What is the most common college writing mistake?
In my experience, it is failing to provide proper support for the main point.
I’d like to illustrate it by showing you how two different writers chose to support their theses, their main points.
The topic they both chose was Why Shakespeare Is Still Relevant Today.
I’ll provide links to the articles in the description below.
The first writer provided six reasons while the second offered only five. Let’s see how well their logical reasoning serves the authors in supporting this point. And again, the main point is: Shakespeare Is Still Relevant Today, for a number of reasons.
So, let’s go.
Writer one offers these six reasons.
- Reason 1. You quote Shakespeare on a regular basis and don’t even know it. Does this indeed support the main point? Yes, if you quote Shakespeare daily, he is relevant today.
- Reason 2. The Bard’s reach is cosmic. In this point, the author states that many planets bear the names of Shakespeare’s characters. Does this support the main point. Yes, why not?
- Reason 3. Some people don’t believe Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems that bear his name. Does this help prove the point that Shakespeare is still relevant today? Well, actually, it doesn’t. Not at all. So what if many people believe he didn’t write his own plays? This point simply fails to support the thesis. And therefore, this reason does not belong in this article at all. Next.
- Reason 4. Shakespeare has been a profitable brand for hundreds of years. Okay, people still make money off of Shakespeare. Very relevant to today.
- Reason 5. His likeness remains a mystery. Well, so what? People don’t know what he really looked like. But who cares? How does this make him relevant today? It simply doesn’t. Finally,
- Reason 6. His works are universal and enduring, as are his characters. Does this one work? Absolutely. So, writer one has offered six reasons Shakespeare is relevant today, only four of which really work.
Let’s see how writer two did on the same challenge. The main point is the same. And here are the reasons.
- Reason 1. His plays touch on timeless themes such as love, friendship and vengeance. Does this work? Sure. Timeless themes.
- Reason 2. The characters are fallible and real. This works, too. The characters are real and, therefore, timeless.
- Reason 3. His plays are full of quotable quotes. Now, don’t mind the redundancy – we’re just interested in whether or not the reason helps support the main point. And it sure does. Shakespeare is highly quotable.
- Reason 4. His plays are a “Repository of commonly used phrases and words today.” Now, this reason seems awfully similar to the previous one. But let’s give the author the benefit of the doubt and trust that he will provide a good, standalone supporting point. And finally –
- Reason 5. Shakespeare gave voice to the marginalized in society. Yes, indeed, this is highly relevant in today’s world.
And thus we can see that while author one has provided six reasons Shakespeare is relevant today, only four of them really work.
However, while author two gave only five reasons, all of them actually help support the main point.
In your writing, make sure that your reasoning is airtight. And an easy way to do it is to use the Power of Three, which means to provide only three reasons, but to make sure that they are strong, logical, and distinct.
Links to the articles discussed:
Links to videos about using the Power of Three: