Better/Much Better

Essay Section: Topic Sentences

In general, professors use margin comments for two major reasons:

1) to prepare you to write a subsequent draft and

2) to highlight areas that lack and/or require analysis.

For example, a professor might offer students an opportunity to rewrite a paper for a better grade. Without the revision, students who don’t revise the paper will undoubtedly receive a less than favorable mark on that particular assignment.

In some cases, a professor might deem an unrevised paper as a failure to meet all of the class requirements. In other words, a professor might consider revising the essay as a contributing factor to your grade. Just remember that not all professors grade the same or use the same margin comments for grading purposes.

On the other hand, professors also use margin comments to help you guide your analysis. Professors don’t write your papers. They guide. They mentor. They highlight areas that need further clarification, more specifics, and sound evaluation. The analysis part of the paper is where you, as the student, evaluate what you have presented.

For example, you evaluate the quotes, supporting evidence, and views of the author you are discussing. The analysis doesn’t hold plot or general summaries. Therefore, when a professor writes “much more could be said here,” the professor’s goal is to help you elaborate more on an example or on a quote. This doesn’t mean that one paragraph is completely better than another. This only means you must give the same time and care to each body paragraph of your paper.

With this in mind, when you receive “Better” or “Much better,” your professor is calling attention to the second version of your paper or the part of your original paper that exemplifies “analysis.” Your analysis is basically a method you choose as a way of uncovering the hidden meanings of the text(s) you are discussing within the paper. To the professor, the comments mean that the newest contribution is more favorable than the last. In addition, the comments suggest that your analysis is more in line with or proportionate to the standard method of analyzing a quote, which includes evaluation.

Examine the following excerpt and the questions in the side bar (print texts). Notice the difference between the second bolded sentence and the last underlined sentences. The student could have provided more evaluation of her statement. However, with regard to the underlined sentence, the analysis is “much better.”

Sample Excerpt

De Quincey introduces the pains of opium, which presents the Malay.  The Malay knocked at the door and De Quincey wondered immediately “what business a Malay could have to transact amongst English Mountains” (449).  De Quincey thought that he might be on his road to a seaport some forty miles away. He continues to mentally attack the Malay as the servant opens the door. There stood both the Malay and a little girl. By De Quincey’s view “his attainment in English were exactly of the same extent as hers in the Malay, there seemed to be an impassable gulf fixed between all communication of ideas, if either party had happened to possess any” (449). It was clear that De Quincey didn’t take too kindly to whom he deemed outsiders.  He couldn’t fathom the nature of the Malay, knowing that he is below De Quincey, as to why it would prompt him to call upon De Quincey. De Quincey assumes his inner criticism of the Malay and the little girl.  The visitors called upon De Quincey to exorcise a demon from their house.

He accepts the request and hesitantly goes down to the house and comes upon the group “which presented itself, arranged as it was by accident, though not very elaborate, took hold of my fancy and my eye in a way that none of the statuesque attitudes exhibited in the ballets at the Opera House . . . had never done” (450). Simply stated, they are savaged, untamed and primitive.  They don’t fit the perception of people who are among the social elite.  By De Quincey’s standards, they are illiterate and uneducated to the world around them; nor do they have the potential for pursuing the value of an education.  It is his belief that they don’t value anything.

Figure 23: Essay Excerpt on “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey


Providing context will help you understand the relationships between characters. Here is an assessment of this excerpt.

1) How do the pains of opium “present” the Malay?

2) What was the relationship between a Malay and an Englishman? Provide historical context.

3) What is clear?

4) What exactly is De Quincey’s attitude toward the Malay? What is his perspective? Who were the Malay?

“Much Better”

The professor wrote “Much Better” near the underlined sentence in contrast to the second bolded sentence. This means that the student has provided some analysis, an interpretation of the ideas within the context of the author’s work and the (student’s) understanding of the work.

Whereas the student doesn’t fully develop her ideas in the beginning, in this one paragraph, instead of just incorporating a quote, she adds an explanation. This is why this paragraph is different from the previous one.  It is better.  In other words, much more could be said with regard to the second bolded sentence. 

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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