Meaning of This?

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

Before moving forward with the discussion, read the last bolded statement under the section titled “Suggestion.” This is the quickest method for explaining “Meaning of This?”

When confronted with this comment, it doesn’t matter what kind of paper you write. Where you attempt to convey a specific point that is hard to explain, a picture will undoubtedly make the point. When you look at a picture, it has so many messages that they begin to form words, turning words into sentences and sometimes into a story.

Read the following sample excerpt before continuing. The student writer uses and overuses personification, but doesn’t introduce to the reader the purpose for choosing this method or how she will use this technique. In addition, the writer switches between personification and 3rd-person point of view. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

First, the study of genealogy—of cultural patterns/social constraints and charting the impact of familial values—suggests that it can, indeed, carry and reveal meaning. The ability to remain consistent in the process of determining the beginning of things requires (on the part of the genealogist) an attention to detail and specifics. Genealogy is proactive in its effort to procure and record vital information that demands one’s familiarity with the “history of morals, ideals, and metaphysical concepts” and the historical process (Cahoone 246).  It plays an even more specific role in the idea that it doesn’t stand in opposition to history (Cahoone 242). It is categorical in nature; and regardless of its ability to duplicate documents and historical information, genealogy operates “on a field of entangled and confused parchments, on documents that have been scratched over and recopied many times” (Cahoone 241), producing a precise and an accurate account of the impact of social values and cultural patterns upon all individuals and humanity.

Figure 32: Essay Excerpt on the Subject of Genealogy and Faulkner’s Double Consciousness


1) The student doesn’t define how she will use a particular term within the context of her essay.

2) In addition, the student personifies the term within the context of her essay.

3) The original author doesn’t personify the term.


1) In what way does “genealogy” carry and reveal meaning?

2) Is the effect here similar to a person carrying and revealing something, as if the something represents, for example, a purse?


1) “Genealogy” is not a person. “Genealogy is proactive . . .” is an example of personification.

2) It is much simpler to change “genealogy” to “genealogist.”

3) How do we know that “genealogy” is categorical in nature?

4) What does it mean to be “categorical in nature?”

5) What is the definition of “category” within the context of the paragraph?


The best solution: Paint a picture.

Revision Considerations

It is clear that the writer needs to paint a picture. There is foundation in the analysis, but what makes the analysis is the supporting information. Here are some easy steps to consider as you revise for meaning:

1) Either introduce to the reader that you will personify “genealogy” or remove the instances of personification altogether.

2) Change statements to reflect 3rd-person’s observer’s point of view.

3) Define terms. Explain concepts. Don’t use personification when you can clearly use other options to convey your point.

Personification is the attribution of human-like qualities to the inanimate.

4) Paint a picture of what you want to convey.

In other words, in the sample excerpt the writer may have easily included an example of an unclean room with toys and clothes and shoes everywhere, not a dish cleaned; a room that needs cleaning and one that needs to be straightened, put back into order. Since the room can’t clean itself, then some person needs to come in and clean it and return items back to where they were.

After this example, include how this relates to the role of a genealogist. You may argue within the paper that the genealogist operates on the same level; since documents can’t explain themselves, the genealogist must equip himself or herself with the task of bringing order to chaos. This is your example. You have just painted a picture. You have provided meaning to your example also.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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