If I wanted to write this blog in the style of a shitty tenth grade academic essay, it might go a little something like this:
The topic I am writing about is amateur writing habits. I think that you should state the purpose of your paper clearly from the beginning, or you will look unprofessional. You should also circumlocute the use of grandiose and voluminous words you don’t know the meanings of.
If I wanted to say the same thing like a sane human being, it’d sound more like this:
The purpose of an academic paper should be stated early in the first paragraph, and extravagant language should be avoided.
You can tell the first example is shite immediately, but the mistakes it contains are rampant in amateur essays and creative writing. Let’s break it down.
The topic I am writing about…
Don’t start with this shit. This includes any and all variations of:
- The topic I chose
- This is a story about
- I am going to talk about
No. Just say what you’re here to say; there is no need for a flippin’ preamble. Stop it. Also: the word “I” has no place in most academic papers.
We all know it is you who is thinking. There is no need to prefix your opinions with “I think” because that’s a given, and it kinda makes you look like a doormat, like you’re tip toeing around trying not to offend anyone.
I’ve already gone on one anti-that rant on this blog, but it’s worth doing again. That is so often a sentence-destroying, weakass bitch of a word. Annihilate it.
“You” in an academic paper is highly unprofessional. I’m not spending any more time on it, however, because I want this post to reflect all kinds of writing.
…you will look unprofessional.
This is a weak accusation. Don’t say something will “look” a certain way; say it is. Be confident in the point you’re making.
“It is unprofessional to use the phrase ‘I think’ in an academic paper.”
You should also…
This one’s probably the trickiest to fix. I don’t see it as often in creative writing, but it is abundant in essays.
I presume we all know about the “five paragraph essay.” For some unknown reason, a shitload of people take this to mean they need to walk their teacher through the five paragraphs, like so:
This is my introduction.
Here is my strongest argument in paragraph one.
And a slightly less strong but still valid argument in my second paragraph.
Here is my third and weakest argument.
But look, it’s all coming together here in my conclusion!
Readers do not want to be walked through the steps of your essay. By the same token, they don’t want to be walked through the steps of a character’s activities, either:
Paul picked up the guitar and tuned it.
Next, he searched for the guitar pick.
When he found it, he strummed the guitar. Then a string broke.
After setting the pick down, Paul went and got a new string.
Reading things in steps disguised as paragraphs is dreadful. Don’t do it to your readers, even if your readers are teachers. They are people, too.
…circumlocute the use of grandiose and voluminous words…
Is that www.thesaurus.com up there in your tabs!? You take your happy ass and close that tab right now.
…Okay, okay. I have it on my browser window, too. I admit it.
But I don’t have it so I can find a bunch of four syllable words to chuck at you so I can sound more intelligent. It’s there because sometimes the word I’m using just doesn’t fit, and I want a better one.
Not a more complicated one. A better one. Something more illustrative and clear.
So you can leave it open, but do not –I repeat, do not –use it to find a bunch of words you’ve never seen in your life to sprinkle into your writing. There’s a good chance you’re not using the words correctly in the first place, and that makes you look like a real … /checks Thesaurus/ …nincompoop.
Stick with words with which you are familiar, and if you do happen to learn a new word, make sure to look up examples of it used in sentences before trying to wield it yourself.
…you don’t know the meanings of.
Grammar is important.
People are going to judge you based on it. They might even grade you on it, depending on why you’re writing and the evilness of your teacher. Many native or fluent English speakers will see right away what’s wrong with the sentence, but in case you are neither, it’s the “of” at the end.
“Of” is a preposition, and a sentence should not be ended with it. We all make grammar mistakes, and if English isn’t your first language, you will most likely be forgiven. (As you should be! This language is whack.)
Still, make a good effort to learn the rules, or have someone who’s a fascist for grammar read over your paper before submitting it.