Archive for category V

Vague Generality

Much more can be said here” is the typical comment that a professor will write on your essays.

Oftentimes, you will find as you write academic papers that you provide general, ambiguous, and vague statements throughout your analysis. When we write, we always assume that our professors know what we are attempting to discuss and/or prove, so we believe that it is not necessary to provide detailed information concerning every idea, example, or related statement.

We assume this because we know the professor has read the literary work. We reason since the professor has read the work, why should we have to include everything under the sun as analysis. We assume incorrectly and inappropriately.

As students, your primary task is to prove the points you make within your analysis. In other words, every time you make a point, whether the point represents an assumption, example, detail, or idea, it is your job to provide the necessary and sufficient information to support your claims.

It is not up to the professor to figure out what you are trying to say or what ideas you want the professor to take from your work. It is your job to make certain that the professor understands your points and how you arrive at proving your argument. In the sample excerpt the student offers a general assessment of a particular character within the context of a Shakespearean play, The Merchant of Venice. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

Even though both Antonio and Bassanio recognize that they need money from Shylock, which leads to projected hatred, the irony implied here and seen later towards the end of the play is that Portia represents a sort of moneylender too. Her figure in this society is of great wealth. They consider it a tragedy to take from Shylock but find it okay towards the end when Shylock wants his pound of flesh to ask money for Antonio’s payment of the forfeit from Portia. Portia offered to pay six times the principal and at the end where Antonio is jailed and tried, Shylock didn’t want the money. He wanted the law: “I crave the law,/ The penalty and forfeit of my bond” (Bullman 125).

Figure 51: Essay Excerpt on Portia, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare


The student doesn’t provide a clear assessment of her ideas by developing detailed statements.

For example, the student doesn’t define “Portia’s wealth” nor does the student define how she is a moneylender. Here are some questions to consider:

1) Does Portia’s wealth contribute to the assumption that she is sort of a moneylender?

2) Where is the evidence necessary to substantiate this claim?

3) What is the perception of Portia?

4) How do other characters see or perceive Portia?

You will find answers to these questions within the text itself. In other words, the literary text is the best guide for your paper, because it houses all of the answers you need.


It is always easier to construct vague, general statements about the literary work. This doesn’t require much work to do. It is equally easy to project contemporary thinking onto a historical text.

To safeguard against providing unsubstantiated, unvalidated assumptions, always write what you mean. Then explain what you mean by providing descriptions and offering an extended, objective view of the work. Don’t forget to live in the immediate text, which is the book right in front of you.

For additional explanations, see also the comments “Your Ideas Are Too General,” “Too Broad,” “Too General to be Meaningful,” “Much More Could Be Said Here,” and “Incomplete.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.


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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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Very Nicely Done

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Transitions)

This comment represents an affirmative reply typically written after the final reading of your paper.

“Very Nicely Done” is a comment professors use when they are eager about the ideas you express within the paper and how you present those ideas.

See the comment “Nice/Nicely Done” for an extended explanation.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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Very Strong First Effort

This comment represents an affirmative reply typically written after reading your paper.

What appears to you as the final draft actually seems to your professor as the first draft. Allow time for multiple revisions.

For an extended explanation, see the comment “Solid Effort.”

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