Archive for category S


The word “syntax” means the careful arrangement, order, and assembling together of words. A sentence represents an example of syntax in the same way that a sentence also represents a complete sentence. When your professor writes “Syntax” on your paper, the professor is calling attention to the fact that the arrangement of the elements of the sentence causes confusion.

Even though you are working with just one sentence, you must adopt the same methodology you use when creating more than one sentence. In other words, throughout your analysis, you will create multiple sentences to illustrate the sequence of the author’s work. You may construct up to five total sentences. However, when it comes to one sentence with a syntax problem, you still have to understand the chronology of the story. If one thing comes before another, then you have to convey this within the sentence.

As you construct the one sentence, think about what has happened first, then second, and last. Create the sentence with chronology in mind, without using these words, but by placing the elements within their respective places. In other words, don’t place something that happens last in the first position within a sentence.

For example, if Jane walks the dog, goes to the store, and later goes home, don’t place Jane goes home as the first element. By implication we know that Jane has left the house to walk the dog; and we also know by implication that Jane comes back or returns home. We don’t need the words first, second, and third. By using these words, you may have to construct three sentences, but it is unnecessary to do so when the sentence is simple. In essence, always think about each element in a sentence, its relationship to other elements, and its place in the sentence.

For an extended explanation, see the comment “Sequence.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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Single-Space Long Quote

According to the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation style manual, it is standard to double-space a long quote set off (indented) from a paragraph in the same way that it is standard to double-space each element of the entire paper, including your name, course title, professor’s name, and date in the far left top corner of the first page.

However, there will be times, not many, where a professor will tell you to single-space the indented quote. These are quotes that exceed the standard four lines. The professor doesn’t disagree with the citation style of MLA. For her class, she just prefers not to read a lengthy quote that starts on one page and ends up on another.

Don’t worry about the standard in this case, because these are the professor’s “instructions” and he or she sets the tone and the requirements for the class. Don’t assume that just because this one professor puts a different spin on standard requirements that every professor you take after him or her will like this.

Unless your professor says otherwise, i.e. within the essay prompt or during a verbal discussion of an upcoming test, always adhere to MLA standards, or those that apply to your particular discipline (i.e., APA, Chicago Style, or Harvard Referencing Style).

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Of all the comments of this glossary, the explanation for “Sequence” is probably the least threatening from your professor.

This is what I did this morning: I woke up. I took a shower. I cooked and ate oatmeal. I watched television. I wrote more explanations for the glossary. I ate again at around noon. I watched television to rest my eyes from the computer. I wrote about two more explanations. At midnight tonight, I will go to bed.

What did this person do “first?” At “noon” what did this person do? What will this person do at “midnight?”

In the above example of a typical day, there isn’t any time marker signifying when something happens. However, by reading the sentences, noticing that the first action that takes place is the waking up and the fact that it is the first sentence in first place, we assume that this sentence represents the first action of the day. We also know by giving attention to the use of the future verb tense “will go” that this action hasn’t taken place yet.

The above example is a clear illustration of sequence without using “first,” “next,” and “then.” Sometimes these words are not necessary, but when you write your papers, do give attention to what happens first, second, and last. If you don’t know what event takes place first in the story, then you will, without thinking, place a “first event” in the middle of other events within your analysis.

If you don’t want to use specific words to tell the reader what happens in sequence, be sure you understand each action, its type, its connection to a character, its connection to other events, and its place (sequence) within the context of the story. Be certain you convey this in your writing. Your reader should leave understanding the chronology and sequence of events of the story.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Sentence Unfocused

In taking an essay exam, within the allotted time you must be able not only to take the exam but also drown out the surrounding noise, the coughs, the people knocking their pens against the desk, and other distracting elements. You have to focus. You have to see the object, the test before you, understand each question, and be able to construct a focused response without rambling.

Your response must consist of a solid thesis, strong supporting paragraphs with relevant evidence and examples, and a conclusion that demonstrates to your professor an observer’s point of view about the subject matter, which often represents the contemplation of the larger implications.

Sometimes the allotted time is a mere 50 minutes; and sometimes it is one hour and fifty minutes. If a student doesn’t answer each question or fails to construct a solid response, then he or she can expect to receive a lower grade. In some cases, the professor is more lenient with in-class essay exams. However, a professor tends not to be forgiving with a student who has had the whole weekend to write and revise a paper.

To the professor, the whole weekend represents three 24-hour days, which is more than enough time to allow for the space of revision in order to bring more focus to a part or many parts of an essay. This is not the main point of this comment. It is just a simple, but necessary digression.

When you are writing a paper, concentrate particularly on the object before you, and focus all of your energies by drowning out the surrounding noise. In the following sample excerpt, the student hasn’t allowed enough time to revise. During the revision process, certain errors of a paper will become clear.

For example, if there are disjointed statements, abrupt transitions, and undefined phrases, then all of these issues will need to undergo correction during the revision process. The following excerpt reflects a student who doesn’t remember her thesis and who hasn’t dedicated enough time to determine if a topic sentence matches her thesis. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

In a chapter entitled “Odysseus’ Scar,” Auerbach explores the visible nature of identity, whereas the modern conception is often internal.

Figure 63: Essay Excerpt on Auerbach’s “Odysseus’ Scar”


1) How does Auerbach explore the visible nature of identity?

2) What is the visible nature of identity?

3) What is the modern conception?

4) Does the “modern conception” of this sentence refer to the modern conception of the nature of identity?

5) Does Auerbach explore the modern conception?


In the sample excerpt, the student wants to focus on “identity,” because this is the center of the entire paper and the thesis; a focus on “visible nature” as a description of “identity” is on the right track. However, a sidetrack into “modern conception” has nothing to do with the overall theme of the paper, which is to focus on identity and the visible qualities that determine such things as race, how these visible elements contribute to the discrimination of certain people(s), and how they incite discrimination.

The simplest solution for solving a problem where a particular sentence lacks focus is to tell you to remember your purpose for writing the paper. For anything in the forms of examples and support that doesn’t match your thesis, your purpose, categorize it as irrelevant and throw it out.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Sentence Sense.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Sentence Sense

Have you ever heard this statement: “What sense does that make?” This question has the same relationship to other types of questions and statements such as “Why in the world would you do that?” and “It doesn’t make much sense to do that?” and lastly, “You did that because . . . why?”

What makes sense to you doesn’t always make sense to everyone else. Just because a person doesn’t understand where you are coming from, what you are talking about, doesn’t mean you are wrong.

However, if you don’t have a firm understanding of what you know, and you haven’t determined the simplest method of expressing what you know, then whatever you say or write will not be as clear to the other person as you think it is to yourself.

Examine the following sample excerpt where the student attempts to use elevated language to describe the ideas the author expresses within the work.

Sample Excerpt

The inequality of nature, whether racial, gender-based, certain beliefs or religious, has held up to personal opinions as well as professional.

Figure 62: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset


1) What is the “inequality of nature?”

2) What is nature?

3) What are nature’s inequalities?

4) Is “race” or “racial” considered to be an inequality?

5) How is “gender-based” an inequality?

6) What do the personal opinions and professional opinions have to do with the inequality of nature?


You have undoubtedly said to a person, “It’s all in my head. I know what I am trying to say. It’s just hard to tell you.” As you speak, you are hoping that whatever is in your head, jumbled up or not, the other person will know you enough to understand. This happens a great deal in writing.  Students have the ideas in their heads. They know what they want to write. They say it aloud to a friend in conversation, but when they begin the task of writing, what’s in their heads doesn’t transition effectively to written form.

Immediately, when confronted with expressing a certain idea in your papers, say it aloud. After this first activity, begin to write. Don’t worry about formality, or if the comma is in the right place. Just write as if you are channeling your thoughts into a journal. After you finish writing that one sentence or paragraph, then reconstruct what you have written into a formal sentence.

Always remember that a grammatical sentence must represent a complete unit. No sentence that has an adverb but is missing a verb to modify it is grammatically correct. The same idea applies to adjectives and nouns.  Before you can add an adjective to a sentence, you must have a noun. When a crucial element is missing from a sentence, one needed to make the sentence function properly, meanings become jumbled together. Such an error causes a reader not to understand the connection between the elements within a sentence.

The sentence of the sample excerpt is not grammatically incorrect.  However, the ideas are so jumbled together that the reader doesn’t know how the elements after the first comma relate to the “inequality of nature.” Make all sentences grammatical by following the basic principles of grammar, which include references to subject-verb agreement and the functions of both nouns and adjectives. In addition, always define terms and demonstrate their connection.

Revision Considerations

Don’t assume that just because you have an understanding in your head about what is going on in the sentence that the reader and your professor will understand also. Take the time to be thorough so your reader doesn’t begin to feel as though he or she is in a maze trying to find the light!

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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If a difference is present within your paper between what you have read and what you understand (reason), then your professor will write “sense” in the margins to highlight a problem with your interpretation.

We take in life, and all its elements, through our five basic senses. What we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell affect us. We are gifted with these senses for the sole purpose of discriminating and differentiating between one thing and its other. When we write the academic paper, we use not only the physical sense of sight, but also sense in terms of reason.

We express reason through utilizing our abilities to “perceive,” “judge,” and “interpret,” to look directly at an object and examine it with the purpose of determining its value and usefulness. When you read a text (an object), you approach it with the purpose of examining it to test its value, its worthiness.

If you have determined after reading that it is indeed worthy of consideration for use by just applying the basic sense of sight, then you approach the text differently when you begin to read and understand its content, which includes what the author believes about a particular idea and the author’s opinions.

After you finish writing, your response (in the form of an essay) to the text must reflect your understanding of what you have just read. Your understanding, as illustrated through the medium of analysis, represents your ability to take in what you read, process it, and produce a final product that is indicative of careful and logical reasoning.

With this in mind, the best solution to filling the gap between what you read and what you understand is to reread a section of the text that you are having problems with and think about who the major players are. Ask yourself who is doing what to whom, why, and for what reason. The excerpt below is an example of a student’s learning gap. The student reads the text, processes the information, but fails to use reason and logic to reveal all of the qualities of the text. In essence, what you see is what you get in the student’s paper. However, what you read is what the professor must get. Notice the gaps in the student’s analysis.

Sample Excerpt

Several critics support Gasset’s assertion. They prove with their examples, observations, and careful analysis the validity of Gassett’s view.

Figure 61: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset


1) How do the critics use their examples, observations, and analyses to validate Gasset’s assertion?

2) What are the critics’ observations?

3) What are the critics’ examples?

4) What is each critic’s analysis?

5) What is each critic’s method?

6) What are the critics trying to prove?

Revision Considerations

Revising a section of your paper for “sense” is not easy, but it is necessary. How you present your ideas logically will affect your professor’s interpretation of your analysis. You must understand what you read and you must demonstrate this understanding within your writing.

Therefore, when developing editing objectives for revising sections for “sense,” consider correcting those areas of your paper where you have included steps, cause and effect parallels, historical context, and deductive reasoning. These are the areas of your paper that if not revised might contribute to the lowering of your grade.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Specify (Be Specific)

Professors use this comment often, especially if they don’t always know or can’t think of any of the other popular comments. All English students function with this notion: The professor already knows the story, so I don’t have to include everything. The student isn’t wrong in assuming this. The professor is not asking you to recite the whole story in your paper.

Your primary objective as the student is to create, develop, and provide an analysis based upon the instruction of the essay prompt. Although the professor doesn’t want plot summary to fill your papers, there are times when details are necessary. Without detail, your expressions represent mere generalizations, mostly about nothing.

There is a way to provide detail without adding too much plot summary. First, ask yourself this: Why do I care about this subject? Now think about the same question in terms of your mother asking you, “Why do you care about going to this party?” When you answer your mother, you are specific in your responses because you are trying to convince her to let you go.

Your main objective is to persuade, to convince your mother that the idea is good and it is beneficial for you to attend the party. Whenever you want something badly enough you explain and provide ample justification for why you need or want to do something.

If you are able to provide reasons for justifying your desires, then you are capable of providing reasons for why you are writing on a particular topic. We know that you are writing about a subject because you use your thesis to tell us what you plan to do within the body of your paper.

You have the option of choosing anything for a thesis. After all you are the one who has created it; so why have you chosen this thesis, this subject? You must be able to convey “why” in the body. Does the subject spark an interest? What is the interest? What relation does the interest have to something else? Be specific.

You get into your car to drive it for a specific reason. You put on your clothes to go outside for a specific reason, and you call your friend on the phone for a specific reason. In the same way that you do all of these things for specific reasons, you incorporate an example in your paper for a specific reason. As you revise parts of your papers such as examples, ask yourself these questions:

1) Why this example?

2) What relation does the example have to another point I make?

3) What is important about the example?

4) Why does it spark my interest?

5) I can choose many examples to use for this paper, so why do I like this one?

6) Why do I care about choosing this example?

Although these questions appear repetitious, it is important to approach the task of asking questions from many directions.

With this in mind, in the same way that you want your professor to offer specific information in the response he or she gives you concerning a grade you don’t like, you must adopt the same objective when initially revising the paper. Keep these questions in mind for every element of your papers (i.e., supporting evidence, quote, ideas, statistics, topic sentences, etc.).

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Solid Effort

People try many things. They try to open a business. They try to run a marathon. They try to be nice. They try to write a paper.

On the other hand, there are certain people who try to aim for something on a different level. These people try to set a new goal to become an athlete, to discipline the body and be master of it. However, because of bad planning, an unwillingness to let go of some foods, and inconsistency, they fail to reach the full expression of this goal.

We say to that person this:  You have done well. You have given a good effort. Don’t be so down on yourself. Keep trying. You have much to be proud of and you don’t have to feel like just because you are unable to finish this that you can’t finish anything else. You can finish. Just keep trying.

These words epitomize what your professor implies when she writes “Solid Effort” on your paper. Your professor is intimating that although you have done well in constructing a clear thesis, building upon it with clearly expressed structured paragraphs, and ending with a clear conclusion, you still have much to go. The paper as is, even with a grade, reflects an “attempt” to get at the heart of the subject but also your failure to reach full expression. This is not failure in the sense that you have failed or that you are a failure. This “failure” is an example of a farmer who plants a seed in the ground, who decides to water the seed just one time, but who doesn’t give it sun, who doesn’t even look at it anymore, and who doesn’t believe in its ability to take root and subsequently grow.

As you establish the goal to write and begin writing, you have just planted a seed, but the seed needs constant attention to grow in the same way that your paper needs your constant attention, i.e. examining the thesis, building upon the ideas within the paper with supporting evidence, making sure that the foundation is still strong, and adding structure. Without your constant attention and nurturing of the seed, we, the readers and your professor, will only know you by your effort, by your ability to plant a seed but not follow through all the way to the end. You will not see your seed come to full fruition or blossom into a fruit or flower.

With these sentiments in mind, when you receive the comment “Solid Effort,” know that your effort represents only your attempt to get to the root of the subject you are discussing and also your inability to finish the process all the way to end. The end represents the root of the problem. In other words, you understand the subject, the topic by itself, but you don’t understand the problem. When you don’t understand the problem, you can’t convey it properly within your analysis.

In addition, you can finish the paper and finish the process. Writing the paper is a process, but have you finished the job you started in the beginning? Have you completed that which you have assigned yourself?  For example, the thesis represents the assignment you have placed upon yourself. In other words, you have assigned yourself a goal, but the thesis can’t stand alone. You need topic sentences, supporting evidence, examples, and structure for an essay to fulfill the requirement of functioning as an academic paper. Although you employ all of these major elements, your paper still needs to reflect a level of writing that represents advanced critical thinking, balanced views, and fully expressed statements.

If there are still questions concerning the ideas within a body paragraph, then this means that gaps exist. If it is clear to your professor that you can say more about the topic, then this means you still have work to do. You have to determine what “work” you will need to do. Sometimes the work includes validating all of your assumptions, providing more support for a particular statement, and/or evaluating the ideas of a reference source. If there is a statement within your analysis that needs more explanation, then your first objective will entail understanding what “evaluation” means and actually performing this action within your paper. You won’t know what you have to do until you review the paper.

Therefore, you may choose to do one of two things, or both: 1) you can go back and speak with your professor to ask him about the paper, what you can do to improve for the next assignment, and/or 2) use rhetorical annotation techniques and ask questions about each line such as “What do I mean by this?” and “How does one thing relate to the other?” Either method you choose will help you. Just remember your professor is not there to rewrite your paper. He will only tell you so much about the paper. Too much attention is not good for you because if the professor tells you everything you need to do to improve, then you won’t learn this on your own.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Although a piece of paper is matter, a material, it is also solid because it doesn’t change shape or form, at least without external help. The shape and form of a piece of paper can change by some force greater than it such as a human being taking a pair of scissors and cutting through the paper or some kid balling it up and throwing it in the trash or someone stepping on it, separating it from its original form. Regardless of all these different options, the paper, itself, is still paper; it still remains to be in its original, solid form. The paper can’t turn itself into liquid, nor can it move itself.

If this example of the paper is hard to imagine, then think about a stick of butter. A stick of butter, in solid form, will not move until placed under certain conditions such as heat. For example, if we just examine the stick as is, then in its solid form, it remains solid until some outside force determines otherwise.

However, something that is in liquid form can change. It can move. Liquid flows and it doesn’t have a shape. In other words, it doesn’t have a form. It has no structure other than its liquid state. If liquid falls out of a cup, you can’t quickly gather it up and place it somewhere else on the counter. If a cup that has liquid in it falls on the desk, the pursuit to retrieve the first signs of its falling will be fruitless, because liquid has no collectible parts. It has no real structure. Whatever you drop is already out of “grasp.”

When you write an essay that stays true to its original form, shape, and structure, you have a paper that is solid. When the paper is solid, it has easily collectible parts and facts are credible and verifiable. You have built the paper on a firm foundation, on a strong thesis. On the other hand, when you write a paper that has no shape or structure, one in particular that deviates from the main points, then you have a paper that is in liquid form. However, with the right ingredients, you can transform the paper into a solid piece of work.

First Ingredient: Thesis

The first ingredient is always the thesis. If you already have a thesis, then think about your reader, what you want your reader to take from the experience. Say this aloud: By the time I finish, my reader should know. . . . Now name three things the reader will know after reading your paper. This is your thesis. This exercise is similar to setting objectives to complete the work.

Second Ingredient: Structure

The second ingredients involve structure and organization. You can correct a disorganized structure by developing an outline. As you name the three things, these three things will become the topic sentences of your paragraphs. You may elect to have three paragraphs or each topic sentence may have two paragraphs. It doesn’t matter which method you choose, just remember to use these three sentences to maintain the structure and organization of the essay. By adopting this method, you will help to stabilize your ideas.

Third Ingredient: Evidence

The third ingredient is evidence. Each time you make a statement, you must support the statement by incorporating in-text evidence. Always remember that you are not the original writer of the text you are analyzing. Whether you decide to inform or persuade your audience or do both, your initial objective is to always prove your thesis. The way that you prove your thesis is by including evidence and facts and incorporating quotes from the author’s work.

Fourth Ingredient: Conclusion

The last ingredient is the conclusion. The conclusion represents an observer’s point-of-view about the subject you are discussing. Once you have finished writing the paper (its introduction and body), organizing it, and proving the thesis, then use the conclusion to add a brief summary of all the ideas you have expressed within the paper. You may also use this last section of the paper as an extended discussion to examine much of the implications of the ideas. Always think about the larger implications of relationships and ideas, and their impact on society and other types of relationships.

There are many more ingredients that involve quotes and examples, but these are not necessary to include here. The ingredients above represent the foundation, the elements needed to turn a less than stable paper back into a solid form. Therefore, when you receive the comment “Solid,” your paper embodies these ingredients. You have structured it well. It isn’t liquid in the sense that it doesn’t deviate or contradict itself . It isn’t liquid and it doesn’t deviate or contradict itself.

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

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Stick With the Topic

Your friend gives you a set of directions to her house. She even writes the directions down for you. The directions are clear and understandable. Although you have been to the area before in some form or another, maybe a trip to the mall or to buy groceries, you still need direction to her house. As you leave the house, get into the car, and begin to drive down the road, you follow your friend’s directions.

You don’t change lanes on the freeway until it is time to do so according to the directions. However, when you get off the off-ramp, you don’t take the first exit off the freeway.  Instead, you decide to go a different direction to her house, not knowing ahead are blocks and dead ends that even your friend doesn’t know. After going around the mulberry bush, you exclaim, “If only I had followed her directions. I would be there by now.”

This is what happens when you begin your paper. Since you set the tone for your paper, you also set the direction. You start out good with a thesis, and begin to drive down the road with your paragraphs. All looks good in the mirror, at the beginning of the task of writing. You don’t change lanes; you continue to stay on point by using the most appropriate examples.

When it is time to get off the freeway, you do so by signaling; you make transitions by using the appropriate transitional words. However, instead of continuing down this path of following the directions and the instructions of your thesis, you veer off onto another road and onto another path by inserting a contradictory idea, concept, and/or quote.

With this scenario in mind, within your thesis are references to the topic of your paper, its relationship on a larger scale to topics within the same arena, what you plan to discuss, and the method you will choose to accomplish the goals of your thesis. In other words, the thesis is power-packed with many elements, but with a single purpose: to serve as the guide.

The thesis tells you where to go and where to get off; what doesn’t fit and what you will need to include. The thesis is the major force of the paper and because it serves a powerful role, the topic, included within the thesis, is also a light in darkness. What you do with the topic will demonstrate your own perception and will determine the perceptions of your readers.

Therefore, stick with the topic as if it is your friend. Be loyal to your topic. Don’t bring in foreign matter that doesn’t belong there; don’t bring in anything that may pose a danger to the topic’s credibility, foundation, or potential impact. Be nice to your topic. Like it. Don’t betray it.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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