Other Writing Issues

1. Writing in the 1st or 2nd period (e.g., I, you, me, my)
2. Informal Writing
3. Past tense in historical writing
4. Using ambiguous pronouns (They, them, their)
5. Unnecessary words and phrases
6. Transition Words and Phrases
7. Repetitiveness and Redundancy
8. Link and connect ideas between paragraphs throughout your essay
9. Mentioning vs. Discussing

Additional download: More issues to avoid

1. Writing in the 1st or 2nd period (e.g., I, you, me, my)

example 1:

“I believe that conflict between the Native Americans and English was inevitable.”

Instead

“Conflict between the Native Americans and English was inevitable.”

Example 2:

“You shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day if you don’t believe Columbus was a good person.”

Instead

2. Informal Writing

Don’t write as if you are writing to a friend of yours.  Also avoid writing the way you would speak in a casual conversation.

Examples:

“How would you feel if someone came and took your stuff from you while you were just sitting there?”

“You know how sometimes you get sick but the get better?  This conflict was kind of like that.”

Instead

Just don’t include that stuff

3.Past tense in historical writing

Whenever you write a history essay, you should use the past tense.

This was a common problem in our Columbus essays along with these paragraphs. Historical writing should be in the past tense.

You can’t say, “The Powhatan can attack the English and take their resources.” Can is in the present tense and this all already happened. It’s in the past.

Instead write, “The Powhatan could attack the English to take their resources.”

Always write in the past tense

4.Using ambiguous pronouns (They, them, their)

You can use pronouns like “they” and “their” in a sentence when it is absolutely clear who you’re talking about.

For example: “The English wanted to leave their homeland.”

It’s clear that “their homeland” is the English homeland.

Bad example: “The Powhatan wanted to attack the English because they wanted to take their land so that they could be better off and take resources back with them.”

Each time they, their, and them are used it’s unclear whether you are talking about the English or Powhatan. Even though you can probably guess, grammatically it’s not absolutely clear therefore you should not write like this.

Better example: “The Powhatan wanted to attack the English because the English wanted to take Powhatan land and to take resources back to England.”

Even if it sounds repetitive saying the English a couple of times, it’s better than saying “them” unclearly.

5.Unnecessary words and phrases

Much of the work I’ve read contains unnecessary words and phrases that add nothing to your writing. Always get straight to your point.

Some phrases that can be completed deleted from your work:

 “This is because…”

“The reason for this is…”

“I think that…”

Anything else that functions in a similar way to the above phrases can be completely deleted from your writing. A quick test would be to read the sentence without those phrases there and if the sentence means the same thing without those phrases then they are unnecessary.

Example:

I think that conflict between the Indians and English was inevitable. This is because the English used to treat the Indians badly and not respect them. The reason for this was the ways the Indians lived made the English think the Indians were inferior.

6. Transition words and phrases

Each of your paragraphs should be connected to the paragraphs around it through the use of transition words and phrases. The end of one paragraph and the topic sentence in the following paragraph are good places for this.

Examples:

…These ideas were in place before the two groups of people had even gotten to know each other. These views would make it difficult for the two groups to have a lasting peaceful relationship. This by itself didn’t automatically cause conflict to be inevitable but it did help it along with other factors such as the small attacks that happened.

As soon as the English first showed up in Virginia, there was a cycle of attacks and revenge that began that once established made future conflict between the two groups inevitable.

Or

In addition to having bad views of each other, the cycle of violence and revenge made conflict inevitable.

7. Repetitiveness and Redundancy

Avoid being repetitive by using different words and phrases when you have to say the same thing.

Rather than repeatedly saying that conflict was inevitable, you can say what you want in different ways. Try saying unavoidable, saying conflict could not be avoided, conflict was going to happen no matter what or any other variation.

Try also to use a variety of phrases in your topic sentences and don’t say the same thing over and over.

8. Link and connect ideas between paragraphs and throughout your essay

It’s important for you to think about how each of your ideas relate to each other and how each factors and idea builds off of the other ideas. It makes no sense to have your first paragraph about conditions in England, the next one about the motivations of the English and the third paragraph about land if you don’t talk about how all those ideas are related and how all those factors affected each other and built off each other. In your essay you shouldn’t talk about one idea in one paragraph and simply move on to something new. As much as you can you should talk about how the previous points you made affected the later points you are making. Remember that your goal is not to build 6 different body paragraphs independently of each other. Your goal is to answer the question with ONE thesis statement. Your paragraphs are supposed to prove that one thesis statement. Build an answer by discussing many related ideas in your body paragraphs. Each paragraph should have its own focus but the ideas should constantly be connected.

Examples:

 

(At the end of a paragraph about how leaders seemed to make cooperation possible and there was an earlier paragraph about mistrust between the two groups) The mistrust that was established early on in Jamestown between the two groups made cooperation impossible even though there were people trying to build good relationships.

Or

(After discussing in a previous paragraph a point about the English motivations for showing up in Jamestown). When the English learned how to grow tobacco in Jamestown effectively they were finally able to achieve their original goals of becoming wealthy and successful in Virginia which would ultimately make conflict all but certain, if it wasn’t already, because of the demands for increased land and workers.

9.Mentioning vs Discussing

Simply saying something is not the same as proving it. Mentioning is not the same as discussing. To be an effective writer and developing a convincing point of view requires that you use a few words to say what you want.

Example:

Don’t: There was a drought in Virginia that made it hard for the groups to get along. This made conflict inevitable.

Do: Two of the worst droughts in Virginia’s history happened when the English were trying to establish colonies in Virginia. The lack of rainfall caused crops to fail and animals to die. The weather conditions created a shortage of resources that made it difficult for two groups of people who already didn’t like each other to get along since there wasn’t enough to share.

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