Jonathan is a serial entrepreneur, mostly in the education space. In addition he is also a full-time university student studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. In amongst the busyness he tries to have a social life, play sport, and relax with a good book.
Posted in Uncategorised on December 16, 2011
It’s been a busy year but the premier blog for essay writing will be back in full-force next year. We are also moving to our new domain: hateessays.com and will continue to provide you with the tips, tricks, and information you need to excel at essay writing. There will also be some new resources on offer, so stay tuned…
Have a great Christmas!
– The “Hate Essays?” team
Posted in Essays Overall on May 20, 2011
Thesaurus: a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms (dictionary.com)
It sounds like it would be perfect for paraphrasing journal articles or making your essay sound sophisticated.
However, it’s not.
Well not exactly. In order to paraphrase you need to understand what you’re paraphrasing – just finding synonyms of the key words and changing the sentence structure isn’t good enough. The reason is because replacing words with their synonyms doesn’t necessarily make the sentence say what it originally said. If you understand what you’re paraphrasing you’ll be able to pick out the bad synonyms; if not, you’re screwed – the marker will have a bad impression of you.
The same goes for trying to make your essay sound sophisticated. While it doesn’t read particularly well if you use the same word over and over again throughout your essay, it’s much worse if you use words that don’t make sense because you’ve been using a thesaurus. A boring essay which makes sense will beat a fancy sounding essay that doesn’t make sense any time.
So I should never use a thesaurus?
Never is quite a strong word – but unless you have a word in mind that you’re looking for, don’t use a thesaurus. They’re much more likely to hinder rather than help.
Especially don’t use the thesaurus in Microsoft Word!
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Last week I talked about the key ingredient in changing a good essay into a great one – the ‘stroke of genius’. In this post I’ll provide an example of
one I’ve written to give you an idea of what it might look like.
Note: There is no formula or template for adding a ‘stroke of genius’ to your essay. It is up to you how you phrase it and where you put it.
The example below is from the essay I used as my example for how to construct a conclusion.
This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays. Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole.
That’s it? That’s a ‘stroke of genius’?
Yes it is. It doesn’t have to be in the same realm as E=mc2, all you need to do is make a few clever connections between the evidence you’ve provided in your body paragraphs. Not too hard is it?
Where, when, what
Where and When: I usually place my ‘stroke of genius’ in my conclusion as part of my twist like I have done in this example. While this is a very good place for it, if your essay’s argument is itself a ‘stroke of genius’ then you will need to make your insightful links throughout your essay – usually in your topic sentences. You need to present the evidence clearly first before you start making links and connecting dots.
What: In this example I have made connections more than just the parties’ views (unitarist or pluralist) presented in negotiations. I linked their philosophies to specific developments affecting the negotiation process itself – such as the Review of the Holidays Act – and how the parties’ responses fitted into either the unitarist or pluralist framework. Basically it boils down to:
- Unitarism and Pluralism are opposing viewpoints
- Each party discusses the Act through a pluralist mechanism – a bargaining session
- The Government, which is essentially pluralist, uses a unitarist action: doing what it thinks is best, which angers the pluralist unionists.
By pointing out these links in an eloquent way, the marker can see that you understand the subject you’re writing about and you can think outside the box. This is the secret to a great mark.
Posted in Essays Overall on May 2, 2011
You hear it a lot – that essay or assignment was hard, I did everything my teacher/lecturer want and yet I only got an average mark.
Exactly. You did everything you were asked to do, just like everyone else in your class.
You had the same essay question, same information, same teacher/lecture as everyone else. So everyone’s essay ends up roughly the same. If it’s written well, you’ll get a good mark.
So how do you get a great mark?
With what I like to call ‘stroke of genius’.
With everyone writing essentially the same answer to the same question, you need to differentiate yourself. This doesn’t mean writing an essay completely different from everyone else. Which, while possible, is nearly impossible to pull off and not necessary to achieve a great mark. Instead a ‘stroke of genius’ is usually a small but powerful point that make near the end of your essay.
While there is no specific place to reveal your ‘stroke of genius’ in your essay, a great place for it is your twist.
It’s all about connections
A twist is all about weighing up your essay’s evidence. If you want a good mark then this is where you stop – you weigh the evidence, come to a conclusion and that’s your essay.
But, if you want a great mark you need to take this weighed evidence and make some connections.
Throughout your essay you’ve talked about experts’ opinions and ideas – quoted and paraphrased your way to a solid argument that answers the essay question. Apart from the exact words on the page it is not particularly original or creative. You can’t be; you’re not an expert on the subject – even if you think you are.
However, having thoroughly researched the subject and topic you’re writing on, you have the ability to see links and make connections between the evidence, context and argument of your essay.
Here you can be creative, be original, show you’re smart – come up with a stroke of genius.
So what does a stroke of genius look like?
Well that is up to you… but next week we will look at an example to help you come up with your strokes of genius.
Contractions and Colloquial language.
Finding these in your essay will annoy your marker – not something you want to do…
Contraction: a shortened form of a word or group of words, with the omitted letters often replaced in written English by an apostrophe (from Dictionary.com)
“Don’t”, “isn’t”, “didn’t”, and “wouldn’t” are all contractions.
Don’t use them.
But, why? We use them all the time don’t we?
Yes we do but an essay is a formal piece of writing and contractions are informal. They are a quick short colloquial way to write words and phrases.
Do not use you them in your essay. It makes it look like you’re lazy because you can’t be bothered writing your words out in full. If the marker thinks you are lazy then then the box you are being put in has a ‘C’ or an ‘Achieved’ on it, or worse. Markers hate lazy students.
It is however, easy to accidentally use contractions when we are writing our essay – after all, we use them so frequently in everyday language. The best technique is to use Ctrl+F to search for all the apostrophes in your essay.
Colloquial: characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing; informal.
“What’s up?” , “gonna”, “dunno”, and “thick as two short planks” are all colloquial.
Do not use them in your essay. It makes it look like you are not particularly well-educated. Your arguments will seem less credible and your evidence weak, in the eyes of the marker. You are in that ‘C’ or ‘Achieved’ box at the very best, once again.
In fact, using colloquial language in essays is pretty much considered an unforgivable sin by markers. You might get away with an accidental contraction or two but you won’t get away with colloquial language. Some markers will instantly fail you and not bother to read any more.
It’s not worth the risk.
Hang on a second, isn’t it ironic that you’ve used contractions in this blog post (and this question)?
Yes it is.
But, whenever you write, you follow the conventions and styles of the type of writing you are doing. We write this blog in a casual conversational style to make it easy for you to read, understand, and apply what we write about, to your essays. Contractions are useful when writing in this style.
An essay is a formal piece of writing – it is not casual and conversational. Contractions therefore have no place in it.
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In my last post we talked about consistency and I gave you a decent list of things you need to keep consistent:
- Spelling and Capitalisation
In this post we’ll look the last two: numbers and dates.
One, 1, I…
Ten, 10, X…
Which is correct?
Well if you are talking about amounts definitely not the Roman numerals! Deciding between the next two is a little trickier.
There is no actual official accepted format but a good rule of thumb is use words for one through to nine and digits for 10 and above. The main thing is whatever you decide, whether it’s the rule of thumb above, all words or all digits – keep it consistent.
Don’t use both one and 1 or ten and 10 in your essays.
Another thing to watch out for is money and percentages.
50c, $0.50, 50 cents, fifty cents. Pick one and stick to it.
25%, 25 percent, twenty-five percent. Once again, pick one and stick to it.
This leads us nicely onto dates…
As with numbers there is no right way or wrong way to write out your dates – just keep it consistent!
20th century or twentieth century or even 20th-century and twentieth-century
1800’s or 1800s
7th August 1990 or 7 August 1990 or 7 August, 1990 or August 7, 1990 etc.
An interesting note from McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook by Laura Anderson, is that if you use a comma in your date then you need to use one after the year also. For example: “On 7 August, 1990, I was born.”
Throughout this post I have been saying that there is no right way or wrong way to write your numbers and dates as long as they are consistent throughout your essay. This is true.
However, people and/or subjects have preferences for certain formats – so make sure you check out what formats your lecturers, teachers, textbooks use first before making your own choice of format.
The secret to getting good marks in your essays is writing what the marker wants – so be consistent and use their preferred number and date formats in your essays this week.
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Posted in Essays Overall on March 28, 2011
When it comes to essays, lacking consistency is also a bad thing, better than your essays being consistently bad – but a bad thing all the same.
For a sports team, a lack of consistency breaks up momentum and makes it very difficult for them become successful. Their unpredictability also makes them painful to watch, beating good teams one week and losing to bad teams – like the Cavs the next.
In your essay, a lack of consistency makes it harder to read and therefore more frustrating for the marker to go through. A frustrated marker leads to poor marks and them heading for the exits before your essay is done – just like Knicks’ fans at the moment.
There are many ways of writing the same thing and quite often there isn’t one “right way”. What is wrong, however, is to use multiple “ways” in the same essay. For example, ‘focused’ and ‘focussed’ are both correct spellings of the intended word, but you should pick one and use it throughout – don’t alternate spellings to try and mix things up!
In an essay there are many things that need to be consistent:
- Spelling and Capitalisation
Quite a lot! We will go through some of these in detail in future posts but the most important thing to remember is keep things consistent when you write this week.
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Ctrl+F (a.k.a. the Find Function).
Some mistakes and typos are so similar to the correct spelling that it is extremely difficult to pick them up. This is where Ctrl-F comes in.
1. Make a list of words that you could easily mix up or misspell. Below is a few examples from McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook by Laura Anderson p123:
- accept ~ except
- affect ~ effect
- alter ~ altar
- born ~ borne
- their ~ there
- prostate ~ prostrate
- quiet ~ quite
2. Then go through your essay and check you have used the right word in the right situation by entering the words into the search box of the Find Function. Remember the Find Function only reveals instances when you wrote in exactly what you typed in the search box, though. So you need to go through the document searching all variations of each word that you may have used at different times (including completely incorrect variations that you know you write occasionally, in case the spellcheck function misses them).
Other things you should check:
- Apostrophes – you shouldn’t be contracting words in an essay, like “shouldn’t”, but it’s easy to do by accident. Also, you can check your possessive apostrophes at the same time.
- Consistent spelling – which is the topic for my next post…
Ctrl+F is very good way to pick up those nearly impossible to spot errors and after you have been writing for a while, you’ll know what words you commonly make mistakes with and so will have a good list to search.
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I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours? Gloria
Now read this one – same words, different punctuation:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Gloria
Completely different meanings.
So make sure you proofread and check your punctuation carefully – you don’t want to accidentally say something you didn’t intend!
Photo Credit: Planning for Fun via Graeme Douglas
So you’re reading slowly and deliberately, but what do you need to look out for?
Actually, a lot of things but they can be put into 3 main categories:
This category is rather straightforward and includes those accidental typos that come from typing (or writing) too fast. Here a spellcheck function, such as MS Word’s, can be useful – but you need to be careful. Sometimes words that are spelt correctly get nice red squiggly lines underneath them and sometimes words that are spelt incorrectly don’t. It is always much better to check with an actual dictionary such as dictionary.com.
Picking up typos and spelling mistakes can be the hardest mistakes to spot because we see what we expect to see. So you should check all the letters in a word carefully. In a future post we’ll look a one easy way to find spelling mistakes and typos in your essay.
Or more specifically, in this case, syntax. In short, syntax is set the rules that govern the order of the words in a sentence. We are not going to go into these here but if you read through what you’ve written slowly and deliberately you’ll know if it sounds right.
Sometimes it is obvious your syntax is not quite right, however sometimes it is more subtle.
For example, take the first sentence of the paragraph above: “Or more specifically, in this case, syntax.” It could also be written, “Or in this case, more specifically, syntax.” Neither are wrong. The first one (and the one I used) is the best order because the fact that I am talking about a specific part of grammar is the more important piece of information conveyed in that sentence. This is to do with how the placement of words or phrases affect how much they stand out in a reader’s mind. What’s at the start or end is more memorable.
If you can’t tell between two possible word-orders, say them both out loud in the context of your essay. Choose the one that sounds like it says what you were intending to say.
It sounds hard but with practice and general reading you’ll be able to spot errors in your essay’s syntax.
To check you have punctuated properly you must read out loud. It also helps to exaggerate your pauses.
Read your sentences evenly, allow a normal pause at a comma, longer pause at a semi-colon or em-dash, and the longest pause at a full-stop, exclamation mark or question mark.
Do you finish a sentence gasping for breath? Add some punctuation or break it up into two (or more) sentences.
Does your sentence actually say what you meant it to say? Change where the punctuation is so it does say what what you want it to!
Next week I’ll look at how powerful punctuation is and how it can completely alter the meaning of a sentence.
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