Better and Better Essays #3

From a practicing journalist, one who has been through the IB Literature course (with an IB outcome of 7), three final hints to improve your essays. If you put into practice not only these, but the suggestions in the two previous ‘Better and Better Essays,’ you are likely to really raise your game as you face the whirlwind of essays demanded of you at the end of the IB May or November sessions.

Hint #1: How to edit more effectively

Start with developmental editing, not copy editing. To do this, take a step back and check your structure – are paragraphs in the right sections, in the right and logical order? Can a reader follow your line of thought easily? Now do a line-by-line edit. Delete imprecise words, replacing them with stronger nouns and verbs if needed. Keep verbs close to nouns. Watch out for falling into passive voice. Break long sentences into shorter ones. Proofread as your last step, not your first.

Hint #2: Develop an original line of argument

What if you’re stuck, bored by the topic, feeling overwhelmed? Shut down your computer. Pick up paper and pen. In the centre of the page, write a statement of your topic or argument, however vaguely. Circle it. Now write down related words, or phrases, and connect them to your central topic. Keep going and going, build a web of ideas. If this sounds like mind-mapping, that’s just what this is, in a very simple form. This can be a very short exercise – maybe five minutes, or longer if it’s productive.

Hint #3: Finish your essay with flair and strength

Don’t reiterate what you’ve already said, as many students do. Use an interesting metaphor or analogy. Think of other lines of inquiry that could grow from your argument. Put your argument into a wider context. Compare to another literary work that is clearly related to the one you have discussed.

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