Tutor profile: Joshua L.
I'm having trouble keeping my essay under the word limit. How can I put down all my ideas without going over?
The key to concise writing is maintaining an active voice and watching for wasteful words. Avoiding the passive voice can be hard, but using the active voice will save you space and editing time while making your assignment more engaging. Other than keeping the word count down, watching for wasteful words will instantly clean up your writing. When I say "wasteful," I don't mean adjectives or verbs. I mean words like "to" or "of". Instances of passive voice or unnecessary phrases often accompany those words, meaning that they can guide you to problematic areas in your writing. For example, you might find that one of your "to"s is bunched in the phrase "in order to." While this phrase is perfectly usable, it can usually be replaced with a single "to," especially if you want to shorten your piece.
What kind of details should I be looking for when my teacher asks me to look at style?
"Style" in literature is related to the piece as a whole so it is important to keep the details in perspective. People often get stuck in the minutia of style — taking note of every comma, odd spacing choice, or dialogue — and forget that the core of style is consistency. The best method of understanding style is active reading. Take note of each evocative moment throughout the story and look back to find the common details. Some stylistic choices to look for might be the sentence length, word choice, syntax, rhyme, alliteration, or any other literary device. However, as mentioned before, these are just details. To identify how a piece works, you need to engage with the material and try to understand the work as a whole.
How do I analyze a text and build an argument?
The best way to successfully analyze any text is by taking clear steps to identify relevant information. Staying organized is often the biggest challenge in textual analysis, so I like to use an acronym called SOAPS (Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject). By going through each point of SOAPS, the text can be broken down into smaller, more manageable sections. After analyzing each section the next step is to choose a topic and highlight bits of relevant information. From there, the argument practically builds itself! All we need to do is make a strong outline and fill it with the details from the original text.
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