If You Teach or Write 5-Paragraph Essays–Stop It!

Part I: Introduction–What inspired my argumentative response?

For decades, too many high-school teachers have been instilling persuasive writing skills by teaching students the five-paragraph essay. You know it:

Introduction with three reasons

Reason #1

Reason #2

Reason #3

A summary of all three reasons

It’s bad writing. It’s always been bad writing. With the Common Core Standards designed to shift the way we teach students to think, read, and write, this outdated writing tradition must end. If you’re teaching it–stop it. If your son, daughter, niece, or nephew (or a young person you care about) is learning it–prepare to engage with the teacher to end it.

The five-paragraph essay is rudimentary, unengaging, and useless.

If I were using five paragraphs to convince you, based on the argument above, you wouldn’t need to read any farther. Instead, we should use the original argumentative form Aristotle promoted but that somehow got watered down into the ordinary structure we, unfortunately, were likely taught or may currently teach.

Aristotle became one of the godfathers of rhetoric by creating structures for persuasive writing and speaking that–if taught to young people today–would transform writing instruction and facilitate the implementation of the Common Core, proving that students–when guided appropriately–can succeed with critical thinking in the 21st century.

Part 2: Background–What preceded my argument and / or what needs to be clarified?

Teachers know that, in the 90s, state standards were developed to guide instruction. Some teachers liked them; some hated them. Each state, though, had its own. A few years ago, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers began work on national standards to increase consistency. These new national standards are challenging–and necessary.

According to the Common Core Web site, the “standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”

Besides allowing for instructional consistency among states, the states help align instruction vertically so one grade’s instruction leads to the next.

The Common Core site also states that “these standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • are evidence-based.

If high-school students and teachers are to succeed with Common Core Standards, the five-paragraph essay cannot be part of instruction. Too many times, this ordinary format is the default mode for expressing thinking in English, in history, in science, in P.E., and even in math. The problem is this format doesn’t encourage thoughtful persuasion. It promotes low-level summary that nobody really cares about.

Aristotle rightfully promoted five parts to effective writing and speaking. Eventually, because of low expectations, because of poor literacy training, because of convenience or some combination, these five parts became five paragraphs. And writing became boring and predictable.

Part 3: Confirmation–What supports my argument?

The thesis or argument in the traditional five-paragraph essay doesn’t lend itself to debatability or originality. It’s a trap that students can never escape. A few years ago, I got the chance to be an AP English reader for the College Board. Over and over, if a student used the rudimentary three-part “argument,” there was no way he or she could demonstrate success in the analysis essay–even though we were all supportive readers. Students were trapped into only writing about three aspects of the text instead of starting at the top, ending at the bottom, and going through the text with a critical eye that revealed an insight to the reader.

In competitions such as history fairs, students cannot compete with the rudimentary three-part argument. When I started a Writing Center at a selective-enrollment high school a couple of jobs ago, the history teacher came to me and said she needed something to help students succeed. Over and over, she was getting arguments with blank, blank, and blank.

Together we came up with this structure for arguments, which has served me and students well:

specific topic + debatable view + significance to the audience

Example A: The longer school day in Chicago next year does not guarantee that students will be productive in classes, reminding us that young people need to find learning meaningful.
Example B: The longer school day in Chicago next year does guarantee more learning opportunities, resulting in increased student success.

If students want to get really fancy, they can use a subordinate phrase at the beginning to de-emphasize common beliefs:

Example C: Despite its widespread use, the traditional five-paragraph essay does not allow students to express ideas engagingly, proving that this structure limits students’ writing development.

The image above is the handout I use with students thanks to the conversations with my mentor Robin Bennett, a fondly remembered theater and history teacher.

Another damaging aspect of using five paragraphs is that students find it almost impossible to do anything but write in expository paragraphs. If we use Aristotle’s original form instead, students are able to incorporate compare/contrast, cause/effect, definition, or analysis paragraphs as appropriate. We’ll have more modes to teach; students will have more options.

Aristotle’s form, however, is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This form doesn’t work for science lab reports. For that, we should follow the example of the science tradition. Lab reports are not argumentative.

This form should also not be the form for a narrative essay. For that, we should follow the example of NPR This I Believe essays. While personal essays do carry a subtextual argument, they are not intended to persuade. They are written so we can experience what we have not or find solidarity through what we have.

Aristotle’s form works only for persuasive essays–which need to be part of our educational system more often. We just need to make sure that we are presenting students with persuasive prompts that have more than one reasonable response.

Part 4: Refutation–What challenges my argument?

I know. I know. I’m hearing, “But how are students going to learn organization without learning the five-paragraph essay?” My response: they’re not learning an organizational pattern that will help them succeed outside of your own classroom.

Effective cover letters aren’t written in five-paragraph essays. We don’t expect a news article to follow a five-paragraph format. Quite simply, there aren’t always three reasons to prove our point.

Students need to write for a specific rhetorical context. The College Board promotes the SOAP format to help students understand guidelines and expectations:

Subject: Who or what are you writing about?

Occasion: What idea or incident is inspiring this need for persuasion? How much time to you have to write this?

Audience: Who will read this? What do they believe about the subject? Are they a supportive or skeptical audience?

Purpose: What is the job of this essay? What specifically do you want the audience to realize?

Students and teachers can use this to deconstruct prompts. Finally, the SOAP format, when combined with Aristotle’s form, can help students write one or ten page essays effectively. The five paragraph essay limits students into about 1 1/2 pages.

Part 5: Conclusion–What are the benefits of accepting my argument?

Aristotle called the last part of the persuasive event the epilogue. Unlike the five-paragraph essay that begins with “As you can see . . .” and leaves the reader thinking, “Why are you telling me what you told me a couple minutes ago? I’m not stupid,” Aristotle, in The Rhetoric, tells us a good writer should do this in the conclusion: “make the audience well-disposed towards ourselves and ill-disposed to our opponent.” One way to achieve this is to explain the benefits if the audience accepts our view. It’s a good opportunity for students to make inferences or predictions.

If teachers and students move away from the rudimentary, unengaging, and useless five-paragraph format, students will be able to think for themselves and understand that writing can really challenge people’s views. Students will create persuasive essays that incorporate information in un-identical ways to everyone else. Furthermore, rhetorical limits won’t be obstacles; they’ll become guidelines for success.

Finally, students will learn that their persuasive abilities, when used responsibly, will have value outside of the 46 minutes they were given to write.

Earn Money By Writing Essays and Articles

For those people who enjoy writing, such hobby can be used not only for pastime but this can also serves as a bankable skill that can help you make money online. Schools and universities always requires students to compose essays but not all of them consider essay writing as their “cup of tea.”

(image from Jomphong of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

In fact, most of them might even hate writing compositions, research papers and essays and they would love to “outsource” such tasks. Furthermore, even without such demand from students, the world-wide web have thousands of website owners that also prefers outsourcing writing tasks as well as job applicants who prefer to outsource resume writing.

This resulted to huge demand for essay writing, web content and research papers. This potential was then taken advantage by entrepreneurs through establishing websites and companies that offers customized essays or research papers.However, when choosing sources of essay writing companies, you should evaluate each website in terms of compensation and expectations to their writers as well as qualifications needed.

Here are the following websites that could help you land a job in freelance writing.

1. Essay Writers.net

This website provides a friendly wwriters’ community, global clients and competitive rewards. For professional writers who do not have a job or a project, they offer a continuous supplies of orders (except for non-peak seasons) and freedom of choice. If you are a student, you can also accept part time and you also have the choice to create your own schedule as well as promising opportunities for growth and competitive compensation. Another great thing about this site is you can choose customers’ orders. Even if you are jobless and still looking for employment, you can select orders and write for them.

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    Competitive rewards Writers can earn up to $30 per page.

  • Bonuses for the best writers If the client finds your work excellent, the company will pay you an additional 20% extra of the order price
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2. Academic Experts.us

Unlike essaywriting.net that provides a variety of assignments ranging from Academic, web content, resume writing and articles, Academic Experts mainly focuses on academic writing such as essays, research papers, thesis, dissertation etc. Similarly, writers can choose assignments of their interests.

Communications with customers and administration are allowed and they also offer the best compensation plan, starting from $7 to $31 per page. However unlike essay writing.net that accepts writers who only graduated with Bachelor Degrees, this site requires applicants to have at least Master’s degree. If you are only a college graduate, then chances of being accepted is zero, although they accept both Native English speakers and ESL applicants (means people who consider English language as their second language).

Other reasons why you should join:

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3. Eco20-20

What makes Eco2020 unique from other freelance companies is that they only accept writers who are willing to write topics related to Green world and clean energy. Click here if you are interested to join

4. Academic Essay Writing.co.uk

The site is quite similar to essaywriting.net and academic experts, however, they only accepts applicants based on UK, United States and Canada. No information about compensation plan is presented since the site is only for customers and not for member writers. Click the title of this section for more details

5. Active Trader

This site is looking for professionals who are knowledgeable about Forex Trading and Stock Market Trading. A skill in writing is also a must. However, they require articles that discusses detailed concepts and not general articles. For example, they do not accept articles stating that risks should be avoided but it should state how to do it. If you think you qualify, you may apply for them but i have no idea about their compensation plan since it is not presented in their website as of this writing.

Some General Advice on Academic Essay-Writing

Miscellaneous observations on a topic are not enough to make an accomplished academic essay. An essay should have an argument. It should answer a question or a few related questions (see 2 below). It should try to prove something—develop a single “thesis” or a short set of closely related points—by reasoning and evidence, especially including apt examples and confirming citations from any particular text or sources your argument involves. Gathering such evidence normally entails some rereading of the text or sources with a question or provisional thesis in mind.

When—as is usually the case—an assigned topic does not provide you with a thesis ready-made, your first effort should be to formulate as exactly as possible the question(s) you will seek to answer in your essay. Next, develop by thinking, reading, and jotting a provisional thesis or hypothesis. Don’t become prematurely committed to this first answer. Pursue it, but test it—even to the point of consciously asking yourself what might be said against it—and be ready to revise or qualify it as your work progresses. (Sometimes a suggestive possible title one discovers early can serve in the same way.)

There are many ways in which any particular argument may be well presented, but an essay’s organization—how it begins, develops, and ends—should be designed to present your argument clearly and persuasively. (The order in which you discovered the parts of your argument is seldom an effective order for presenting it to a reader.)

Successful methods of composing an essay are various, but some practices of good writers are almost invariable:

  • They start writing early, even before they think they are “ready” to write, because they use writing not simply to transcribe what they have already discovered but as a means of exploration and discovery.
  • They don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end, but rather write what seems readiest to be written, even if they’re not sure whether or how it will fit in.
  • Despite writing so freely, they keep the essay’s overall purpose and organization in mind, amending them as drafting proceeds. Something like an “outline” constantly and consciously evolves, although it may never take any written form beyond scattered, sketchy reminders to oneself.
  • They revise extensively. Rather than writing a single draft and then merely editing its sentences one by one, they attend to the whole essay and draft and redraft—rearranging the sequence of its larger parts, adding and deleting sections to take account of what they discover in the course of composition. Such revision often involves putting the essay aside for a few days, allowing the mind to work indirectly or subconsciously in the meantime and making it possible to see the work-in-progress more objectively when they return to it.
  • Once they have a fairly complete and well-organized draft, they revise sentences, with special attention to transitions—that is, checking to be sure that a reader will be able to follow the sequences of ideas within sentences, from sentence to sentence, and from paragraph to paragraph. Two other important considerations in revising sentences are diction (exactness and aptness of words) and economy (the fewest words without loss of clear expression and full thought). Lastly, they proofread the final copy.

Demystifying the Dissertation Proposal – Part Two

A proposal describes your project from both inside and outside. First, the inside stuff:

A proposal puts forth your argument. It points toward how it will be proved, giving well-chosen examples without unspooling them in detail. A few exemplary details will help illustrate your presentation, but a profusion of them will distract. Such details serve the purpose of demonstrating—not fully proving—your argument.

A proposal describes how your argument will fit together. What examples will you use, in what order, and why? How is the argument sequenced and subordinated? You will probably need to provide a chapter outline, but you should offer a clear and extended overview of your argument long before that.

A proposal outlines methodology. How will you make your argument? What theoretical, historical, contextual, and interpretative tools will you use? Will you employ any particular approach?

Your proposal should fit your dissertation topic. A proposal to edit a scholarly edition, to pick one exceptional possibility, will require a different presentation than a dissertation laid out in the model of a monograph (introduction plus four chapters on related topics). The shoe must fit the foot and not the other way around.

From the outside:

You need to show the place of your dissertation in the critical field. Which field and subfield conversations will your project enter, and how? Which critics will you be building on, and which ones will you be revising? Your dissertation marks your formal entry into the community of scholars, a world of intellectuals engaging in overlapping conversations of varying size and scope. Your proposal must show your awareness of those multiple discourses and show the place your research will occupy within them.

Accordingly, you should include a thorough bibliography in your proposal so that readers may look at what works you plan to consult, as well as those you have consulted already. Your committee will review that list and use it as the basis for further suggestions.

Finally, I offer proposal writers a commandment and a postulate.

The commandment: Consult your adviser as you develop your proposal. The myth of the writer as solitary genius striving away in the garret has surprising persistence. I’ve seen many graduate students teach their undergraduates to collaborate without realizing that they’re not following their own advice. (That is a mistake I made often enough myself.) You should not imagine that you will be writing your proposal on your own. Instead, draw on the experience of your peers, and especially your adviser, as you shape your topic so that it may be the most relevant, the most challenging, and the most marketable later on.

The postulate: Your dissertation will be different from your proposal. That’s to be expected—and the differences can be substantial. Your proposal outlines a hypothetical dissertation: what your thesis looks like to you from where you stand now. The goal of a proposal is not that it should outline your future dissertation. Rather, it should outline one possible dissertation, and do so plausibly.

If you can offer up a credible possible dissertation based on your ideas, then it follows that the dissertation you actually wind up writing will benefit from this early exercise. Your proposal will get finished faster, and so will your dissertation—because unlike diamonds, dissertation proposals (and dissertations) are not forever. And graduate school shouldn’t be, either.

Demystifying the Dissertation Proposal

Before you can write a dissertation, you must write a dissertation proposal. How to do that is worth a closer look.

In my July 24 column, “It’s a Dissertation, Not a Book,” I emphasized the importance of viewing a dissertation in practical terms, beginning with the fact that it is, first and foremost, the credential for a Ph.D.

Questions about what a doctoral dissertation should look like are essentially teaching questions. Professors are finally starting to ask those questions, especially in the humanities, where they most need to be asked. Commentators like Louis Menand, a writer and Harvard professor, and Sidonie Smith, recent president of the Modern Language Association, have suggested that we revamp the dissertation into something radically different. Menand proposes—polemically, perhaps—that a single scholarly article stand in for the omnibus that we currently demand, while Smith calls more generally for a reconception of the traditional dissertation in light of new possibilities offered by technology and the kinds of work patterns (such as greater collaboration) that it engenders.

Certainly such conversations about the future of the dissertation should continue. But even as we seek to devise new and better approaches, we’re stuck—for now—with what we have, and we have to figure out how best to work with it. The dissertation process is the longest stage of graduate education and it begins with the proposal, the crafting of which is dominated by a few central and simple yet elusive truths.

The purpose of a dissertation proposal is for it to be approved. Only then can you start writing. A lot of misunderstanding swirls around dissertation proposals. One foundational fact cuts through it: A dissertation proposal has no independent existence. It’s a provisional document, a way station to an eventual goal.

In the laboratory sciences, the dissertation proposal—or, as it is often called, the prospectus—is increasingly viewed as an implied contract with the adviser (who will finance the work in his or her lab) and the committee. If the approved experiments are then conducted, the thesis will usually be acceptable even if the results don’t support the initial hypothesis. That understanding removes the incentive for publication bias or fraud, but it also attaches understandable weight to the experimental plan. The point is that it remains a plan. That sense of its provisional nature needs to be stressed.

A dissertation proposal is not an essay. In the humanities and some of the social sciences, a proposal looks a lot like an essay, but it differs in one fundamental respect: While an essay must prove a thesis, a proposal needs only to advance one. It’s enough, in other words, for a proposal writer to demonstrate an argument and show how to prove it at a later date—given approval, space, and time.

A dissertation proposal is not a mini-dissertation. If a dissertation is a small world that you (as god of the microcosm) will bring into being, a proposal is a map of that space within the larger universe. The emphasis here is on the idea of mapping rather than creating. Before you can become a god and invent your own world, you have to become a cartographer.

That means that the goal in your proposal is not to create your world, but rather to suggest what it will look like when you do create it. Because you’re mapping a world that doesn’t exist (and here my metaphor becomes strained), you should imagine that you’re diagramming a place you haven’t been to yet.

It’s a common mistake for a proposal writer to fall into writing the actual dissertation in the process of laying it out. That’s not entirely a bad thing: It offers you a head start. But because students and faculty members too often misunderstand the nature of the project, most dissertation proposals take too long to complete. Students should ordinarily finish writing the proposal in three to six months, and their advisers need to recognize the point at which students should be turned loose to work on their actual dissertations. It’s far too common for advisers to put students through needless extra drafts of the purpose, perfecting a document that doesn’t need to be perfect because it’s just a step on a long road. Extending the proposal stage only makes that road longer and more costly.

For their part, students generally don’t recognize the proposal for what it is, either: a provisional document that marks a point of transition, not a polished work of compressed scholarship that need only be inflated to become a dissertation.

How to Plan Your Dissertation Proposal

Having to write a dissertation proposal depends upon the university or institution that you’re attending. Even if a dissertation proposal isn’t a requirement, however, it’s a very useful exercise (and is certainly going to impress your supervisor, especially if it’s not part of your assessment).

On some courses the research proposal is assessed and forms part of your final dissertation submission. If this is the case, it’s vital that you follow the correct format and submit your work on time. Mostly, a dissertation proposal has a 500 or 1,000 word limit, but you must check what your course specifically requires.
What is a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal is basically a description of the following:

  • What your dissertation is about
  • Probable questions that you’re going to be examining
  • Some reference to the theoretical background
  • Research methods you’re going to be using (empirical or non-empirical)
  • Potential outcomes of the study

Time spent putting your dissertation proposal together is an investment. You reap rewards because the proposal stops you wasting time and also forms the basis of your dissertation outline.

Writing a dissertation proposal, even if it’s not a requirement, is still worth doing. You can submit the proposal to your supervisor (with her agreement) and get some valuable feedback.

Ask your supervisor for guidance about the tone and style of your research proposal. You need to be flexible and open-minded, showing a willingness to adapt your methods and ideas as your research dictates. Say in your proposal what you intend to do, confidently and adopting a balanced view, suggesting that you’ve carefully considered the best way of carrying out your study. Be firm but not arrogant; be flexible but not feeble!

Make sure that you follow the rules of grammar in your proposal. Be consistent about the tense of your proposal. Most proposals are written using the future tense: ‘I will be using questionnaires . . . and so on’. Check with your supervisor for confirmation.

What does a dissertation proposal include?

The essential parts of a research proposal are generally standard:

  • Dissertation title (so far): Aim at making the title short and to the point.
  • Overall objectives: If you have more than three objectives, your area of research is probably far too broad and needs to be narrowed. (Some university courses may ask you to include a rationale at this stage.)
  • Literature, context, background: You can use any of these words as the title of this section, just make sure that you mention key schools of thought or areas of study that are going to provide information about your dissertation. (Some proposals require you to list specific references at this point, others ask for the bibliography at the end.)
  • Details of the research: Here, you can expand the ideas spelt out in your research question. This section is about outlining clearly your area of research.
  • Methodologies: Your work may be empirical (with some sort of study and collection of data such as questionnaires) or non-empirical (no such data, all your research comes from already published writing and projects). If your study is non-empirical, this section is likely to be short; longer if you need to collect or look at the empirical data.
  • If you’re allowed to use bullet points in your research proposal, you need do no more than list your intended activities (for example, carrying out interviews, consulting archives or evaluating data).
  • Potential outcomes: Avoid second-guessing the result of your dissertation. If you knew the outcomes, it would be pretty pointless doing the dissertation! Here, you’re summarising the type of outcomes you hope to generate and suggesting a target audience.
  • Timeline: If you’re asked to outline how you plan to manage your research, think about including a Gantt chart or some kind of concept map. Whatever you do, make your timeline realistic.
  • Bibliography: Check if you’re required to provide a list of references, and if so, find out roughly how many references you’re expected to list.

How to Edit and Polish Your Writing

In Alphabet Juice, Roy Blount Jr.’s earthy, contrarian screed to the pleasures of language, he traces to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch the now immortal edict of revision: Murder your darlings.*

It’s interesting that this advice, so often attributed to one great writer or another—Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway, Orwell, Auden, even Samuel Johnson—was in fact penned by a relative obscurity who’d be lost to posterity were it not for that one fierce, scolding admonition.

—by David Corbett

And yet, as Blount points out, the phrase “Murder your darlings” is itself, well, a darling. There are many less flashy ways Quiller-Couch could have issued his diktat: “Eliminate all words or phrases, no matter how pleasing, that draw undue attention to themselves (or the writer) at the expense of the narrative flow.”

But who would remember that?

Writing is rewriting, another pithy bon mot (per Eudora Welty), and one that shies away from the homicidal imagery. After all, you’re not out to flog your manuscript—or yourself—into a state of self-abnegation. You’re hoping to create an impression in the reader’s mind, one that forms clearly and flows naturally. You’re hoping for immediate comprehension and yet also a force of impact, a depth of meaning, or an aptness of expression that causes what’s been read to linger. You’re hoping to make the reader happy.

Notice that each one of those goals involves someone else: the reader. One of my favorite aunts used to say: “You don’t know yourself by yourself.” The writer’s corollary to this might be: The proof of your prose lies with the reader, not the writer.

Finding Good Help

Given that we revise to make our writing more pleasurable for the reader, why not include the reader in the housework?

The truth at the core of “murder your darlings” is that many a writer, smitten with a particularly lovely bit of writing, will ignore the fact that something’s not quite right about it. It says, “Look at me,” instead of, “Keep reading.” Readers catch this far more frequently than writers do, because their approach to the text is from the outside, whereas the author’s is from within.

However you can manage it, through writing groups, conferences, friends or colleagues, try to develop a trusting relationship with a reader whose instincts you respect, and who will be willing to be candid with you. That is, someone who wants and expects you to be brilliant, but who is also willing and able to hurt your feelings if necessary. You may not take every criticism to heart, but you need to learn to respect the reasonable expectations and judgments of the readers you’re setting out to reach.

If an objective reader isn’t available, you can and should try to train yourself to read your own work as a disinterested party, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. We automatically imbue the text with intentions we’ve brought to it—we know what lies “behind the words”—rather than taking those words at face value, as we do with someone else’s work on first impression.

Sometimes putting a work aside for a time can help with objectivity, if the luxury of delay affords itself. Better yet: Read your work out loud. We tend to hear clumsy locutions, florid overwriting, flabby dialogue—as well as weak prose, poor pacing and other such sins—far better than we see them when reading.

Deep Cleaning

Aristotle believed that the skills that demonstrate a facility with language, such as style and characterization, are the easiest for young writers to master, and that only upon maturity do writers demonstrate command of the subtler techniques that lie beneath the surface of the text, such as structure. Regardless, it’s often the surface that’s easiest to fix, and a great many writers begin there with their rewrites, tuning up their phrases, tightening their sentences.

This is a mistake. It can too easily lead to what the author and writing instructor James N. Frey likens to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” A manuscript with deep flaws in its conception of character, execution of plot, or simple logic cannot be fixed with polished prose, and focusing on language if your manuscript possesses these deeper missteps is wasted effort.

To revise successfully, you have to know what you’re writing about, what your story is, your point, your premise, your theme, whatever you call it. You have to know what it is quivering inside the story that moves you, for that’s the thing you’re trying to share with the reader.

You often need to write through to a preliminary end to see this deep meaning remotely, let alone clearly. You may need to meander for a while to discover it; you may need to rethink certain passages or scenes to gain the more intimate understanding necessary to feel it deeply. But if you try to revise before this clarifies itself in your mind—or your heart—you can end up polishing doorknobs to empty rooms.

We live in an age of irony, when it sometimes seems that one can’t care too little. This is a death sentence for good writing. There’s nothing wrong with emotion or passion, as long as it’s tempered by insight. And what’s revision except tempering your prose through insight?

Once you know what it is in your text that compels you, you can better see the shape it needs to be to bring that impact home. You can see the inescapable beginning-middle-end of it, see if it concludes with a decisive act or a devastating moment of self-revelation, see the crucial decision that must be made—or is forsaken.

In short, revise the deepest, least visible aspects of your story first: character, story, premise, structure. Only then will the other techniques of revision be meaningful or helpful.

Uncovering Clutter

I personally often revise as I go, and wish I didn’t. It’s a bad habit I wish I could break, and I do it because it gives me confidence that the writing is strong enough to merit continuing. Sadly, this reveals more about my self-doubt than it does about the worth of what I’ve written.

Little by little I’ve gotten better at allowing myself to write badly in order to at least get something on the page, something I can come back to. This leads us to a crucial point: You can’t revise what you haven’t written.

John Lescroart tells aspiring writers that he works on his books in two stages. In the first, he wears his “genius hat,” and with that jaunty chapeau on his noggin he can do no wrong: Every scene is dramatic and taut, every line of dialogue sings, every joke is funny. Once he gets an entire first draft written, he takes off the genius hat and puts on his “critic’s hat.” Now he goes back and fixes all the missteps he so merrily ignored in writing the first draft.

When you’re ready to put on that second hat, try these two techniques:

Eliminating Excess: In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard discusses what she calls “the old one-two.” This is where a writer expresses something quite well, then follows up with a rephrasing, as though to convince himself (or the reader) he got it right.

Take, for example, this: He realized he’d sold her short, turned a blind eye to the shadow falling across her soul. He’d put his faith in her glamour and dismissed her vanity, smiled at her ambition but ignored her greed. Depending on context, this freight train of repetitious clauses could easily be reduced to: He’d sold her short. That touch of bitter irony says just enough, while leaving the reader intrigued.

Often writers do this kind of overwriting unthinkingly as they develop a rhythm while forging ahead. And there’s nothing wrong in allowing for that kind of excess—when you’re wearing the genius hat. But when you return to these lines wearing the critic’s hat, remember: Say it once, say it well, and move on.

A corollary to this rule might be stated as: Trust subtext.

Or, in the immortal words of Billie Holiday: “Don’t explain.”

A great deal of unnecessary effort is too often expended on trying to hammer the reader over the head with something you’ve already conveyed quite well.

Jokes you explain are never funny. Stories you explain are never interesting. The key is to provide enough so the reader feels engaged, but not so much she can feel you trying to control how she responds to the text. Few writing mistakes are as cringe-inducing as when the writer belabors the obvious or otherwise explains things tendentiously, or at unnecessary length. (“I love you,” she gushed warmly.) Remember: The reader is your helper, not a problem child. It’s never the case that she’s “too dumb to get it,” and without your elaboration she’d be lost. Rather, if you’ve written it well, explanation is superfluous.

Tidying Up: In scriptwriting software, one dangling word of dialogue can force a premature page break, costing the writer a significant bit of precious real estate on the page. This prompts many scriptwriters to go back and focus on the dangling words at the end of a sentence or a paragraph (known as orphans), in order to tighten that section so an entire line isn’t lost to a mere word or two.

I never would have thought this discipline could be so useful in tidying up my prose as it’s proved to be. Writing that I thought was lean and taut almost invariably saw further improvement if I had to find some way to make it even more so. The skills you learn in ridding your prose of orphans translate across the board, and the merciless pursuit of clear, tight prose will serve you well even after all the orphans are tidied and tucked in.

Filling in the Cracks

Not all revision reduces to cutting, obviously. The admonition “less is more” carries the implicit addendum: “unless it’s not enough.”

This requires an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Sometimes, where you’re weak—be it in setting, pacing, backstory—the text will seem lackluster, wanting. Here especially trusted readers—or an unerring ear—come in handy. They can feel the empty spaces better than you.

But it’s not true that you must master all or settle for nothing. Ballantine editor Mark Tavani urges his writers to “forget their weaknesses and attack their strengths.” No writer is skilled at everything, nor should he try to be, and each will bring his particular virtues to the page.

All writing, especially fiction, requires a bit of legerdemain in the form of indirection, calling the reader’s attention to this over here so they fail to notice the blatant defect over there. The solution to revising an underwritten piece is to first make sure you’ve exploited your strengths to the fullest. Once you feel secure in this, you may find that the empty places you thought were there no longer seem quite so lacking.

Underwriting is a form of writer’s block, and easily deserves an article entirely of its own. The cure, as mentioned earlier, is often to give yourself permission to write badly, so you at least have something to work with. Revising writing that needs even vast improvement is infinitely easier than scaling that forbidding rock face commonly known as the blank page.

Don’t Forget the Mirror

At every step of writing, it’s important to remember that words are a means to reveal, not something to hide behind. One of the great mistakes of writing is to think of it as a way to impress people in order to escape or obscure our own personal shortcomings. Even great writers are not immune to shame or dread or being caught with spinach between their teeth, and being published is no antidote to being human.

Or, put differently, we can’t substitute writing problems for personal problems. In fact, the one often arises from the other.

I often get lost in minutiae, for example, missing the forest for the trees, for the sake of crossing absolutely every T and dotting every I. This results from an obsession with “getting it right” so that I can’t be faulted, a legacy of a fault-finding home life and a school regime dictated by ruler-wielding nuns.

But I digress.

Knowing this about myself has proved immeasurably helpful in my revisions. I see where I’m overwriting from a misbegotten devotion to being thorough, when in fact restraint is necessary to lure the reader in. It’s an invaluable lesson that came only over time, with insight and attention to what I was doing in my life, as well as my writing on the page.

In my teaching I’ve encountered shy, reclusive introverts with a lovely prose style who avoid all conflict on the page—just as they shy away from it in life. I’ve had thinkers whose characters never get out of their own heads, and compulsive talkers whose dialogue is a jabbering onslaught of empty words.

We can’t help but be who we are on the page, and that’s a good thing, as is realizing that the skills necessary for improving our writing will serve us in our attempts to be better people. The point of all writing is to be clear and honest, and every story points toward an ending where the hero has the chance to be braver, wiser, more loving. With hope, we can do the same. If so, we’ll most likely be able to mark our progress on the page.

Proofreading services in UK

Although the need of proofreading services is getting smaller and smaller with the advance of software technology, there are still companies that offer authors and publishers to do this work. The idea of proofreading is to correct any mistakes made by typing machines or human spelling, and also any other grammar mistakes. This is the last correction that the art work will get before being published. That’s why it is very crucial that this service is done correctly.

Different companies provide different professional proofreading services. Some of them do the traditional tests, in which a reader reads thoroughly the whole text and correct any mistakes. They use special proofreading software which helps them do their job more accurately. They do not correct the mistakes themselves, but only mark the text where necessary.

A cheaper alternative of the traditional proofreading service is the so called scanning. In this case the text is not read thoroughly, but quite quickly and vaguely, but clearly enough to detect any errors. This method is gaining more and more popularity with the advance of software technologies and their broader functions. On the other hand the price of these proofreading services is much smaller rather than the traditional ways. The disadvantage of this method is that the level of security is not very high.

Another type of proofreading services is the multiple check. In this method one of the readers read the text out loud and without stopping to correct any mistakes. The second reader follows the text and marks the errors. In this way at the same time are checked both the grammar and the spelling mistakes for a much shorter period.

In this way the text is read first by one reader who corrects all the mistakes. After he is finished with that he passes the text to a second reader, who checks the whole text again. In this method both readers need to put their signatures under the given text and after that they take responsibility equally.

Many people think that it is not necessary for a person to have a special proofreading education before that. Many critics say that it is actually more important for the readers to have knowledge on the matter that they are reading, because thus they will be able to check the text more accurately, covering not only the common words, but also the specific ones too.

How to get help from specialists for essay help

There are several things that you should keep in mind when you want to turn to specialists for essay help. First of all, you have to make sure that the company that you turn to has broad experience in writing different assignments and works, so that you can be sure that you will not give your money to someone who will get you a poor or average mark, or worse – run away with your money. Always make sure that the company is real when you pay money over the Internet. Nevertheless, scams with essay help seem to be less risky and common than in the other spheres like insurances, online trading and other.

The best and more secure way to choose a company for essay help is simply to ask your friends if they have prior experience with that, or to look at internet forums. The first method is always better because sometimes the forums can be quite easy to manipulate and so one company can write good reviews about it itself or to write bad reviews about the competition. That’s why make sure that you make a very thorough research before you give your assignment to someone, especially if it is an important one.

Like in every other area companies lower the prices for the same services in order to get more customers. Surely if you spend enough time researching then you will manage to find the optimal offer for essay help.

There is only one problem with that – most companies do not have pricelist on the website because the price depends a lot on the requirements and theme of the certain essay. That’s why the price for the same work can vary a lot, because for one people your essay may be more challenging than for the other and so they will ask for more money. You should send the requirements to each essay company that you find and after that compare the results – how much money will it cost, for what period of time will it be ready, do they guarantee a certain mark, etc.

And in the end – we know that you have your own reasons for using essay help from other people, but in the end you should always make at least the effort to read it. Even if the company is very professional, do not take for granted that they have done their work well enough. Read if for yourself and make any change if needed.

Essay writing at school

When I was at school I had many friends that were not good at essay writing at all. Unlike them, I was quite talented when it came to analyzing and writing some stuff, especially during our literature, psychology and philosophy subjects. I really enjoyed these assignments and usually got excellent marks on them.

That’s why many of my classmates were very jealous and even angry with me. They started asking the teachers to give us tests rather than essay writings, but very often they would not agree with them because they enjoyed reading good works. That’s what made them even angrier.

It was around ninth or tenth grade then the guys started picking on me really hard. I guess this is when puberty hit them and they started forcing me doing their essay writing instead of them. This was really hard for me, because we were in the same class so we got the same assignments and I had to write the same essay several times. And since the bullies wanted to get good marks too I had to put my best ideas into their home works, rather than into mine. And since all of my beliefs were divided into several different essays, that’s why none of us got good marks. The guys did not really care about my lowered marks, but were quite angry that they do not get one too.

This continued for a little more than half a year and I started to see no getting out of this situation. The only thing I could do is try even harder make everyone happy. Needless to say, I was not very successful. I tried to talk to them but they would not hear me. They even threatened me that if I tell the teachers that I do their essay writing assignments they will “make me regret that so hard”. That’s why I gave up the idea and decided to simply go with the situation.

Fortunately for me, my teacher had some doubts and suspicions for a while and decided to take the situation into her own hands without making me a part of it. One time she praised one of the guys on the good essay that he has written and made him explain his motives for defending his particular thesis, without telling him what the thesis actually was. Of course, the guy has not made the effort to read my essay before he handled it in and that’s how she embarrassed him and made him admit that he has not been doing his home work.

She did not mention my name but told him to stop doing this anymore and that if she ever caught him in this scam he will have to repeat the whole year again. That was enough to make the guy stop harassing me and to scare the rest of the guys, too. For about a month or so the whole drama with the essay writing was forgotten and I could live freely again.