Reading my previous post about Roman Architecture on Coursera you might have concluded we are not having fun there. Nothing would be farther from the truth!
I’ll give you an excerpt from chatting in the forum where we discuss that first writing assignment: what constitutes a successful one. We agreed to post incognito in the threads, so as to maintain impartiality. [That’s why I deem fit to copy this exchange, without a slightest pang of conscience)
This is quite tricky with so many ‘anons” posting – -maybe we should try using names of our pets or something instead? But anyway, the assignment that received a 23, as it stands in one blocky paragraph, would not be considered “well-written” in academia. If anon #1 is saying that it was originally posted as separate paragraphs, then yes, that would certainly improve his score. In American academia, not only is the intro, body and conclusion almost considered as separate paragraphs, it should be quite “obvious” to the reader. Here’s a few tips for ANYONE: Don’t be afraid to use words like In conclusion, as a result, resulting in, and so on. Don’t use phrases like, I think, I feel, I believe. Start with a strong introduction that states the “point” early on. What is your argument – -A or B? If it’s A, then say so as early as possible. Say the assignment was, did Romans prefer pizza or bread? You might say, “As early as the first century BC, Romans have preferred pizza. There’s an intro AND a thesis statement. Then you give the body: here is the evidence of why they prefer pizza, and list the evidence. Then you have a conclusion, as a result of seeing pizza in the ashes of Pompeii, it’s clear the Romans prefer pizza. Or, in conclusion, Romans prefer pizza. Obviously, you would expand on your writing to complete the assignment, but keep to the idea of an intro, body and conclusion.
Where many writers make the mistake is by being far too descriptive or unclear in their intro/thesis. They try to present “sides” instead of making a solid argument. They may write on and on about the ingredients in bread or pizza, or describe paintings with breadsticks or pizza in them, but never make a strong argument about what the Romans prefer. You have to decide before writing: what am I going to argue (discuss, claim, whatever) about it? Your conclusion should be the summary of what you just argued. So, in short, think of it in this formula: This is what I am going to argue, this is my argument, this is what I have argued. Hopefully this is helpful to people. I’ll sign this in the name of my cat: Maximus Aurelius.
Dear Maximus Aurelius,
The “block” thing, very distracting, might have been caused by using an iPad to compose the essay. I have seen that kind of problem when I used my iPad. It is not consistent, though.
As regards writing style, below are several opening to some books that I think are noteworthy. Note how many different styles there are…then note the list of authors/books. Style can be very personal.
Bud (the name of my late, faithful tabby)
1) It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
2) Call me Ishmael.
3) You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.
4) I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled.
5) The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.
6) You better not never tell nobody but God.
7) It was love at first sight.
8) When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
1) Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
2) Herman Melville, Moby Dick
3) Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
4) Robert Graves, I, Claudius
5) Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
6) Alice Walker, The Color Purple
7) Joseph Heller, Catch 22
8) Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird