Writing Essays still a Challenge?

Hey. Tutor Phil here. I’ve taught college-level composition, tutored writing for a while, and I’ve come to this conclusion: writing essays is still a challenge for many students. During my teaching years, I’ve taught two different courses: Freshman Composition and Introduction to Literature.

Well, my English I students (Freshman Comp.) were able to put together coherent essays pretty early in the semester, while my Literature students were usually so challenged with writing that I had to discontinue assigning term papers because I simply couldn’t bear the thought of how much struggle it must have been for my students to write (which was evident in the content of their essays). I gave quizzes instead.

So I thought to myself, why not put together some writing advice that was so helpful to my English I students and just put it out there? And I did (doing it as we speak, so to speak).

And since the number one complaint from my students has been that they had difficulties writing a good thesis statement, here’s a bit of advice:

Write your Thesis Statement without adding an Introduction.

Let’s clarify something right away: a Thesis Statement and an Introduction are not one and the same thing.  A Thesis Statement should include ONLY your main argument and the description of why you believe that it’s true. That description (or the explanation) should also be your outline in accordance with which you will structure your support.

Introductions are purely ornamental and are NOT essential to a good essay. In fact, in my own writing classes I required my students NOT to write Introductions. An Introduction is usually some material that is aimed at “grabbing the reader’s attention,” or some other similar purpose, which does not contribute to the quality of your main argument or its support. In plain English, it doesn’t help you or the reader.

To quote Bill Stott, from his book Write to the Point:

The problem with Introductions is that writers, particularly bad writers, use them to clear their throats. […] Don’t clear your throat. Get to the point.

Well put, Mr. Stott. Yes, folks, get to the point, and I’ll show you how to do just that in one of the future posts. Cheers…

P.S. By the way, don’t hesitate and leave a comment with any challenges you have with writing essays, and I’ll be more than happy to post some advice. Bring it on!

Questions? Go ahead and ask one here.

Tutor Phil

Tutor Phil

Tutor Phil is an e-learning professional who helps adult learners finish their degrees by teaching them academic writing skills.

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