CS = comma splice FS = fused sentence FRAG = sentence fragment //st = parallel structure AGR = agreement Ambig = ambiguous (pronoun) Ref = reference (pronoun reference – to what does your word refer?) WC = word choice MW = Missing word(s) VT = verb tense Colloq = colloquial expression (not appropriately formal) AWK = awkward
Most of you write quite well, for which you can (and should) thank your high school teachers. I find it much easier to assess essays when I don’t have to sort through multiple grammatical errors or infelicities of style.
Anglo-Saxon warriors believed that as loyal retainers they should “[march] ahead of him, always there / at the front of the line" in their service to their lord or king (Beowulf 2497-98). NOTE: the period goes AFTER the parentheses, not before, unless the entire quotation is indented. [I gave you this EXACT example in the instructions for your essay.]
If a quotation you use is in quotation marks in the original, you must put it in double quotation marks when you quote it: Beowulf tells his men,“‘This fight is not yours...’ ” (2532). For poetry, you must give line references, and you must indicate line breaks: Beowulf knew “It would be hard to survive / unscathed near the hoard....” (2547-48).
If you need to give the author’s name and the page number, it would be presented like this: (Malory 33) There is no comma, no “p.” -- just the name and the page number. Note that we do NOT refer to authors by their first names. If the author’s last name is hyphenated, you require BOTH parts of the name (“Wynne-Jones,” NOT “Jones”).
Your quotations must be 100% accurate. Take time to go over all of your quotations carefully to ensure that what you have written is EXACTLY what appears in the original. Seeing “INACCURATE” on your essay is not good. You cannot take distinct words or phrases from an original text and present them as your own. Putting them in italics is not sufficient; you must put them in quotation marks (e.g. “tree of glory” or “whale-road” or “lavished”). Please be very sure that you understand the difference between direct quotation (using the words of the text) and paraphrase (putting the idea entirely in your own words).
Quotations must be introduced/set up properly, integrated into your sentence properly, and commented on or explained. They must fit seamlessly into your sentence and into your argument. They must be integrated both logically and grammatically. Don’t end a quotation in a spot that is not logically or grammatically correct; in other words, don’t end in the middle of an idea (e.g., It is not logically or grammatically correct to break off this way: “ ‘what occurs on the wall / between the two of us will turn out as fate’ ” ; the quotation is unfinished and ends mid-thought.)
Find the best way to introduce your quotations, striving to find a way that will allow you to make as few changes to the original quotation as possible, especially when you are quoting poetry.
Quotations of more than THREE lines of verse or FORTY words of prose in length should be indented 2.5 cm from the left margin only. Quotations are not italicized (unless they’re in italics in the original). For more information about how to use quotations properly, see my PowerPoint on the course website. (That PowerPoint was shown in class and has been on the website ever since.)
Use the present tense when discussing works of literature. Titles of short works are given in quotation marks (“The Dream of the Rood”), as I said in class and put on the website; the titles of long works (Beowulf) are italicized. Don’t leave excess space between paragraphs. Indent the first line to show that you are beginning a new paragraph. The phrase “due to the fact that” should simply DIE. So should the word “relatable” (which does not exist in the sense students mean it). Although no one used the “r- word” in this essay, I have seen it in the reading journals. Time to remove it from your vocabulary, at least in this class.
Make sure that you read and understand your assignments and the requirements of an academic essay. Some of you who received marks lower than you would have liked simply did not do what the assignment asked. Look at the assignment for Short Essay #1 and what its thesis said you would be arguing. Is that what your essay actually did? (For many of you, the answer would have to be “No.”)
Though I know that some of you were taught otherwise in high school, it is best not to end paragraphs with what I call a “coming soon” sentence. Do not write a whole paragraph on one point and then in the final sentence of the paragraph introduce your next point. Transitions are best made in the first sentence of the next paragraph, and they can be made subtly. I would always avoid what I consider “mechanical” transitions in formal writing, like “First,” “second,” and “in conclusion.” There are better ways.
Titles: when you are adding a title, try to make it at least somewhat interesting. “Essay #1” and “Essay on Beowulf” would not be called “interesting.” Structure: You MUST have a solid, clear, concise statement of thesis; it is the basis of your entire essay. You must have good topic sentences for each paragraph. Each paragraph should deal with one main point (it should have UNITY). Remember that poor structure will ensure that your essay is never given a grade above the C level.
Each paragraph requires a TOPIC SENTENCE that gives the main point of the paragraph AND ties that paragraph back to the thesis. Although in theory that sentence can go anywhere in the paragraph, it is best in an academic essay to put it at the beginning of the paragraph so that the reader knows exactly where he or she is in your argument. Do not mistake your PLAN for your THESIS; make sure the topic sentence echoes the thesis, showing how this particular point contributes to the overall argument of your essay.
Develop your point well in your paragraph. Make every word play its part in supporting the main point the paragraph is trying to make. Use your word count wisely! Using up your precious words on very general statements means you don’t have them for explanation of your quotations and specific development of your point. Comment on each of your quotations, making clear the part each plays in your argument. In analysis of poetry, take note of specific words and their impact or meaning. That was especially true for this essay.
In a short essay, do NOT waste time and precious words by writing a long introduction that does nothing more than provide general background information or attempt to wax poetical. In general, don’t be wordy. The point of the exercise is not simply to REACH the assigned word count; it is to use those words to develop and support your thesis. Look for ways to express yourself more succinctly and crisply -- without losing necessary information. In a short essay like this, one goal of the assignment is to encourage you to write economically and to edit your work.
In a comparative essay, arguing a point from the negative side (e.g. “This poem isn’t as good as that one”) is a very risky proposition. You are far better to point out the different strengths, techniques, or goals of the pieces you’re comparing and/or contrasting. Focusing on the positive will ensure that your argument will not be dismissed because you have simply chosen only a few relevant points and overlooked others (equally relevant) in order to prove your point that one is the “better” work.
A conclusion that simply repeats the points of the introduction (especially when it does so almost verbatim) is of virtually no use. Your conclusion has a job to do; it must lead the reader OUT of your argument. Work at writing an effective and powerful conclusion, not just a repetition of what I just finished reading. Your conclusion really needn’t say, “In conclusion.” That it is the conclusion should be obvious. The conclusion is your last chance to make an impact – use it wisely! Don’t just repeat yourself, and don’t end an essay with the words of someone else.
The website includes links to sites that have interactive exercises to help you with your grammar. I recommend that you make use of them as needed. Apostrophes: Learn how to use them correctly! Plurals do NOT take apostrophes, and possessives do. Your essays will have very few apostrophes, if any.
Errors are cropping up with the expressions “in which” (or “of which”) and “allow for.” Don’t confuse “which” and “in which.” If the phrase or sentence doesn’t need the “in,” you shouldn’t include it. So, for example, you would say, “the car which he bought” (he bought this specific car) but “the car in which he rode” (he rode in the car). It is true that we try not to end sentences with prepositions (“the car he rode in”), but test yourself: if the “in” can’t possibly go at the end of the phrase, you don’t need it.
Don’t confuse “allow” with “allow for.” Allow = to permit Allow for = to give consideration to circumstances or contingencies (e.g., allow for expansion) [Merriam- Webster] More often, you will want the first, “allow.”
Comma splices, fused sentences, and sentence fragments are serious errors: work hard to eliminate them from your writing. Learn the proper usage of the colon and semi-colon (the Capital Community College site has very accessible explanations). Challenge yourself to learn the rules of comma usage. Just think of it as a game....
Do not use contractions (don’t, can’t, etc.) in formal writing. Avoid archaic or overly “flowery” language. Simple and direct is generally best. REMEMBER: An essay with a multitude of grammatical errors cannot receive top grades.
Don’t forget to familiarize yourselves with the University’s brochure on plagiarism before submitting the research essay at the end of the year: http://www.uottawa.ca/plagiarism.pdf Remember: you must QUOTE any words you borrow from a source.
It is up to you to take responsibility for your work and to ensure that you follow the instructions for the assignment. The final product you submit is a reflection of yourself, so take time to ensure it is exactly as you would like it to be. For subsequent essays, any failure to follow instructions as to the structure and format of the essay will result in a reduction in your grade for the paper.