HOW TO WRITE A GOOD INTRODUCTION by Corrine Pratt, MSU.
Introductions can be tricky. Because the introduction is the first portion of your essay that the reader encounters, the stakes are fairly high for your introduction to be successful. A good introduction presents a broad overview of your topic and your thesis, and should convince the reader that it is worth their time to actually read the rest of your essay. Below are some tips that will make writing an introduction a little less daunting, and help us all to write essays that don’t make our professors want to bang their heads against the wall.
1. Start your introduction broad, but not too broad.
When I first started writing formal essays, I didn’t really know how broad to go with my intros. A brief paragraph on Hamlet would suddenly include irrelevant details about Shakespeare’s childhood, then grow out to be a history of Western literature, and then a history of the universe itself. Do not write an introduction like this; this kind of intro is confusing and makes the reader wonder where exactly you’re going with your essay. Your introduction should provide the reader with a sense of what they should expect out of your essay, not to expound upon every piece of knowledge ever developed by man. Go ahead and start relatively broad, then narrow to your thesis, but make sure you’re still on topic.
2. Provide relevant background, but don’t begin your true argument.
It’s fine to give a bit of context to your essay in the introduction, but the real meat of your argument should be located in your body paragraphs. A good test to see if information should go in a body or introductory paragraph is to ask yourself a few questions. Is this providing context or evidence? Does this introduce my argument, or try to prove it? True evidence or proof deserves a body paragraph. Context and background most likely belong in your introduction.
3. Provide a thesis.
The majority of the time, your thesis, or main argument, should occur somewhere towards the end of your introduction. It is a typical convention to put your thesis as the last sentence of your first paragraph. My personal opinion is that it can sometimes be awkward to shove your thesis in one specific place if it doesn’t necessarily fit, but if your thesis works in that position, that is the best place for it. That being said, if you absolutely can’t include your thesis in that location, go ahead and stick it somewhere else.
4. Provide only helpful, relevant information.
Anecdotes can be an interesting opener to your essay, but only if the anecdote in question is truly relevant to your topic. Are you writing an essay about Maya Angelou? An anecdote about her childhood might be relevant, and even charming. Are you writing an essay about safety regulations in roller coasters? Go ahead and add an anecdote about a person who was injured while riding a roller coaster. Are you writing an essay about Moby Dick? Perhaps an anecdote about that time your friend read Moby Dick and hated it is not the best way to go. The same is true for statistics, quotes, and other types of information about your topic.
5. Try to avoid clichés.
Some types of introductions may have once been successful, but have been used so often that they have become tired and clichéd. Starting your essay with a definition is a good example of one of these conventions. At this point, starting with a definition is a bit boring, and will cause your reader to tune out.
6. Don’t feel pressured to write your intro first.
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly what information is relevant to your introduction until you’ve written the piece itself. Personally, I find that my writer’s block is always strongest when writing the introduction. If you are having trouble with your intro, feel free to write some, or all, of your body paragraphs, and then come back to it. You might find it a bit easier to write your introduction once you’re more comfortable with the essay as a whole.
7. Convince the reader that your essay is worth reading.
Your reader should finish the introduction thinking that the essay is interesting or has some sort of relevance to their lives. A good introduction is engaging; it gets the audience thinking about the topic at hand and wondering how you will be proving your argument. Good ways to convince your reader that your essay is worthwhile is to provide information that the reader might question or disagree with. Once they are thinking about the topic, and wondering why you hold your position, they are more likely to be engaged in the rest of the essay.
Basically, a good introduction provides the reader with a brief overview of your topic and an explanation of your thesis. A good introduction is fresh, engaging, and interesting. Successful introductions don’t rely on clichés or irrelevant information to demonstrate their point. Be brief, be concise, be engaging. Good luck.
It was well written, with the exception of a few mistakes – which we all make. It’s not as easy as one would think to catch every incorrect period, comma, colon . . . although, it is always a good idea to be as thorough as possible because there is going to be that one reader who calls you on it because it can affect the flow. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often in this story, but it does happen. For example:
* “…help.” I said. (“…help,” I said.)
* “…he is not,” she said. “But…” (“…he is not,” she said, “but…”)
The correction is in parentheses. It’s obvious that these, and others, were oversights because it isn’t prevalent. There were a few other minor errors in mechanics, but this does not detract from the story because the writing is well written: flowing, descriptive, and nearly flawless. As with the mistakes in punctuation dotted throughout, there are a few moments when tense shifts make it difficult to keep up with the intended timeline. When a writer inadvertently speaks in the present and then shifts to past tense writing, it can make the flow stop and the reader must return and re-read the passage to catch its meaning. Again, this story is well written, but there were a few times when I needed to re-read the passage in order to pick up the flow of the story again.
I read a few of the other reviews written related to this book – which I don’t usually do. There were those that expressed confusion over the opening chapter of the book. I must say I didn’t experience this. I knew from the onset to whom the teenager was speaking in the Prologue. The only thing that I found detracting was the opening of some of the chapters. For example, Chapter One. I understand the purpose of the scene described; however, it isn’t until several paragraphs later that the connection is drawn and then even more reading before that connection is certain. It isn’t poorly constructed and is well written, just took longer than needs be for this reader to connect the events presented.
As the story progressed, I found it to be a bit drawn out and repetitive. I got the sense, however, that the authors' intent was to saturate the reader with imagery in order to create a better understanding of Andrew’s condition, his relationship with Michael, etc. At times, however, it got so bogged down in the imagery that my mind would drift instead of staying with the story. Moreover, there are many moments in the story where the narrator (or author) feels a need to explain, pontificate, or interject some point he/she finds pertinent. Admittedly, I didn’t find this useful for anything other than giving the reader a break from the pervasive melancholy.
As for the dialogue, it was often stilted. As with editing a work, writing dialogue is not as easy as one may think, so I won’t criticize the authors’ efforts overly much. Many times, writers will simply write words thinking that’s the way people would communicate in that circumstance. To those writers I’d say, try desperately to place yourself in the shoes of your characters. Immerse yourself in their lives. Stand in your characters’ places and enact the scene within your head, over and over, until you are those characters. Then write the dialogue in all its choppy, distracted glory. That will bring a realism to your writing that your readers will appreciate. Here’s why I interjected that lecture.
Again, without giving away too much of the plot – Andrew is now six years of age. He meets up with Michael again (same or similar age). I’ve written the dialogue here only:
“Mom named me after some old artist guy,” Michael said with aplomb, “but you… You can call me Michael.”
Okay – NO! I’ve raised four children and own a daycare business, and I’m telling you right now, that as articulate as some six-year-olds are, this type of dialogue has never occurred in all my years of rearing and caring for children. Writing child speak is even harder than writing adult speak, but at least it’s easier to plant yourself in adult shoes to imagine a conversation than a child’s. It threw me off completely, because I would just sit and shake my head at that point. There were many times with the dialogue that I was thrown off like this.
By Chapter Four, Andrew’s life is impacted in ways that I doubt many people in reality would experience. Not that it’s unprecedented. There may be people who, before they are teenagers suffer loss on a monumental scale, as in Andrew’s case.
In Chapter Four, we’re introduced to two Irish brothers, whose lives are affected by loss early in their childhoods also and who first come across Andrew at the cemetery. From there, Andrew is mentioned occasionally as we delve into the lives of Kiernan and Casey and we’re given more hints as to gifts in common with Andrew. We also get a taste of a secret that Kiernan is trying desperately not to reveal. Kiernan is a teenager, but it isn’t until into Chapter Five that I realize that Andrew is a teenager at this point too. The authors may have revealed the advancement in years and I may have overlooked it. I did scroll back again in attempt to find where Andrew was no longer a little boy, but I still missed it, so as I read on, I found myself viewing Kiernan in a not-so-favorable light – until I realized they were in high school together.
From there the aggression and depressive state gets really thick, and it was nearly palpable to that point. Tragedy compounds until the story comes full circle, returning to where it began – at the funeral.
In essence, the story, though attempting to add an element of the paranormal by introducing an ability to see and speak to spirits, is really an exploration into the uncertainties, mysteries, insecurities, and acceptance of being homosexual. There are many moments when the authors' writing becomes less heavy on the imagery as the story unfolds; however, it grows more steadily didactic instead. The letter at the end is lovely, if not overly drawn out.
Overall, it is a well-recounted narrative saturated in a consuming sadness. Such a story may appeal to some, and if that is alluring to a particular demographic, they won’t be disappointed – in the drama or the writing. If, however, you prefer something with at least some light to break through the heavy veil of despair, you may want to pass this by.
The Philistine Heart immediately throws me off because it’s written in the 1st person – a mode that is extremely difficult to write in and to maintain. It is frowned upon by many publishers for this reason because writers will attempt to write in the 1st person and then slip back and forth into 3rd person. Moreover, reading 1st person writing is not easy, which is why many novels are written in the 3rd person. While the author manages to maintain 1st person with frequency, she does inevitably slip into 3rd, which doesn’t surprise me. Personally, I only know of a handful of authors who have successfully pulled off 1st person writing.
It is clear that the author is relying upon the “sex sells” theory in order to entice readers, because her entire first chapter is very pornographic; however, it leaves the reader feeling anything but satisfied. The writing is stilted, as if the author is trying to imagine how to be sexy, but the imagination falls exceedingly short. The entire scene is over as quick as it can be read concluding with a very flat, unconvincing dialogue. Basically, the author rushes the entire scene. Even in the most fast-paced encounters, more interaction and foreplay take place. This scene was supposed to be a game of enticement, but the author’s lackluster writing made me feel as if I was reading a poorly-written instruction manual instead of participating. A well-written scene should draw me in, leave me breathless, and make me feel as if I just engaged in coitus.
Moreover, the writer appears to intimate that the female lead enjoys the game with her lover; however, at the end of chapter 1, she expresses dissatisfaction with him and is far from eager to continue the game when he states he is ready for round two. Until that point, the reader is given the impression she would enjoy round two, three, and four, so the shift in mood is just as clipped as the sex scene. Oddly, as the story progresses, she continues her sexual banter with great enthusiasm, yet the pendulum of “yes, I want” to “I’m not satisfied” is redundantly aggravating.
The end of the first chapter is meant to provide a smooth segue into Chapter 2, where the actual story appears to begin, but, again, it’s as if the author just throws it together without thought; as if she can’t quite decide how to transition from sex to dialogue naturally. At one point, the author states that she and her lover’s dialogue sounds like a “cheesy porn” and I would have to agree.
Although well-written mechanically (good grammar, spelling, punctuation), the story is ho-hum (in reality, very boring) and is rushed and stilted. The dialogue does not flow naturally and the characters are cookie-cutter with little depth and even less originality. I should feel sympathy or empathy for the main character and her plight – both with her job and her conflict of attractions – however, all I feel is annoyed and bored. The author is writing a porn, plain and simple, and is filling in the gaps with a mundane, unimaginative story. Even those who enjoy a good sex novel will be let down by her attempts. I certainly was.
Recommended reading? Not really.
The first thing I thought of as I began the opening chapters of Disruption by Steven Whibley is “this is like mischief on steroids”. The two main characters, Jason and Matt, made me grateful I have four innocuous daughters. Of course, had the author not conveyed the mischief and the characters in such vivid manner, I would not have felt these sentiments; rather it would merely have been a story, nothing more. It also demonstrates vividly the chaos children can create for their parents, already frazzled from raising children (I know, I’ve raised quite a few, and work with them daily. Frazzled is a way of life for me).
The intrigue intensifies nicely as Matt arrives at “camp”. The reader is left hanging as to what sort of camp he’s been made to attend. The writer weaves and builds until you are fairly chomping at the bit to discover the whys behind so many actions and behaviors. That, of course, is the mark of a very good writer.
Overall, this book was spectacular. I’m an avid reader and managed to read it in a few hours and it had me on the edge of my seat for each of those hours. If it did that for ME, imagine how a young teen/adult will react. Overall – BRAVO!
Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steve Whibley (Juvenile Adventure, ages 9-12)
Of late, I cringe when I receive a request to do a book review, because the few I have completed have been hit and miss on the “worth reading” meter. Some are exceptional and some make me shake my head, wondering why the book was written in the first place. If the book is well-formatted, there are issues with stilted dialogue; if the dialogue is decent, there are issues with formatting, grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Then I received this request from Steve Whibley.
The opening chapter had me wondering if I’d made another mistake accepting this request because the scene seemed wooden, but I kept going and wasn’t disappointed that I did. Whibley appeared to get his flow and soon the story developed nicely. The dialogue was genuine-sounding (not easy to accomplish) and the story humorous and delightful. I actually grinned when I reached the end of Chapter One when the main character was brainstorming.
The mechanics were excellent. There was the occasional misuse of the word “like”, which is really not uncommon for people to make. Example: “The next day I walked Sky to school like always”, which should read “as always”.
It did not take long for me to develop a fondness for the primary character, Jared, and his friendship with Marcus. And when the two encountered the “Evil cat”, I thought I was going to lose it, it was such a well-written, descriptive scene.
There was no mention of who drew the artwork for the book, but it was exceptional.
Overall, this was a delightful story, full of adventure and I would highly recommend it for any reader within the designated age group.
Keep your tenses straight -- an informative look at First, Second, and Third Person by Professor Geoff Pope
You probably know what it means to write in the first person, but you may not be as confident about using the second- or third-person point of view. Today we’re going to focus on each of these three points of view.
In grammatical terms, first person, second person, and third person refer to personal pronouns. Each “person” has a different perspective, a “point of view,” and the three points of view have singular and plural forms as well as three case forms.
In the subjective case, the singular form of the first person is “I,” and the plural form is “we.” “I” and “we” are in the subjective case because either one can be used as the subject of a sentence. You constantly use these two pronouns when you refer to yourself and when you refer to yourself with others. Here’s a sentence containing both:
I (first-person singular) look forward to my monthly book club meeting. We (first-person plural) are currently reading Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda.
The first-person point of view is used primarily for autobiographical writing, such as a personal essay or a memoir. Academics and journalists usually avoid first person in their writing because doing so is believed to make the writing sound more objective; however, using an occasional “I” or “we” can be appropriate in formal papers and articles if a publication’s style allows it. Joseph M. Williams, author of Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, agrees: “…deleting an I or we does not make the science objective; it makes reports of it only seem so. We know that behind those impersonal sentences are flesh-and-blood researchers doing, thinking, and writing” (1).
Besides “I” and “we,” other singular first person pronouns include “me” (objective case) and “my” and “mine” (possessive case). Plural first person pronouns are “us” (objective case) and “our” and “ours” (possessive case). Those are a lot of forms and cases, so the following example of a sentence that uses the first person--with both singular and plural forms and all three cases--will, I hope, help identify the different uses:
I asked Sam to help me with my Happy New Year mailing, and we somehow got the project done early during the last week of December in spite of our packed schedules. I’m quite proud of us and ended up calling the project ours instead of mine.
For further clarification regarding the eight first-person pronouns just used, here’s a table:
First Person (singular/plural)
Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
I, we me, us my/mine, our/ours
You use the second-person point of view to address the reader, as I just did. The second person uses the pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours.” We use these three pronouns when addressing one, or more than one, person. Second person is often appropriate for e-mail messages, presentations, and business and technical writing (3).
Here are two examples with the second-person point of view.
This is a singular second-person sentence:
Before you go to London, remember to leave your keys under the doormat. I’ll miss you. Sincerely yours, Anna
This is a plural second-person sentence:
Class, you need to be in your seats when the principal arrives. Tom and Jerry, I’m speaking to you as well. By the way, are these comic books yours? (Regionally speaking, in the American South you might hear a teacher say, “Class, y’all need to be in your seats….” “Y’all” is a contraction of “you all.”)
For additional clarification, here’s another table:
Second Person (singular & plural)
Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
you you your/yours
The third person is the most common point of view used in fiction writing and is the traditional form for academic writing. Authors of novels and composers of papers use “he,” “she,” or “it” when referring to a person, place, thing, or idea. The following quotations include the third-person singular subjective cases and are from the opening lines of three novels:
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested” (5). “He” is in the singular third-person masculine subjective case.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person” (6). “She” is in the singular third-person feminine subjective case.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (7). “It” is in the singular third-person neuter subjective case.
In addition to having a singular and a plural case, you may have already noticed that the third person has genders and a neuter category.
Third Person (singular)
Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
he (masculine) him (masculine) his/his (masculine)
she (feminine) her (feminine) her/hers (feminine)
it (neuter) it (neuter) its/its (neuter)
This is going to be quite a mouthful of pronouns, but I’m going to try to include all twelve singular third-person pronouns in only three sentences:
He met her at a conference where she was the keynote speaker, and it was odd to him that her laptop had a fountain pen sticker on it, because that was his favorite kind of pen. He had his with him and wondered about hers. “A laptop has its place on a desk or on a lap,” he thought, “but in the pocket near the heart and in the hand a fountain pen has its.”
That was a bit awkward at the end, but there you have it—I mean them, all the pronouns.
And now, before the last chart with the third-person plural with the three cases, here’s a short example with its four pronouns (Don’t write sentences like this; they’re impossible to understand!):
They gave them their gloves because theirs had holes in them.
Third Person (plural)
Subjective Case Objective Case Possessive Case
they them their/theirs
A Reminder Regarding Usage: Agree in Person
When you write in the first person (I, we), don’t confuse your reader by switching to the “second person” (you) or the “third person” (he, she, it, they, etc.). Similarly, when using second or third person, don’t shift to a different point of view (10). For example here’s a sentence that switches person in a confusing way:
I enrolled in a fiction-writing workshop for the winter quarter, and you have to complete three stories, each from a different point of view.
The pronouns used in that sentence don’t agree with each other; the writer switched from first person (I) to second person (you). Here’s the correct usage:
I enrolled in a fiction-writing workshop for the winter quarter, and I have to complete three stories, each from a different point of view.
So remember, simply stated, first person is from the writers point of view and uses pronouns such as “I”: I saw U2 at the Rose Bowl. Second person is directed at the reader and uses pronouns such as “you”: You saw U2 at the Rose Bowl. Third person is told from an outside narrators point of view and uses pronouns such as “he,” “she,” and “it”: She saw U2 at the Rose Bowl.
Pope, G. (2011, January 20). First, Second, and Third Person. Retrieved from http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/first-second-and-third-person
BOOK REVIEW REQUESTED:
I wasn’t certain what to make of this story. It was thrown together and tended to have a rambling feel; as if the author had a thousand ideas to impart and decided to throw them all into a single story. Additionally, the writing style reminded me of a first grader who is learning writing mechanics but hasn’t quite mastered them. Once more, this is an example of why authors, self-publishing, should never release a book prior to having it professionally edited.
There were extensive errors in formatting and written mechanics, as well as general errors in word usage, and more.
1. The paragraphs were not indented, so even though it was possible to determine where one thought ended and another began because of the indentation at the end of the sentence, proper formatting would have made it less a struggle to read.
2. There were numerous errors in mechanics including:
‘What are you waiting for? Run, run as fast as you can!’ the Tiny Bee said to herself.
‘Good morning!’ the fox Vulpes vulpes spoke again in a sad voice and rearing its ginger head out of the burrow.
This should have been formatted (corrected for punctuation, formatting, flow, word usage, etc.):
“Good morning,” a grumpy voice greeted the tiny bee, just as she was about to flee.
What are you waiting for? Run, run as fast as you can! The tiny bee said to herself.
“Good morning,” the fox, Vulpes vulpes, spoke again in a sad voice, rearing its ginger from its burrow.
3. There was repetition of some words (i.e. Meles meles, Vulpes vulpes) for which I could not make sense. I’m assuming these were names, however only the first word is capitalized. If names, both would be capitalized (?).
4. Mistakes in spelling. For example:
9. Parts of the story are taken from classic stories, such as the Lion and the Mouse.
I am Sleepless: SIM 299 is a refreshing, interesting, intriguing read. The writing is nearly flawless; with tremendous overall mechanics. The verbiage is creative and unique:
Fig dove backward, watching in horror as a boulder the size of a bipod flew overhead.
“Thanks,” Fig trembled, sweat beading along his blue forehead. “I didn’t see it coming.”
“No problem. I can hear their whole coterie on the other side of the ridge. Four lugs, two meks, two agulators, and one eidetic.”
“Tuskin’s fury!” Fig swore. “Remind me how this is fair? Nine fifteen-year cadets against the three of us. We’re so dead. And this sun is absolutely blinding me.”
Brilliant word choice and, as stated, creative language. Moreover, it is written in a manner which transports the reader into the author’s fictitious world. The reader can easily envision the people and the scenery; can easily become a part of the story:
Palomas darted from her hiding spot against the canyon wall to hide behind a pile of large boulders in view of the enemy base. Her rich golden skin and long golden hair, pulled back in a tight bun, sparkled in the sunlight. Her matching golden uniform, of the Ethos army, left no mistake that she was lug.
Characters were well developed allowing for the cultivation of sympathy (which isn’t that easy to accomplish :-D). The story flowed and ebbed in appropriate manner moving along a nice pace.
I really enjoyed the quotes provided at the beginning of each chapter by Doctor T.M. Omori.
The drawings, provided by Adrienne Burger, were extraordinary.
The ending left me wanting more, but I have no doubt that this was the author’s intent, as he states that this is meant to be the first in a series.
Recommended? As an author and an editor, I am very particular about the written word. As an avid reader, I am even more choosy about what I read. This is easily one of the better books I’ve read and I look forward to the next in the series. I highly recommend this to any lover of Sci-fi. Bravo!
This is an example of why people do not take self-published authors seriously. The number of errors and formatting issues were prevalent throughout the entire text, interrupting the flow and causing me, the reader, to wonder what the author was trying to convey; or, at the very least, how it was she was trying to convey her meaning. I felt as if I were reading something written by an inexperienced child who merely threw together a string of sentences without thinking through the purpose of her writing. This one sentence can demonstrate nearly everything that is incorrect with this author’s writing technique, although it isn’t the only example I provide:
Unfortunately, this author’s writing shows a lack of experience with the written word. There are so many errors that reading it is a trial. The dialogue, incorrectly formatted, is childish and the overall story lacks cohesion. This is an instance in which the author should seek out an editor to correct the myriad errors. In its current condition, I cannot recommend anyone read it.
Buster's Undersea Counting Expedition 1 to 10 by Robert Stanek
After a while the page gets so crowded that on the last few pages the sea creatures become shadows and really small. It is very repetitive, but as an educator, I know that this is necessary for a child to learn. The text is simplistic (perfect) and the colors brilliant (except the shadow fish). Overall, I would recommend this book as a good read-to for very little ones learning to count to ten. Well done.
Mechanically, this book was well written. Punctuation in place, grammar adhered to nicely, spelling correct for the most part. Related to the spelling issue, there were a large number of instances in the text in which it appeared as if the letters had been mistakenly dropped (i.e. al owed). I’m not certain that this was the author’s error since it’s consistently a dropped letter, rather than a misspelling. Also, there was a very occasional mistake in word usage (i.e “When he wasn’t studying complex mathematics, he played with model construction sets and take long walks in the woods”).
Additionally, while I appreciate the author’s desire to keep the material simple for the reader, I was occasionally left wondering how he reached certain conclusions and would loved to have been provided a bit more information so that I could have drawn my own conclusions. For example: “He felt stifled by the education system of the time, and bored with the curriculum, but his grades, at least in the subjects that interested him, were good”. The preceding paragraphs skim over information about his grades and provides a couple of quotes related to education and educators, neither of which I interpreted as disdain as the author concluded; and nothing was provided in which to deduce Einstein felt stifled by education. Again, a bit more information would have been useful in instances such as this.
Overall, it was a decently-written attempt at a biographical work, but as detailed information on Einstein is not common knowledge, I expected to see, at the least, a reference page denoting where the author obtained his facts. This, also, would have enabled me to fill in the gaps so that I, as the reader, could obtain a clearer picture.
Also, I was surprised to see this disclaimer at the end of the Kindle E-book: “This is a work of creative nonfiction. Details included in the book may not be 100% factual and the author may have taken creative license in order to provide a more enjoyable story for the reader”. Hmm. It certainly read like a work of fact and I could not discern where the author veered from fact in order to provide a “more enjoyable story”; nonetheless, knowing this could be wholly, or in part, non-factual, actually put me off as I can no longer trust that this is an accurate depiction of Einstein or his life. It also makes me leery that the author added this disclaimer in order to avoid crediting the work of those individuals who’ve also written on the life of Einstein. What would one discover if they were to run this material through a plagiarism checker?
I would therefore recommend it only to those seeking to read it as a work of fiction, but would advise against using it as reference material in cases where research is needed (i.e. for a student).
The first page nearly had me stopping altogether, because the comparisons seemed to contradict. When I read, “The impending storm mirrored her mood,” I anticipate that the character is feeling dark, angry; emotions roiling like storm clouds across the sky; but no, the very next phrase from O’Connor states that the character feels “empowered” (?), I would almost be willing to accept that the stormy environment is powerful, lending to a feeling of empowerment; however, just prior to mentioning the storm mirroring her mood, the author states “the air sizzled with pent-up tension”. Again, this gives me a sense of anger, not empowerment. Still, fair enough, it's possible I completely misinterpreted the opening scene and became confused over the character’s feelings. Still, as the reader, I shouldn't be confused so early on.
I keep reading. The story seems to be getting better, until I hit the fourth paragraph. “Her mood improved as the wind picked up, and she playfully conquered the crashing waves.” Huh? Where did this come from, and what does the wind have to do with her sudden uplift in mood? The author was discussing her depression, her mom not wanting to wear a bathing suit, and even stated the character was feeling “empowered”, then wham! Without explanation or lead-in, a shift in wind speed picks up her mood?
One paragraph after that confusion, O’Connor chooses to use “leaped” instead of “leapt”. Acceptable, if “leaped” sounds right in the text, but the actual past tense of “leap” is “leapt” and should be used unless it doesn’t fit the text (i.e. you want to rhyme “heaped” and “leaped”). To me, saying “schools of fish leaped in the distance” didn't sound right; would have sounded better “schools of fish leapt in the distance”. Because of the awkward use, I stumbled over a sentence that should have flowed.
Keep reading, I tell myself. Give it a chance.
The scene immediately following is well done; however, the author repeatedly says “run”, but our character is in the water. Wouldn’t “swim” be the appropriate term? And how does she “crouch” in the water? If she’s that close to the shore, would a shark be able to attack her; would she not simply be able to walk out of the water, or “run” as she constantly references? Moreover, how does one tense their muscles for action in the water? Tensing up would cause one to sink, unless they could touch bottom near the shore, in which case my previous assertion remains – just walk out, no shark could swim that close anyway because it would be too shallow. Perhaps the swimmer, at 15, is tall enough to stand deeper where sharks swim. Still, as the reader, I should be able to visualize the character’s plight, yet struggled to do so.
Soon after, the author states, “Teeth clamped on her leg as she stared into dark, malevolent eyes”. How could she see “dark, malevolent eyes” if the shark is under water, blood is flooding the water around her, and certain sharks roll their eyes back in their head to protect them during an attack, thus making them appear milky white?
All of these confusing conflictions take place within the first chapter, which makes me wonder whether the author thought through what she wanted to convey, or did any research to back up her information.
As much as I wanted to keep reading and give it a chance – after all, the author’s writing isn’t poorly done – I simply couldn’t. I felt no sympathy or empathy for the main character. The writing, while far better than some books I’ve read, was cliché and the dialogue unnatural. The transitions between scenes were confusing, abrupt, oftentimes leaving me wondering how it came about.
Overall, this book has potential to be good, but I think this is one of those self-published works that would have benefited from hiring an editor; someone who could have caught the unnatural quirks and assisted in smoothing out the writing.
Recommended? Not highly, even though it isn’t completely without potential.
Today we pick up on our review of THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF WRITING with our fourth common error -- MISUSE OF THE APOSTROPHE. Here are some quick tips to assist in remembering when and how to use an apostrophe.
Use the apostrophe to indicate possession and to mark omitted letters in contractions. Writers often misuse apostrophes when forming plurals and possessives. The basic rule is quite simple: use the apostrophe to indicate possession, not a plural. Yes, the exceptions to the rule may seem confusing: hers has no apostrophe, and it's is not possessive. Nevertheless, with a small amount of attention, you can learn the rules and the exceptions of apostrophe use.
Form the possessive case of a singular noun by adding 's (even if the word ends in s).
Hammurabi's code, Dickens's last novel, James's cello
Form the possessive case of a plural noun by adding an apostrophe after the final letter if it is an s or by adding 's if the final letter is not an s.
the students' disks, the children's toys
Remember: the apostrophe never designates the plural form of a noun.
A common error is the use of the apostrophe to form a non-possessive plural.
Compare the following correct sentences:
The student's disk was missing.
Several students' disks were missing.
The students searched for their missing disks.
Possessive pronouns, such as yours, hers, its, and ours, take no apostrophe.
The decision is yours
Indefinite pronouns, such as anyone, everybody, no one, somebody, use the singular possessive form.
Somebody's dog stayed in our suite last night.
The apostrophe is used to mark omitted letters in contractions.
(Note that contractions are often considered too informal for academic writing.)
Avoid the dreadful it's/its confusion.
It's is a contraction for it is. It's is never a possessive.
Its is the possessive for it.
As Professors Strunk and White remind us in Elements of Style, "It's a wise dog that scratches its own fleas"
(Courtesy of Hamilton College)
(Photo, courtesy of Yahoo Images)
WEEK 4 and our next discussion in our topic on the SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF WRITING is INCORRECT PUNCTUATION OF TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES. Personally, this is one of the more tricky elements of writing to master.
(REMEMBER: An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.)
Good writers know that correct punctuation is important to writing clear sentences. If you misuse a mark of punctuation, you risk confusing your reader and appearing careless. Notice how the placement of commas significantly affects the meaning of these sentences:
NO -- Mr. Jones, says Ms. Moore, is a boring old fool.
YES -- Mr. Jones says Ms. Moore is a boring old fool.
Writers often combine independent clauses in a single compound sentence to emphasize the relationship between ideas. The punctuation of compound sentences varies depending upon how you connect the clauses.
(a) Separate independent clauses with a comma when using a coordinating
conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet).
(b) Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when no coordinating
conjunction is used.
(c) Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when using a conjunctive adverb
(e.g., however, therefore, thus, consequently, finally, nevertheless).
Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule (a):
1. We all looked worse than usual, for we had stayed up studying for the exam.
2. This room is unbelievably hot, and I think that I am going to pass out.
3. Monday is a difficult day for me, so I try to prepare as much as possible on Sunday.
Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule (b):
1. We all looked worse than usual; we had stayed up all night studying for the exam.
2. This room is unbelievably hot; I think I am going to pass out.
3. Monday is a difficult day for me; I have three classes and two other commitments.
Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule (c):
1. We all looked worse than usual; however, we were relieved we had studied.
2. The discussion is really interesting; nevertheless, I think I am going to pass out.
3. Monday is a difficult day for me; however, I have figured out how to prepare for it.
(Courtesy of Hamilton College)
(Photo, courtesy of Yahoo Images)
Week Three and we offer up one of the more amusing errors in writing. Our third DEADLY SIN OF WRITING is the DANGLING (or misplaced) MODIFIER. Misuse of this element of writing often results in an amused or bemused reaction from the reader. It was also one of my favorite lessons to teach my 2nd grade class, because, invariably, giggles erupted as we attempted to correct such phrases as:
"Running for the bus, my book fell in the mud." (The book sprouted legs?")
"The other day, I shot an elephant in my pajamas." (How did that elephant end up in his/her pajamas?)
Misplaced and dangling modifiers create illogical, even comical, sentences. We confuse our readers if we fail to connect modifiers (words that describe or limit other words) to the words they modify; be sure to place modifiers next to the words they modify. See the illogic in this example:
Walking back from the village, my wallet was lost. (Does your wallet walk?) REVISED: Walking back from the village, I lost my wallet. (Your wallet doesn't walk, but you do.) A misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that due to its placement mistakenly refers to the wrong word. The modifier truly is misplaced.
To correct a misplaced modifier, move it next to or near the word it modifies.
A fine athlete and student, the coach honored the captain of the tennis team. (The coach was not the fine athlete and student.) REVISED: The coach honored the captain of the tennis team, a fine athlete and student
Limiting modifiers (only, almost, nearly, just) are commonly misplaced. To avoid ambiguity, place them in front of the word they modify.
Marsh's evidence reinforces the view that the artist only intended the images for a local audience. REVISED: Marsh's evidence reinforces the view that the artist intended the images only for a local audience.
A dangling modifier is a (usually introductory) word or phrase that the writer intends to use as a modifier of a following word, but the following word is missing. The result is an illogical statement.
To fix a dangling modifier, add the missing word and place the modifier next to it.
Acting on numerous complaints from students, a fox was found near Root. (The fox did not act on the complaint.)
REVISED: Acting on numerous complaints from students, security found a fox near Root.
After reading the original study, the flaws in Lee's argument are obvious. REVISED: Reading the original study reveals obvious flaws in Lee's argument.
Dangling modifiers go hand-in-hand with wordiness and passive voice.
Correct one and you correct them all!
(Courtesy of Hamilton College)
(Photo courtesy of Yahoo Images)
WEEK TWO and we tackle another common writing issue: PRONOUN PROBLEMS.
Pronouns are useful as substitutes for nouns, but a poorly chosen pronoun can obscure the meaning of a sentence. Common pronoun errors include:
* An Unclear Pronoun Reference -- A pronoun must refer to a specific noun (the antecedent).
* Ambiguous pronoun -- This type of reference creates confusing sentences. Writers should spend time thinking about their arguments to make sure they are not superficial. Example: A key difference between banking crises of today and of yesterday is that they have greater global impact. (Which crises have more impact?) If a whiff of ambiguity exists, use a noun: A key difference between banking crises of today and yesterday is that today's crises have greater global impact.
* Vague Subject Pronoun -- Pronouns such as it, there, and this often make weak subjects. Example: Pope Gregory VII forced Emperor Henry IV to wait three days in the snow at Canossa before granting him an audience. It was a symbolic act. To what does it refer? Forcing the Emperor to wait? The waiting? The granting of the audience? The audience? The entire sentence? Use a pronoun as subject only when its antecedent is crystal clear.
* Agreement Error -- A pronoun must agree in gender and number with its antecedent. A common error is the use of the plural pronoun they to refer to a singular noun. Example: In the original state constitution, they allowed polygamy. They (plural) refers to constitution (singular). Let's revise it to: The original state constitution allowed polygamy.
It is often better to use a plural noun and pronoun than to use a singular noun and pronoun. Note that indefinite pronouns such as each and everyone are singular. Therefore, the pronoun must match. Example: Each student must meet his or her advisor. (correct but awkward).
This is easier, but incorrect: Each student must meet with their advisor. (incorrect: singular noun, plural pronoun). Instead, try this: Students must meet with their advisors. (correct: plural noun and pronoun)
(Courtesy of Hamilton College)
(Image Courtesy of Yahoo Images)
To inaugurate the launch of our new blog, we'll start by offering assistance to the fledgling writer by reviewing the 7 Deadly Sins of Writing.
In all probability, most have heard of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. Join us for the next seven weeks as we discuss the SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF WRITING. First up is the deadly sin of PASSIVE VOICE.
In most instances, put the verb in the active voice rather than in the passive voice. Passive voice produces a sentence in which the subject receives an action. In contrast, active voice produces a sentence in which the subject performs an action. Passive voice often produces unclear, wordy sentences, whereas active voice produces generally clearer, more concise sentences. To change a sentence from passive to active voice, determine who or what performs the action, and use that person or thing as the subject of the sentence. Examples:
Passive voice: On April 19, 1775, arms were seized at Concord, precipitating the American Revolution.
Active voice: On April 19, 1775, British soldiers seized arms at Concord, precipitating the American Revolution.
Other examples of passive voice:
1. The process of modernization in any society is seen as a positive change.
2. The Count is presented as an honest, likeable character.
3. Thomas Jefferson's support of the new Constitution was documented in a letter to James Madison.
Overuse of "to be" (a related problem)
Use of forms of to be (is, are, was, were) leads to wordiness. Use an action verb in place of a form of to be.
Example: It is the combination of these two elements that makes the argument weak.
Revision: The combination of these two elements weakens the argument.
(Courtesy of Hamilton College. Photo, courtesy of Yahoo Images)
Who I Am...
My name is Barbara Woster. I am an author, business owner, and an educator. Writing is my passion, but I also enjoy providing insight for aspiring authors. Additionally, I review work by other writers upon request. To have your book reviewed, simply get in touch.