Friday, February 20, 2015

Advice from Abby: Seeking Clarity in Sentences

Over the last couple weeks I have noticed that students have been coming to me asking for help making their writing clearer. Whether the student is a freshman or senior, working on a summary paragraph or a Capstone paper, students need to be able to write in a way that makes their readers able to understand them. This can be difficult for many reasons. For starters it requires the student to spend a lot of time in the drafting stages of an assignment. Sometimes a writer may find nothing wrong with how something is worded—they claim that “this is how I write.” Or a student may acknowledge that something is wrong with how they word some of their sentences and that they struggle with trying to make it sound better. As a writer myself, I sympathize with all of these sentiments as I also have a tendency to write awkwardly.

 A common problem that students have when writing sentences is that they misplace their modifiers. I know this is true because I have constantly struggled with how I place my phrases within my sentences. If you a wondering what I mean by misplacing modifiers then here is a helpful link that can help illustrate the issue (see page 4). For some reason, these types of mistakes can be harder to pick out if your eyes are the only set of eyes on the paper. So, that is why I will always recommend having another person look over your work—others can help point out where things sound awkward, and you can work on trying to revise those trouble spots. In order to illustrate this, I am going to provide an example from my senior English and Humanities Capstone project of a place that was not clear and to show how I intend to fix the sentences:  

This is important because in comparison to reading a novel, while reading a short story one is not distracted while reading it causing the reader to have to put the book down to do something else before returning to the tale again (Poe 572). Poe argues that “In a brief tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out the fullness of his intention…During the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control” (572).

As you can see, I was having trouble incorporating a paraphrase within my text. It can take a lot of rearranging to make sure that in text citations flow within the paper. After working on rearranging the phrases I also worked to eliminate the unclear language that made the sentence sound too wordy.

While reading a short story one is less likely to need to put the story down before finishing it (Poe 572). Therefore, “the author is enabled to carry out the fullness of his intention…during the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control” (Poe 572). 

I hope that after seeing that I have had problems with clarity within my own papers that we can continue to learn to be better writers together. I hope that this is helpful!

Happy Writing!

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