To be vague is to be unclear about something, to fail to provide enough details or write (say) exactly what you mean. In the following sample excerpt, the student doesn’t provide a justification as an explanation for the characters in the story.

Sample Excerpt

Mr. Compson makes an interesting observation while recounting the events of Sutpen’s drama to his son about searching for truth and the reasoning/justification that results. He states, “Have you noticed how so often when we try to reconstruct the causes which lead up to the actions of men and women, how with a sort of astonishment we find ourselves now and then reduced to the belief, the only possible belief, that they stemmed from some of the old virtues?  [T]he thief who steals not for greed but for love, . . .” (Faulkner, Absalom 121). Both Bunch and Henry accept the truth about marginal characters in their stories because it is the only thing they have at the present and it is this truth that is pivotal to subsequent actions taken against subject members of society. These unsubstantiated conclusions often contributed to the lynching and continued social segregation of southern black citizens. Source: Student Paper

Figure 48: Essay Excerpt on Compson and the Sutpen Drama, Absalom, Absalom!


The student uses generalized statements to form part of her analysis, but she doesn’t provide in-text evidence from the source to validate assumptions and claims.


1) What is the reasoning and justification that results?    

2) What comes before it?

3) What are the causes?

4) How do both Bunch and Henry accept the truth about marginal characters?

5) What is the truth?

6) Where is the in-text evidence of this truth?

 Revision Considerations

Always outline both the causes and the effects of an action.

See also the comments “Clarify,” “I Don’t Understand What You are Trying to Say Here,” “Not a Clear Distinction,” “Too General to be Meaningful,” and “Too Broad” for extended explanations.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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