Tutor profile: Janna L.
What is passive voice and why shouldn't I use it?
A lot of students are told to "never do this" or "always do that" and passive voice is a perfect example of this. Yet, like most things, the answer is more complex than the question implies. Teachers often make blanket rules that are right in most cases to avoid dealing with the complexities of some subjects, like saying "never use passive voice." Before breaking down this rule, let's look at what it is first. Passive voice has to do with the order and phrasing of a sentence. Simply put, with passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by something, whereas active voice is when the subject of the sentence does the action of the verb. That previous sentence used both passive and active voice to describe each type- see if you can figure out how. An example of passive voice would be: "the essay was written by the student" whereas active would be: "the student wrote the essay." Usually, active voice sounds more effective because it is stronger, more concise, and shows how the relationship between subject and verb works. But, as mentioned earlier, all rules need to be evaluated, and there are times when passive voice is appropriate. Some examples are in some professional, legal, and formal instances. We can explore this more...
What is symbolism and why is it important to analyze?
A lot of students get frustrated when their teachers and professors ask them, "What do you think the author means here?" If the author means something, shouldn't they just come out and say it? Symbolism is when writers use objects or references to add a deeper layer to their story, poem, or other creative work. Symbols can help enhance aspects of a character or theme to create a deeper meaning in the overall work. Symbols can become more interesting when students begin to think of them as "clues" left by the author to pass on more than meets the eye. If a murder mystery tells you everything that happens in the first scene, it is no longer a mystery-- in a similar way, if an author tells you everything you need to know about a character or theme, it becomes more like a textbook than a work of fiction. Symbols are open to interpretation, which can feel overwhelming at first, but really, exploring deeper meanings and backing it up with evidence can broaden your appreciation of a work, while enhancing your experience reading and what you learn from the piece overall.
Subject: English as a Second Language
What should a strong thesis statement do in an argumentative essay?
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader the main argument your essay will be developing and supporting. Successful thesis statements are debateable (someone can disagree with it), are more than just a personal opinion (it must be able to support it with evidence, in other words, it isn't simply personal opinion), are specific enough to orient the reader without being too specific to be able to craft an entire essay around, and serves as a springboard and roadmap for the essay to come. One of my favorite questions to ask after reading a thesis statement, and to help students expand or challenge their first draft, is "So what?" Why does your thesis matter? Will most people just agree with you? Is it a statement when it needs to be an argument? Working out these questions before doing major revisions will save you so much time in all stages of writing your essay, and will help bring your paper up a level almost instantly.
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