9/04/2007

Modulate, Sharpen, and Restate!

Recently, I wrote out a few thoughts to help a friend strengthen his papers. I thought I’d post them, so that anyone who wants me to edit for them will consider these things first!

My suggestions can be typified by three words: Modulate, Sharpen, and Restate.

Modulate- Imagine that you go to church, and the pastor begins his sermon. He has great points and insight, and clearly understands the passage well, but he speaks in a boring monotone voice, never changing, and the words come out at the exact same speed like one loooooong sentence.

Of course, the advice you would give him is to modulate his tone. Get excited for important parts, lower your voice for the reverent parts, and clearly state each point that you are making.

In a paper, the same effect is achieved by the way you organize. It is important that the reader naturally FEEL the organization behind your paper. To do this, keep paragraphs VERY short. When you move to a new point, clearly state that you are doing so. Use punctuation to add to the effect. Make the structure of your paper obvious to the reader.

Bad:

I like horses. They are big. A big horse is a lot of fun, and horses also have nice tails. The tail of a horse can be three feet long. Do you think horses smell? I want a horse when I get older. A horse runs very fast through the fields on a beautiful day. Horses can be your best friends if you let them although I know that dogs are also nice. The problem with dogs is that you can't ride them and they are also much smaller.

Good:

I want a horse when I get older. I like horses! They are big, beautiful, and fast.

Horses are big, and I have always appreciated large animals.

They also are quite beautiful, especially their tails. Did you know a horse’s tail can be up to three feet long? For some reason their beauty captures me.

Finally, and most importantly, horses run very fast. I love to ride my horse through the fields on a beautiful day, because it seems like I am flying.


Keep your arguments clear!

Sharpen- This is one that everybody struggles with. It's a key part of how your paper comes across to a grader.

The key here is to be extremely exacting. It is important to say things simply, in as few words as possible. Ruthlessly cut away prepositions, and use the word "that" as little as possible.

Bad:

The conceptual framework that Ware takes time to explain to us is supported by the Scriptural outlook.

Better:

The framework Ware teaches is supported by Scripture.

Best:

The Bible supports Ware's framework.

Remember to say everything that you can in the shortest sentences possible!
(Whoops! I mean, "Say everything as shortly as possible!")

Restate- This one is simple. If a sentence or paragraph seems uneasy or strange or just doesn't feel quite right- restate it! People have a habit of being committed to their first attempt at articulating a concept, and no matter how hard they try it just comes off wrong.

Wrong:

The economic ideal that capitalism is built on greed coincides with the middle age ideal that property begins with the divine right of kings because it allows risk taking and pulling up your own bootstraps.

Right:

Capitalism is built on greed. It encourages risk taking and seeking your fortune. This is opposed to the middle age ideal, in which property is divinely given to and distributed by the king.


Remember to Modulate, Sharpen, and Restate- it will give your paper a huge boost!

4 comments:

Lindsay said...

I like your simple writing tips! I'm the person who uses "that" too much, and I have a hard time restating awkward sentences. I won't be writing formal papers very often, but it's good to keep in mind for emails too! Thanks!

amanda said...

Thanks for the tips. I tend to write poorly when writing on blogs and on aim. I am sure this practice transfers to my papers.

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