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Academic Essay Reminders. Fall 2013. Passive Voice—DON’T use it (from Ms. Mense). If the sentence subject does not perform the verb, you’ve got passive voice. Examples: The curate was struck by the narrator. The delegation was wiped out by the Martians.. The book is enjoyed by all.

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passive voice don t use it from ms mense
Passive Voice—DON’T use it(from Ms. Mense)
  • If the sentence subject does not perform the verb, you’ve got passive voice.
    • Examples:
    • The curate was struck by the narrator.
    • The delegation was wiped out by the Martians..
    • The book is enjoyed by all.
    • Identify the subject, give it something to do!
      • Abigail [subject] terrorizes [active verb] the girls in Salem.
      • Due to the ensuing panic, three citizens [subject],were killed [verb] in the rush to escape the heat ray.
literary present
Literary Present
  • The author of a text is communicating with the reader in the present tense, therefore events in the text are ongoing.
    • Examples:
    • H.G. Wells’s use of the first-person narrator enhances many of the events of the novel,and gives them an almost claustrophoboc intimacy.
    • The artilleryman manages to convince the narrator that he has a plan for the future.
  • Literary Present is easily achieved through the use of ACTIVE verbs.
tense agreement
Tense agreement
  • Literary present and active voice both lend themselves to tense agreement, but you—as the writer—must be diligent in your use of it.
    • Incorrect:
      • The narrator commented[past] upon the hierarchy of creatures in the first chapter. He compares [present] the intelligence of humans to beasts, then points[present] out that the Martians were[past] unfathomably more intelligent than humans.
    • Correct—note there is only ONE verb in this sentence:
      • The narrator’s comments on the hierarchy of creatures in the first chapter compare the difference in intelligence between the Martians and humans to that between humans and beasts.
  • "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell." - William Strunk, Jr., Elements of Style
    • INCORRECT: The fact that he is a person who has difficulty with trauma means that the trauma of being trapped in the house by the Martians was difficult for the curate. [30]
    • CORRECT: The curate reacted poorly to the trauma of being trapped in the house. [13]
1 st person repetition vague pronouns
1st Person + Repetition + vague pronouns
  • 1st person: your authorship of the essay implicitly states your belief in what you write. Therefore, first person unnecessary.
  • Repetition: stating the same fact a second time is not evidence to support your claim.
  • Vague pronouns: Readers must be able to determine to which character and/or author you refer.
    • INCORRECT: I think the narrator is most concerned about his wife’s safety. I believe this because he thinks of her constantly. I can clearly see Wells is trying to show me that she is the first thing on his mind.
    • CORRECT:The narrator is constantly pre-occupied with his wife’s safety.
textual evidence
Textual evidence
  • Directly quoted textual evidence should be limited to 10 words or fewer; your essay should show what YOU can write, supported by the words of others, NOT how well you can frame long passages from someone else’s work.
  • Textual evidence must be connected to some other sentence. A quotation dropped into a paragraph without an anchor sentence is adrift in the sea of your essay.
    • Examples:
      • Wells seems to be warning against hubris; the Martians are overcome by the “humblest things” in creation (191).
      • The narrator reveals his mindset when describing the curate as a “silly woman” who is “lacking in restraint” (149).
      • The artilleryman equates captivity under the Martians with the very fabric of Victorian life: “Nice, roomy cages, fattening foods, careful breeding, no worry” (177).
use text to illuminate ideas not to show events
  • Avoid using citations from text to show events that are beyond dispute to any rational person.
  • INCORRECT: In his attempt to flee, the narrator causes an accident that breaks the horse’s neck, as is shown when he says “His neck was broken, poor brute!” (50).
  • BETTER: It appears that the citizens do not consider the events troubling enough to alter their sense of decorum; They are still “walking in their best clothes…alarmed only on account of the local residents” (83).