October 12, 2007

Writing Good

For a cadet to attain both the Armstrong and Eaker achievements, they must present both and essay and make a speech. Although the speeches are usually decent to good, the essays leave much to be desired in my experience. I had to nearly fail a cadet in their essay because I believed it was not up to their usual standards. I did pass them because they did meet the requirements outlined in the form.

Being a college student, and a political science major, I am writing a paper on average every week. I rather enjoy writing, and find it comes rather easily, although I also can see how it can be intimidating and tough for someone. I do not expect them to write on a college level, but I do see it as my duty to prepare them for that level. After receiving two papers in a row that were sub-par, I decided to do a brief lecture on basic writing. I find it prudent to place the writing tips I gave my Cadets here for the benefit of all.

1: Use a great hook! The first sentence can make or break the essay. If you have room, take an antic dote from your own life and use it to bring in the audience. However, the story should be relevant to the topic you are discussing, so you can relate it to the topic at hand.

2: Avoid First and Second Person. In your essay, there is no need to say "I will prove that..." because it is your essay, and we know that is what you are proving. Always use the third person in your writings. If you feel the need to reference yourself, say "the author". However, avoid this if you can.

3: Form a good thesis. To simplify things, make your thesis statement say something to the effect of "This happened because of A, B, and C", where A, B and C are the points you are proving. For example: "Good leaders are able to exercise good judgment, learn from mistakes, and stay humble". This serves two purposes: Firstly it lets the audience know your argument, and it helps organize your essay. The following paragraph's topics are those statements. If you used the above thesis, then the first paragraph is on exercising good judgment, the second on learning from mistakes, and the third on staying humble. Makes things easier doesn't it?

4: Always Cite your Sources: Citing sources not only adds legitimacy to your paper, but it keeps you from being accused of plagiarism.

Using these above suggestions would guarantee more than just a passing grade from me on a paper. An added selling point: they are the way to construct a good paper pretty much anywhere.

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