Figure 45: Excerpt of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas).”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “A” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

Figure 44 below provides a sample of an ambiguous thesis. Let’s read.

Figure 44: Example of an Ambiguous Thesis

In my paper, I will discuss how Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about direct action and segregation.

What is ambiguous about the above thesis? In other words, what is the ambiguity? A standard dictionary defines the word “ambiguous” as having more than one meaning or causing uncertainty. The same dictionary defines “ambiguity” as an expression or statement that has more than one meaning. The student’s thesis has five parts:

1) What the student will do

2) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles

3) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point

4) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about direct action

5) How Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles to convey his point about segregation

Let’s locate the ambiguity in the student’s thesis.

Ambiguity #1: how Martin Luther King, Jr. uses ten composition principles

Ambiguity #2: his point about direct action and segregation

Ambiguity #3: word sequence, cause-and-effect (i.e., direct action and segregation)

Before revising for ambiguity, let’s read the first paragraph of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” under Figure 45.

Figure 45: Excerpt of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

 Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”  Seldom do I pause to answer criticisms of my work and ideas.  If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.  But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

Group Activity

Revise the student’s thesis to reflect the true purpose of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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