Last Week’s Blog: The F’in Showdown
I Still Wasn’t Getting It – The F Yes, The Idea No.
Finally, Lady Holmes-Peters and I moved on to the subject of my mark – the F – that lay on my graded assignment there on the table between us. She leaned forward in her chair, glanced up and gave me her best “are you serious?” look from over her half moon glasses. She pushed the paper towards me. It was same essay, which, only moments ago, she had said God himself couldn’t understand. In a move to prove her point she challenged me to read my work aloud and demonstrate that at very least I knew what I was writing about. It stood to reason that I should have been able to do that – but boy was I wrong.
I took the essay, and began to read triumphantly as though my reading ability alone, would change her mind. For some reason, however, she had anticipated that I was able to read and was not all that impressed to be honest. I finished the first paragraph and threw the it back on the table as though, if I hadn’t earned the A before, I would have clinched it now so skilled was my reading.
“Okay, now tell me exactly, what you mean by that – by what you just read?” I confess I was a little disappointed she hadn’t stopped there and taken the opportunity to throw in the towel.
“I did. I just did.” I quipped.
“No, you didn’t,” she insisted. “You read it, you read it aloud, but it definitely leaves the audience with no idea whatsoever what you are writing about. There are five or six completely different ideas tied up in that opening paragraph, any one of which could be your thesis. The reader has no clue or direction from you, the writer, what your premise actually is. In fact, it is so convoluted you leave me not wanting to read on – and as such you have failed as a writer.”
“I wrote it, because you assigned it, duh.”
“That’s not good enough, and the sarcasm isn’t appreciated – when it’s directed at me. A well written paper serves a purpose. You write it for a reason. You can argue any point you want to, I don’t care, as long as it is well written and you can support your premise with facts in the rest of the essay. The piece should have a structure – a flow – but yours doesn’t. The first paragraph should tell the reader very clearly what your argument is and then outline sentence by sentence the points that you will make in each of the subsequent paragraphs. That is how you build an argument. The rest of the paragraphs are then dedicated to supporting your overall premise with sound, clear and concise reasoning. The final paragraph should summarize the points again in simple terms, almost mirroring the opening paragraph. You didn’t do that. Now, tell me what’s the point you are trying to make, because I still have no idea.” She was getting visibly agitated – as was I. I still didn’t understand what she was going on about.
My annoyance was audible and my fists were slightly clenched. I was really struggling with this conversation.
“But, I just told you!”
“No, you read it. You read the words that you wrote but none of those words come together to form a clear point which can form the basis of a solid argument. Let’s try this again. Your opening paragraph should tell me what your essay is about.”
“Yes, I agree and that is exactly what I did.”
“No, no, no… that’s not what you did,” she shook her head gently back and forth while curling her lips just inside her mouth. “You did nothing of the sort. Tell me your argument, tell me what you want to say, and make it important enough to draw me in and make me want to read the rest of what you have written.”
“For example, what did you mean by this…” and she highlighted a sentence in the opening paragraph.
“Well,” and after I had read it to myself, I retorted, “it means XYZ.”
“So, why didn’t you say that. Exactly the way you just did.”
“I did…” I protested. Was I losing my mind? I still wasn’t getting it.
“No, you didn’t,” she insisted, “you said X%$? or @¿·/# or ?º)%&, but nowhere is it clear to your reader that your paper is based on the premise of XYZ… and that’s the point. What you wrote makes sense word for word, but you can read your same words, five different ways, and each time come up with a different possibility with regard to meaning. Successful communication requires that both the person imparting the information and the person receiving the message interpret the data in the same way.”
“I am sorry. I am trying really hard, but I still don’t get where I am going wrong.” I was rubbing my head out of frustration – not quite pulling out my hair but certainly enough to hurt. I had to bow to My Lady, she really had me on the ropes.
“Here, let me give you an example that you might understand…” she continued.
(sorry, actual credit for the needlepoint belongs to: “miso funky”