Archive for category P

Punctuation

“Punctuation” is a comment professors write in the margins to highlight the nature of a specific sentence. Typically, the comment only points to the end of the sentence, the place where you have forgotten to either add, for example, a period or question mark.

Determine the nature of the type of sentence you are writing and add the appropriate punctuation at the end. For more tips on how to correct punctuation errors, see the explanation for “Proofreading.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Proofreading

This comment refers to grammar. A professor will write this comment on your paper when he or she feels you haven’t allowed enough time to proofread for errors. Figure 41: The FAVORS  Quick Self-Proofreading Checklist table is a tool to use at the end of the writing process. Use the checklist before submitting the final draft of your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Passive Construction

See the comment “Active Voice/Passive Voice.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Points Don’t Connect

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

A husband and wife connect. People connect. Friends connect.  Parents and children connect. Why do all of these people connect?  In other words, what is the connection between their connectedness? What connects each person with the other? If people can connect, then so can ideas and concepts. The sample excerpt demonstrates that the writer hasn’t connected one idea with another. Instead of providing a typical explanation for this comment, let’s just ask questions. The questions will represent the explanation. Read the sample excerpt. Evaluate the questions in light of the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Nelly’s guesses about Catherine leave a lot of unanswered questions.  Both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision of the afterlife are contrary.  Nelly wonders where Catherine is (after death), but then concludes that the latter is at peace, where God holds her spirit in a life of no bounds and love coupled with sympathy and joy to the fullest.  The narrator asserts that the body of Catherine is in tranquility.  But Nelly misquotes Catherine’s vision.  The reader remembers the words of Catherine such as “ ‘ . . . incomparably beyond, and above us all,’ and these lead her [Nelly] to the conclusion that her ‘spirit is at home with God.’  However, we remember Cathy’s vision of the afterlife was ambiguous. She desired escape into that glorious world, but claimed that she would ‘not be at peace’ until Heathcliff joined her in death” (Marsh 16).

Figure 38: Essay Excerpt on Nelly and Catherine, Wuthering Heights

Questions

Here are some questions to consider regarding this excerpt.

1) What is the connection between Nelly and Catherine? Who is Nelly to Catherine? Who is Catherine to Nelly? Why does the author group them together?

2) What is Nelly’s vision of the afterlife? What is Catherine’s vision of the afterlife? How can two visions be contrary one to the other? How does the text juxtapose their visions? In what context is there present this type of juxtaposition?

3) Do their visions of the afterlife represent their belief systems or did they just have a vision of the afterlife?

4) How does “God” figure into their visions of the afterlife? Does their belief in God or their reference to God connect Nelly and Catherine in any way?

5) Who is the narrator? What function does the narrator have in Nelly’s relationship to Catherine? What function does the narrator have in Catherine’s relationship to Nelly? Is the narrator a silent observer or is the narrator a character in the story?

6) Is the reader a character in the story or is the reader a silent observer? What is the connection between the reader and the narrator? What are their roles? What is the link between them both?

7) Who is Heathcliff? What is his connection to Nelly? What is his connection to Catherine? What is his connection to both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision of the afterlife? Does Heathcliff have a vision of the afterlife? If so, is his vision different from both Nelly’s and Catherine’s vision?

Explanation

A reader, another writer, and your professor should not finish reading your paper still in doubt about your purpose, about why you have written the paper. The best way to correct this problem is to annotate your own paper by asking as many questions as you can for every paragraph.  You can correct some ideas when you are just missing a few elements. However, in the case of the sample excerpt, the writer is missing too much information.

The student either 1) makes points that appear not to have relevance and/or a connection to another point or the student just 2) makes one point, then another, and then another without connecting any of the points. As a solution, by comparing and contrasting, determine the points at which ideas link and at which ideas don’t link. In this case, the points represent examples.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Prove It!

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

Read the comment “Not a Theme In” first as a reference source to the explanation of this comment.

Many professors are loyal and obedient servants to the canon. They encourage and expect loyalty from their students and will investigate any paper that doesn’t adhere to the canon of thought on a particular author and his or her work.

However, among these professors lie the one who not only will encourage adherence to the canon but also will not debate your deviation from it if you can prove the points you make within your analysis. In other words, if the theme of jealousy is not a typical concept literary critics apply to a particular contemporary work, meaning it is not a part of the canon of literary themes for that work, then you must prove that the theme you want to use may be applicable to the work under exceptional circumstances.

With this in mind, a professor of this type will require you to discuss canonical themes within the body of your paper, but will also allow you to make certain points that are not standard if you can accurately and clearly express the idea(s) with supporting textual evidence from the literary work. You may add the evidence within the body paragraphs. You must also provide additional information within the conclusion/extended discussion section of your paper, because in this section you will need to outline suggestions and recommendations for how to use the non-traditional theme and how it may have larger applicability to other works.

That’s why it is important that you understand the nature of the evidence, because the evidence must be an appropriate match to your new idea. For example, everything has a match, so a theme that is already a part of the canon will fit the type of quote you use from your text. Past literary scholars have tried and tested it for suitability. However, in your quest to be different and innovative, you are proposing another “type” of theme.

Therefore, make the argument in the conclusion/extended discussion section of your paper, but don’t force a quote to match your theme within the body paragraphs. That’s why you have to make certain that your theme, “your” idea, is appropriately matched to the nature of the work. It is important to be innovative, but it is more important to be accurate.

In essence, before you set a goal to be innovative, make sure that what you want to do is actually possible to do. When your new idea and an appropriate quote from the text match, you have successfully proved your point.

See also the comments “An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” and “Proof?

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Proof?

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

There are two types of “proof” you must demonstrate throughout the course of your academic studies: 1) proof of knowledge in terms of demonstrating “what you know” through the medium of testing and 2) examples as proof in terms of demonstrating your understanding concerning the purpose of “textual evidence.”

Incorporating in-text evidence within the academic paper is the most important goal that any student writer needs to set. The purpose of your education, as a student, is to learn theory and apply what you learn. In school, you learn knowledge and you talk about knowledge. For example, you learn about an author’s perspective by reading an argument. You learn about the different themes within a short story. You learn about the “character” of a character in a play. You also learn how to demonstrate your knowledge. At the end of the semester, you take a test to determine how well you can apply what you have learned and this type of test typically represents a final exam. The exam measures your ability to retrieve information necessary for providing proof of knowledge.

On the final exam your professor requires you to develop your ideas by making points and providing examples as proof. In other words, it is not enough to tell the reader what the story is about (proof of knowledge) without analyzing relationships and patterns of behavior from the text (examples as proof). The reader must know the embedded meanings, not just meanings that live and breathe on the surface. In order to do this, you must present in-text evidence, examples of how a character thinks about another character.

You can’t write that Katharina is a great character and she likes Petruchio without providing the exact line from the play from which they are both characters. Demonstrating your proof of knowledge and using examples as proof are both necessary for proving that you know what you know.

In the following sample excerpt, the student makes assumptions and fails to provide textual evidence to support her statements. The student doesn’t demonstrate her proof of knowledge, nor does she provide examples as proof within the analysis. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

First, Petruchio structures his own behavior just before he marries Katharina, breaking down the usual perception she has of men and people in general.  It is his goal that she never figures him out.  For example, the day of the wedding he is not only late, but arrives uncouth, disheveled, and uncompromising, a behavior not completely farfetched from Katharina’s own attitude, but is surprisingly uncommon in that Petruchio meticulously strives to dismantle her defenses by taking (the concept of) “shock” to new levels.

Figure 35: Essay Excerpt on Petruchio and Katharina, The Taming of the Shrew

Problems

The student doesn’t provide in-text evidence of claims she makes within the essay.

Critique

1) Where is the in-text evidence of Petruchio’s supposed goal? How do we know that this is his goal?

2) Where is the in-text evidence that Petruchio strives to dismantle Katharina’s defenses? What are Katharina’s defenses?

3) How does he take the concept of shock to new levels? Is it Petruchio’s main objective to shock? What is the in-text evidence?

Explanation

Remember the commercial from the 1980s of the old woman picking up the hamburger bun and saying, “Where’s the beef?” The in-text evidence is the beef. When you leave it out, you leave out a substantial part. You leave out the author’s contribution to your paper.

You cannot make statements within your paper and not support them with evidence. If you do this, your paper will appear less than credible. There is a certain legitimacy evoked when a student appreciates an author by incorporating in-text evidence from the literary work.

Revision Considerations

In the sample excerpt, the student makes an unsupported statement and it appears to the reader as just an assumption. The only way to correct statements that lack evidence from the text is to locate a quote within the author’s work that matches the student’s assumption.

Doing this will help to match your ideas about the literary work with the corresponding evidence. In other words, learn how to match white socks with white socks and red socks with red socks. Don’t make a statement, a generalized overview, without incorporating the proof.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Prove It.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Plot Summary

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

Sometimes your professor will just write “plot summary” to show you that a particular passage represents the summary of a plot within a work. Plot summary is the opposite of analysis.

See the comment “Avoid Plot Summary” for useful tips.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Move Beyond Summary of Author’s Ideas: Analyze vs. Summarize.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Plagiarism

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

For an explanation, see the comments “Too Close to the Original” and “Introduce the Quote.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Provide Examples

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Examples)

Providing examples is another level within the analysis process. To move from mere generalization into the arena of the particular, you will need to add examples to further elaborate on a point you have made. Examples add more substance to your analysis. By adding examples, your professor perceives that you are able to develop a topic sentence, incorporate quotes, and match your example to the two.

On this level, you are learning how to synthesize information and how to distinguish between what doesn’t fit and what does. Your examples must never be off the subject. They must always be relevant to the subject and to your topic.

For extended explanations of this comment, see also the comment titles “Elaborate” and “Off the Subject.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved

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Phony (Wordy)

Have you ever been in the presence of a person who has tried to be something or someone he or she is not? What is the first thing you say about that person? You say the person is fake or you call attention to the abilities that he or she lacks: She can’t do this or that. She’s not even smart enough for that. She needs to act right.

What you are saying in these words is that the person needs to be herself instead of trying to be something or someone else. This kind of fakeness, or phoniness, shows up or reveals itself in other ways, particularly in writing. When we try to use phrases and words in the wrong context, words that are just unusable for the kind of sentence we are writing, we appear phony and our writing lacks that genuine feel. We are not authentic.

The best solution to phoniness is this: Cultivate your own signature. Everyone has a thumbprint. Everyone has a signature, a way of writing that is recognizable even when you leave that professor’s class. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to your writing. Don’t make it ever a primary mission to impress. When you establish a goal to impress someone, you have just moved into a state of phoniness. In other words, you have set a goal to be less than genuine.

Just be yourself in person and in your writing.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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