format for internal documentation and works cited.

Avoid vague pronouns.

Don’t say things like, “This shows,” or “That is important.” Say what “this” and “that” are.

Don’t misspell character names. It makes me think you haven’t read the book. And while you’re at it, don’t misspell the AUTHOR’S name. That one’s on the cover of the book.

Don’t pose questions—the purpose of the paper is to ANSWER questions, not pose them.

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