Whenever anyone says “I feel awkward” that person immediately associates the sentiment with feeling out of place. A ninth grader feels out of place at a twelfth grade dance. The same idea can apply to a professor’s observation of either your paper as a whole or a particular passage within the paper.

Review the sample excerpt. In the sample, the student doesn’t define how “Selden” as a character symbolizes a thematic allusion. What does Selden allude to thematically? What are Killoran’s views on structural and thematic allusion? What is “structural allusion”? What is “thematic allusion?” Within the analysis, the student hasn’t answered any of these questions neither has she laid a proper foundation for incorporating literary terms.

Sample Excerpt

Selden symbolizes a thematic allusion according to Helen Killoran’s view on structural and thematic allusions in The House.  Killoran suggests that the “themes that emerge from the allusions sometimes agree with general critical perception, such as [. . .] the idea of Lawrence Selden as a well-meaning but ineffectual Prince Charming” (13).

Figure 5: Essay Excerpt on Selden, The House of Mirth


Student doesn’t define how Selden symbolizes a thematic allusion, nor does she define important literary terms.


With this in mind, what if the student wanted to remove the first sentence as part of an overall revision objective? Removing awkward sentences are easy. The general consensus is if something is out of place, fix it by removing it. However, removing sentences isn’t always an option. Sometimes you just have to confront the task of determining where best to place a sentence to improve the effectiveness of that paragraph.

Sometimes an awkward sentence may need to go somewhere else within the essay. To remove it altogether isn’t always the most productive thing to do. In addition, before you can delete or revise an awkward sentence, you must still answer all of the necessary questions. If you are using a literary term as a basis for your analysis, then you must define that term in light of the passage. You must define how you will use it within your analysis.

If you receive this comment, review the paragraph where the professor places the comment. Study it in relationship to the other paragraphs. Ask yourself this question: Can my paper function fully without this sentence? If it can, then remove the sentence and/or paragraph. However, if it can’t, then you have work to do.

To analyze the sentence fully, start asking questions. One important question is this: What purpose does the sentence have in relation to the other sentences? Study the sentences. Is your sentence a “cause” or an “effect?” What is the context of your sentence? How does it fit within the context of your other sentences and supporting evidence (i.e., quotes)? Don’t make the sentence fit where it doesn’t fit, but do fully maximize its qualities.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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