Archive for category M

Must Be a Sentence

According to the standards of the Modern Language Association (MLA), you “must construct a clear, grammatically correct sentence that allows you to introduce or incorporate a quotation with complete accuracy” (109).

Below is a sample excerpt where the student incorporates a quote without ensuring that the sentences before the quote and the quote itself represent a complete grammatical unit.

Sample Excerpt

Although Realists often portray themselves as being free of idealism, they still embrace the concept of accepting the “national interest” as an ideal: a one true guide to the formulation of   the public policy of states in this dangerous international system; failure to accept the national interest, or reason of state, is a prescription for natural disaster, an increase in global violence, and an irresponsible act that places private ideas or interests above public needs. (Doyle 19)

Figure 39: Essay Excerpt for MLA Exercise


The student incorporates a quote from a reference source, sets it off within the body paragraph according to MLA standards, but doesn’t structure the sentence and the quote so that they both represent one grammatical unit.


Even though you are incorporating a quote and setting it off within your paper, the set off quote must still represent a sentence.

For any quote you incorporate into your own sentence, the sentence as a whole must still reflect a complete thought.

Revision Considerations

Below is an excerpt (represented as a quote) from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers:

If a quotation runs to more than four lines in your paper, set it off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch (or ten spaces if you are using a typewriter) from the left margin, and typing it double-spaced, without adding quotation marks. A colon generally introduces a quote displayed in this way, though sometimes the context may require a different mark of punctuation or none at all. (110)

Typically, you will double-space every paragraph of your paper. This is the general rule. If you have the same error within your paper, as illustrated in the sample excerpt, perform the following steps:

  1. Remove the colon after “ideal.”
  2. Add a period after “ideal.”
  3. Apply the following phrase: The concept represents

Here is a sample revision of the excerpt:

Although Realists often portray themselves as being free of idealism, they still embrace the concept of accepting the “national interest” as an ideal. The concept represents

a one true guide to the formulation of the public policy of states in this dangerous international system; failure to accept the national interest, or reason of state, is a prescription for natural disaster, an increase in global violence, and an irresponsible act that places private ideas or interests above public needs. (Doyle 19)

Always remember that every sentence you incorporate within your papers, whether your own or from a reference source, must represent a standard grammatical unit, with subject and verb and other corresponding parts. In addition, when incorporating a quote, and using your own sentence as an introductory statement, be certain that both elements collectively represent a complete thought.

Refer to your MLA handbook for more information on how to change elements in a quote by using brackets and other marks.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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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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Misquoting the Evidence

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

The authors’ quotes offer much about their thoughts, words, motivations, and influences. When writers sit down to write, they write with history and the present on their shoulders. In other words, writers represent a walking history walking in the present. They embody the past, which includes past feelings, mistakes, choices, and good times. As long as they are still alive they will always be in the present.

In addition, a writer also has the burden of writing for the future. What he or she says today will have an impact on someone’s tomorrow. The tasks of writers are many. When you misquote the evidence, you misquote the author’s beliefs, his or her opinions. You misquote what represents the “past.” For the author, you make him or her incredible in the present and you undoubtedly affect someone’s understanding tomorrow.

Therefore, always break down and analyze the words of a quote. If a quote has the coordinating conjunction “and” between two elements of a sentence, don’t use “or” within your analysis. Although these two words are within the same family of conjunctions, they are different in meanings. Don’t confuse the two in your analysis.

In addition, if the author doesn’t say the thing you are trying to project onto him, then you have misquoted his viewpoint. Think about your friend and how she might feel if you misquote her. The first thing your friend will say is “I didn’t say that!” Your author is no different. You must be accurate. Outline your author’s ideas in the same way that the author has within the literary work.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Makes No Sense

Essay Section: Thesis

The general rule concerning any idea you attempt to present is the expression must be clearly outlined and clearly expressed. In any conversation with a friend, if your friend doesn’t understand what you are talking about, he or she will say, “That makes no sense.”  Now insert “me” into the statement: “That makes no sense to me.” What does this type of statement imply?

Typically, when a person makes this statement, he or she is saying that what you say or have written lacks some form of logic or something crucial has been left out; in other words, the expression, whether spoken or written, isn’t comprehensible. It isn’t clearly deducible or discernible. The senses (your senses) can’t detect the expression’s quality, its nature, its boundary, where it originates, or its connection to anything.

Everything and every statement you write in a paper must connect, must correlate. Your ideas must relate and have a relation.  It is not enough to make a statement without adding some support to validate the statement. In the case of writing a paper and incorporating a quote into the middle of an expression, or just incorporating textual evidence, determine its significance, its location and its “fitness.”

What significance does it have to your overall theme? In other words, what is the purpose of including the quote? What purpose will it serve? Let’s review an excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Petruchio must command his authority as husband early.  He states, “. . . I will be master of what is mine own.  She is my goods, my chattels; [s]he is my house,/ My household stuff, my field, my barn,/ My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything . . .” (III.ii.218-21). . . . So, Petruchio exacts his respect early from Kate.  His actions are based on the precept that “. . . the wife . . . is under covert or obedience of her husband” (Homily 177).  The wife must obey her husband and honor his requests.  As she honors him, she honors God; it must also be her desire to strive for peace within the home.  This is why Petruchio takes his position as head in exacting peace before and after they arrive home.  “For . . . it is a token of womanish cowardness . . .” to not be master, to not “possess” what is rightfully, under the law, his (Homily 175, 179).  Petruchio doesn’t say in general terms that Kate is just his wife.  He defines Kate and the role or roles she must play.  He defines her identity, her communication, and her ideals.  Before they leave, she states, “I see a woman may be made a fool/ If she had not a spirit to resist” (III.ii.209-10).

Figure 21: Essay Excerpt on Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew


1) How does Petruchio command authority?

2) Why is Kate itemized?

3) What does this signify?

4) How does one exact respect? Exact peace?

5) What relation does the quote have to the listing of things?

6) How do we, as the readers, know that when a wife honors her husband she honors God?

7) What in-text evidence can we rely upon to justify this assumption?

8) In what context does the Homily suggest that “it is a token of womanish cowardness . . .” to not be master, to not “possess” what is rightfully, under the law, his?


Although the paragraph focuses on Petruchio’s one view, the paragraph is in fact a representation of many ideas and various themes that lack connection.


In reading the excerpt and evaluating the questions, we find that the student begins with one idea (how Petruchio views Kate as a possession) but ends with a number of unrelated ideas. The most important thing to remember when presenting, comparing, and contrasting ideas is to explain the relation. In the same way that your friend asks what, why, who, where, when, how, in what way, and for what reason, your professor is no different.

In a conversation, your friend forces you to explain what something is and what relation it has to something else. Your friend sits right in front of you and confronts you directly. You can’t go anywhere. If you are a girl talking to your friend girl, then you know that she won’t let you relax until you tell her the whole story.

Now think of your professor in the very same way. You are in conversation with your professor; and your professor continues to ask you questions through grading and writing marks on your paper such as “explain” and “What is the parallel here?” Until you answer all of the questions in the paper, your professor won’t let you go.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Much Better

See the comment “Better/Much Better.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas (Analyze vs. Summarize)

This is the most used comment of all comments because students don’t really understand what it means to analyze, to break something down, in this case a group of words; and then take each part and break it down to try to get at the root. To analyze is to really get at the root of the literary work. What happens when you pull a plant up from the ground? You get to the root. You see the roots and you find out that someone must have planted the seed for the flower to grow.

There is one thing that needs our immediate attention: although there are quotes incorporated within the following sample excerpt, the analysis as a whole still represents plot summary. The best way to prevent yourself from flooding your paper with plot summaries is to ask as many questions about the text as mentally possible. As you ask these questions, then answer them. This intellectual stretching of the mind, questioning and answering, begins the development of analysis. Let’s read the following excerpt from the student’s paper.

Sample Excerpt

Some would say that De Quincey was being hospitable and others might flat out contend that he was narrow-minded.  The latter holds more water.  For example, a couple lines down De Quincey divides the opium into three pieces and gives it to the Malay; and with one mouthful, he swallows it whole.  De Quincey returns in thought, “The quantity was enough to kill three dragoons and their horses:  and I felt some alarm for the poor creature:  but what could be done?” (450).  De Quincey rationalizes that he had given the Malay the opium because he was traveling by foot from London and it must have been three weeks since he’d last conversed with a human being (450); “I could not think of violating the laws of hospitality . . .” (De Quincey 450).  That would be his main defense if ever questioned.

Figure 18: Essay Excerpt on “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” Thomas De Quincey


Don’t use clichés to convey a point. Don’t substitute clichés for analysis. Learn to express a point without using a cliché.


1) Why does De Quincey divide the opium into three pieces?

2) What impact will this have on him or the other person?

3) Who is traveling by foot? De Quincey? The Malay?


The student doesn’t use proper grammar to present the summary accurately.


The student summarizes the events of the work, but fails to provide distinctions between the actions of each character. The student also uses clichés to analyze the work, which is just another form of summarizing the topic. The comment “Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas” is an instruction to help students identify plot summary, convert it into analysis, and continue discussing the topic.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Much More Could Be Said Here

See any one of the following comments for an explanation of “Much More Could Be Said Here”:  “Discuss/Discuss This,” “Explain Exactly What You Mean Here,” “Explain Why This is Significant,” and/or “I Don’t Understand What You are Trying to Say Here.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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