Lacks Clarity

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Examples)

The comment “Lacks Clarity” means you need to define your ideas. Before painting a wooden chest or anything wooden, a carpenter sands the wood to further define its sides and edges, in addition to making it distinguishable in quality. When a carpenter finishes the sanding process, the result reflects smooth edges, no roughness or projections easily seen or felt. When moving the hand against the grain of the wood, there is no difficulty or obstacle preventing the process; and the smoothness is pleasing to the touch, ready for the application of paint or finisher.

A paper that needs more definition in general or applied to a particular area is similar to wood that needs sanding before the application of a finisher or paint. When you define the edges of a paper, you make sure to place proper transitions between body paragraphs and prepare the reader for upcoming supporting evidence. Your ideas should not hinder the reader from moving forward in the process. When you don’t expand upon details or add specifics concerning an example, this hinders the learning process for the reader.

In other words, anything that sticks out and isn’t answered at the same time is a hindrance to the reader. The presence of grammar mistakes and errors hinders the process for the reader. These are the edges of the paper that require more sanding. As one solution to this problem, spend sufficient time defining your perspectives.  Evaluate every statement you make within the paper. Your statements represent all the ideas and sentences that are not from the author. In other words, highlight every sentence that is yours and yours alone. Test the sentence to determine if you have answered all of the implied questions: who, what, where, why, when, how, and in what way.

In addition, define concepts, connect ideas, make the theme/thesis distinguishable throughout the paper, and ensure the process is enjoyable for the reader. Don’t leave the reader guessing about your viewpoints. Tell the reader exactly what you are thinking and why your thoughts relate to the subject you are discussing. Set clear boundaries. The reader will not know the meanings of a word that you define as “key.” Make certain that your paper is distinct in quality. In the following sample excerpt, the student makes general assumptions. The paper overall lacks clarity. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

De Quincey eagerly acquaints the Malay as oriental. Since they are all somewhat from the same Asian country, he categorizes or equates the two.  To bring more focus, a brief example is needed. Most races feel that it is beneath them to be categorized as one.  Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans are categorized as coming from Latin America or primarily Hispanic. When approached and categorized in a way that insults, they easily take the defensive.  This is what De Quincey has done. He has taken an individual from Asian descent, or for better words, equated the idea that because he looks like he’s Asian, then he must be of Asian descent, following that he must be of Oriental descent.  That’s why he refers to the Malay as the “Oriental One” (451).

Figure 25: Essay Excerpt on “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey


1) De Quincey categorizes what or who?

2) He equates what with what?

3) Who categorizes this group of people? By what method?

4) Where are the statistics?

5) How do we know this group of people is insulted by a general categorization? Where is the evidence within the context of the literary work?

6) Is De Quincey really guilty of categorization? Is he just guilty of social conditioning, of looking at someone in the same eyes in which society looks at that person?


The absolute best method for clarifying your ideas is to spend time with your subject. Develop a relationship with your subject in the same way that you develop a relationship with a physical person. For example, when you are in a relationship, you purpose in your heart to get to know everything about the person, the good and the bad. You figure out the commonalities and the differences between the two of you, and how you might potentially function as a couple.

Therefore, this same ideology applies to the relationship you should have with your paper. Know your subject matter. Learn the business of your subject matter. Involve yourself. Be nosey with your subject. Figure out your subject. Figuratively, don’t leave the relationship until you absolutely know about your subject’s ways and mannerisms.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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