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Be Logical and Analytical

19 Dec

Tips for writing papers for your English classes.  In many college English classes (even in China), you will see the same pattern. The teacher gives you an article with some “message” and then they ask you to analyze 分析 it. NOT summarize 总结 – although students always try to do this instead. 

Tip 1 — English teachers RARELY 很少 want you to write an answer telling them all the ways the author was RIGHT. In English, a lot of your job is finding weaknesses 弱点 or problems. So they usually don’t want you to say “The author is correct because _________________”  You can talk about a couple ways the author is right, but you should also have something talking about how the author MIGHT be wrong or incorrect.

Tip 2 — Pretend the author is a review on Taobao. You want to buy the product, and you see ONE person who gave it 5 starts and a really excellent review. Do you buy it? NO! Now you do more research: How many stars did the product get overall? What do other reviewers say? Did someone pay this person to review the product? Did they post Pictures to prove it?

We do the same for English essay writing. Just because the message LOOKS really good, doesn’t mean the author is completely correct. What proof does the author give? Do they have examples? Do they make good arguments? Are they biased (did someone pay them to write the article, like a magazine or tv station?). Are they related to the topic in some way (for example a woman writing about feminism or someone writing about their friend.)


MESSAGE = “Women deserve equality” — GOOD

A) Because my father says so — BAD.  Why do we care? What if your dad is Darth Vader or Thanos? Do we still care what he says? 

B) Because all women were oppressed and forced to live at home in the past. — BAD.  Overgeneralization. What about successful women like Empress Wu Zetian or the Celtic women who fought in battle beside their husbands?  If this author were trying to sell you something on Taobao, what concerns does the article give you? 

Paper, Essay, and Speech Writing 101 (aka the Outline)

17 Dec

Sigh. . . , English Major’s are strange.  We talk about the weirdest things just for fun. For example, whether Galadriel from J.R.R. Tolkien was actually a representation of Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria (and yes, that argument took FOREVER!).

Still,  English professors are even stranger.  They actually enjoy!?! writing five billion papers on whether or not Shakespeare was a prophet of his time.   Have you heard your English professor say the dreaded I don’t ever give out a 100 on a paper, because no paper can possibly be perfect.  All writers need to be aware that they have room for  improvement!” Somehow, they seem to forget that we are not all English majors!  Some are engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and computer-code writers who are only taking the class because it is required for all majors in the university.  Furthermore, this requirement comes despite the fact that they will never again care that Edgar Poe’s middle name is spelled “Allan” not “Allen” (so, um, apparently half the class misspelled his middle name in our final exam.  Prof. was furious, but we found it hilarious 🙂 )

They tried to pull the whole “You’ll never get a perfect score” on me, but I was an official English major and I was prepared.  Imagine my glee the day one such professor had to watch me walk away with an actual 100. Yes! Victory! Success!  Take that evil English professors everywhere!  Actually, though, this little trick got me through all of my writing classes with almost straight As.  Surprisingly, the same trick applies to writing an answer to an essay exam, writing a speech, or writing a presentation.

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