I Don’t Understand What You Are Trying to Say Here

Students are always tempted to use fancy words. There is nothing wrong with developing your vocabulary. However, when using a word, if you don’t know how to relate it to simple words within your papers, then you do your paper a disservice as well as the art of using complex words. Know the meaning of words. Know their functions and know how you want to use them.

Figure 10 is a good example of a student’s misguided attempt at connecting the more complex word with words that relate to the examples presented within the paper. We say “misguided” because the student doesn’t use a dictionary for “reciprocity” or “exchange,” but does for “prostitution.” Unless you research all of the words, you won’t know if one has any relation to another. Here’s the sample.

Sample Excerpt

Throughout the play lies the practice of reciprocity.  Many characters desire to go beyond their own personal need for something better regardless of the cost.  In many situations, there is an exchange of ideas, roles, and positions.  But there is one particular point the play desires to make with these different exchanges, that regardless of the gift in return, no exchange is worth the price paid.  And the price paid in the instance of the play is prostitution.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “prostitution” in many ways.  It is defined as the “offer of oneself unlawfully, usually for hire, to devote or expose to lewdness.”  Such devotion requires moving the word from a noun to a verb, hence, to prostitute.  So, now the word evokes action and implies the lace of control on the one subjected.  Whoever is being prostituted is subjected to lewdness, shame, and disgrace in many ways.  And the term prostitute translates as incest in the first scene.

Figure 10: Essay Excerpt on The Theme of Exchange in Pericles


1) How are you defining “reciprocity?” Is this the definition? Are you defining reciprocity in terms of the word “exchange?”

2) Can a play desire?

3) Is “prostitution” a form of exchange, a form of reciprocity? Does the play provide an example of prostitution?

4) What scene, character, or underlying tone will you use to prove that the play “prostitution” is an exchange that is not worth the price paid?


Within the essay, the student uses a term to describe and/or define another term. In other words, the student uses the term “reciprocity” as a synonym for “exchange” and uses both terms as definitions for “prostitution.” The problem with this is the student never uses or applies the term(s) within the context of the literary work.  In addition, the student also includes additional terms and relates them to “reciprocity,” “exchange,” and “prostitution.” For example, she doesn’t define the words “incest” and the phrase “lace of control.”

Essentially, what the student does is take a word, locate it in the dictionary, use a definition that she can understand, and attempt to develop an analysis based upon the definition of the word and not the context of the work itself. Analyzing the context, situation, and environment of the literary work is more important than incorporating a theme. Once you understand the work, you will be able to apply a theme appropriately.

Revision Considerations

A preliminary revision solution for this paper would be to use the terms the author uses and define those terms within the context of the literary work.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: