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Tutor profile: Joshua R.

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Joshua R.
Freelance Writer
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

Most young writers (myself included) tend to use a robust vernacular to express themselves. Is it always a good idea to use large, dense words to explain yourself? When is it better not to?

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Joshua R.
Answer:

This is one of my favorite questions when it comes to writing because I often have trouble keeping my hand off the thesaurus. Most people (yes, even me) use large, complicated language to sound smarter than they actually are. This sometimes works, but it's a double-edged sword. The more obtuse your language is, the better chance there is you'll make a mistake in using it, which might discredit you as a writer or thinker. Ornate and obscure language might sound interesting or intelligent, but it should only be used purposefully with the intention of evoking a certain feeling or image that couldn't exist without that word or phrase (think technical manuals or phenomenological philosophy--some things truly require difficult language to be expressed). Simple language is often overlooked, but its power lies in its accessibility. When writing for a large audience, especially one who isn't as well versed in the subject you're discussing, it is often better to use familiar words and analogies to make their ability to comprehend what you're saying easier. There is no "better" or "worse" when it comes to language; what matters is not the size of a vocabulary but rather the ways in which you employ it to express yourself and your ideas.

Subject: Philosophy

TutorMe
Question:

Is it morally wrong to eat meat?

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Joshua R.
Answer:

This is an interesting question in that it reveals a handful of biases about how we interpret loaded language in our society. In modern culture, meat is often directly associated with factory farmed animals; the meat in the supermarket is often perceived as being inextricably interwoven with the process that produced that meat. One cannot remove the stun gun from the sirloin, one might say. If one has that understanding of meat, then one might be entitled (depending on what views one has about the nature of animal cruelty) to say that the eating of meat (and thus the paying into of the system which created the cruelty which the animals experienced to produce that meat) is a moral wrong. However, if we remove meat from the context of the current paradigm which exists in the meat industry, then we see that the question is more innocuous than we might initially suppose. From a more objective point of view, all the question is asking is whether or not the consumption of meat--the inert matter which was once an animal--is unjustified through the lens of modern ethics. There is no implication that the meat suffered while it was still an animal, nor that your consumption of it will contribute to future suffering. From that point of view, it would seem that there is less reason to think that the eating of meat is wrong. The power of the question lies in how it reveals our own assumptions and ways in which we use language in our culture.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

Slaughterhouse 5 is often considered one of the great American classics. In the novel, Vonnegut employs a nonlinear structure to tell his story--events happen out of order with seemingly no explict direction. Explain why an author might employ a nonconventional writing style in their work.

Inactive
Joshua R.
Answer:

In the example above, Vonnegut employs a nonlinear writing style in order to give the reader insight into the characters and themes of the story. The crux of the story is that the main character is detached in time, and so by detaching the reader from time (in a narrative sense) we get better insight into what the character is experiencing. This can also be seen as an allegory for shell shock, which helps to reinforce the antiwar themes in the novel. Nontraditional modes of writing are used like this all the time. Another great example is James Joyce's magnum opus Ulysses, in which the story is told in a variety of styles that reflect the maturation of the narrator over time.

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