Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Use Microsoft Word

So, in this lesson I explain some common mistakes students make when using Microsoft Word, and how simple they are to correct. These quick, simple steps will make your writing much more professional. Now, there are many different versions of MS Word, and mine is a little older. It's up to you to learn the version you've got. Every version has the functions I use here:





















Friday, July 24, 2015

Common Logical Fallacies

1. Anecdotal Evidence
Using a personal story or isolated example as evidence, commonly used to dismiss statistics.

    

Example: "This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice." ––Donald Trump, in a tweet.

Reality: ". . . global warming means that the globe--i.e., the whole planet, not just where you live--is steadily increasing in temperature, on average. The fact that it is very cold in one small part of the world for a short period of time does not disprove a long-term global trend." ––Emily Atkin, from "Yes, It's Cold. Global Warming Is Still Real", on thinkprogress.org, Jan 8, 2015

2. An Appeal to Emotion
This is when someone tries to force an emotional reaction, in place of a logical argument. These tactics can focus on fear, hate, guilt, or even pity.

Example: "You don't know how lucky you are to have such a wonderful school here. Think of the children in Africa who can't go to school, because it's not safe."

Reality: Regardless of the situation in some parts of Africa or elsewhere, it doesn't mean we should automatically be happy with our school.

3. Begging the Question (It means taking for granted)
This is when you base your argument on an assumption that may be false.

Example: Apples are healthy because they grow on trees.

Reality: Chinaberry tree fruit also grows on trees, but is poisonous. If you want to prove apples are healthy, you'll need a better argument.

4. Evading the Question (to evade means run from)
Some questions are hard to answer, and so people avoid answering in a number of ways. This is common with politicians. Some simply smile and walk away. Some openly refuse to answer, saying it's none of your business (and sometimes, they're right). The most deceptive, and successful, will choose a new question, and answer that.

Example: "Shouldn't minorities be allowed to purchase homes in white neighbourhoods?"

The politician answers: "Homeowners have a right to protect the value of their property."

Reality: This politician has ignored the rights of minorities, instead pandering to a common fear of white suburban voters (and a corrupt system that devalues homes in minority neighbourhoods), which has been an ongoing issue in America for over a hundred years now.

5. Ad Hominem Attack
This is another way to evade the question, by attacking and insulting the questioner. It asks the question, "Why should anyone ever listen to you?"


This includes name calling, but can be more psychological:

Frank Sinatra on Robert Redford: “Well at least he has found his true love – what a pity he can’t marry himself.”

Examples: "A doctor tells her patient to lose weight, and the patient thinks: “If my doctor really believed that, she wouldn’t be so fat.” A movie aficionado pans [skips] the latest Tom Cruise flick because Cruise is a Scientologist. A home­owner ignores a neighbor’s advice on lawn care because the neighbor is a ... you name it: Democrat, ­Re­publican, Christian or atheist." from "Character Attacks: How to Properly Apply the Ad Hominem", Scientific American, June/July 2008

6. Guilt by Association
This is a special kind of Ad Hominem, when you discredit one person for being friends with someone else who is scandalous.

Example: Many republicans criticized Barack Obama for befriending Bill Ayers, who at one time committed acts of terrorism in the US. Sarah Palin claimed he was, "palling around with terrorists."

Reality: Bill Ayers coordinated a series of bombings in Chicago, as an anti-Vietnam War protest in the 1960's and 70's (When Obama was a teen, living in Hawaii). Ayers was never imprisoned, due to the FBI's illegal methods of investigation. Since then, Mr. Ayers stopped these acts of terrorism, dedicating his life to teaching. He became a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and was Chicago's citizen of the year in 1997. Besides all this, he was in fact, not a close friend to Obama.

7. Ad Populum
When you direct your insult at a large group of people, it becomes Ad Populum, in other words discrimination (also called a Hasty or Sweeping Generalization). This includes any insults aimed at minorities, ethnicities, religions, skin colour, men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, etc.

 8. A Non Sequitur:
"When a train of thought proceeds from A to B and back again to Q." ––Bill Griffith
A non sequitur seeks to draw a conclusion from two facts that have no logical connection. Ad hominems, besides evading the questions, are also non sequiturs.

Example: "He's the most popular student, he should be the school president."

Reality: Popularity does not ensure competence. While charisma is an important attribute, it is not the only important attribute, whether in politics or elsewhere, so it doesn't make him the obvious choice.

Non Sequiturs can be really funny when obvious:


But, non sequiturs can be especially difficult to spot, because they often feel right.

Example: "Penelope Cruz uses L’Oreal hair colour.  I should use it, too, so my hair will look as good as hers."

Reality: Using this product is no guarantee your hair will look like Cruz's, especially when you have different genes.

9. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (False Causation)

"OBSERVATION: I have never been in a bad mood and near a beach ball at the same time. Causation? Correlation? Or fate?" - Demetri Martin

This is a non sequitur of events. Scientists get headaches over this one, constantly repeating, "correlation does not equal causation."

Example: Someone eats an ice cream cone on a cold day and gets a sore throat the next day. His mother says, "You shouldn't have eaten that ice cream!"

Reality: Hey, maybe the cold ice cream did upset his throat. Or, maybe it's a virus he picked up at work, or when he bought that cantaloupe at the supermarket which someone else had sneezed on.

Also, every good-luck charm is a post hoc fallacy.

10. Oversimplification
This is when you simplify an argument to such a degree that crucial facts are missing.

Example: "The Titanic is a film about an elderly survivor who recounts her tale of how a poor boy once nailed her in the backseat of a car."

Reality: The story is about more than that. Note, oversimplification may not be true, but it makes for good humour.

11. False Dichotomy (The Black & White Fallacy)
This is a special kind of oversimplification, when you twist an argument down to two options, when in fact there are more alternatives. False dichotomies can take an either-or form:

Example: "You're either with the president, or you're against him.
Reality: You could be neutral to the president, neither for nor against.

They can also take an if-then format:

Example: "If I work harder at my singing, I should win the contest!
Reality: You might win, but you just don't know until you hear the competitors.

Sometimes someone will make it three options, instead of two:

Example: C.S. Lewis once said Jesus was either the Son of God, a liar, or a madman. There are no other options.
Reality: This argument hinges on the accuracy of what we know about Jesus from the Bible. Assuming the Bible is 100% accurate Begs the Question.

12. The Middle Ground Fallacy
This is a special false dichotomy where, instead of insisting there are only 2 (or three) options, one argues that the only true answer between two opposing viewpoints must be a compromise.

Example: Molly says that vaccinations cause autism in children, while her scientifically well-read friend Heather says this was proven false. Their friend Jennifer suggests a compromise that vaccinations might cause autism, but only sometimes.

Reality: While the jury is still out on the true cause/s of autism, statistics show no significance between the disease and vaccinations, whatsoever. There's no logical basis for a compromise here.

13.  Argumentum Ad Ignoratum
This is when you make an argument based on ignorance. Since the opposition doesn't have an answer or solution, your answer must be right.

Example: UFO's exist because no one's proven they don't. Also, Ghost don't exist because no one has proven they do.

Reality: Lack of proof is not proof.

14. The Bandwagon
This is when you accept the practices of a group as both normal and ethical. Anything unaccepted by the majority, must therefore be unethical.

Example: Slavery was considered acceptable for hundreds of years simply because, hey, everybody's doing it.

15. The Trick Question
This is a logic trap, meant to trick the opposition into saying something foolish. It's a "gotcha" question.

Example: "So, have you stopped beating your wife?"
If you say yes: You just admitted to beating your wife.
If you say no: You're still beating your wife.
In Reality: Hopefully, you've never beaten anyone, especially your wife.

Another Example: "How do you spell HIV?"
You answer: "H-I-V."
The Trick Question: "Are you positive?"

16. Burden of Proof Reversal
Normally, when someone makes a bold claim, such as a cure for cancer, the burden is on them to prove it. When this person tries to shift that burden to the skeptics, it's illogical.

 
Example: Bill says he has an invisible friend whose pixie dust cures cancer and reverses aging. Since you can't see this friend, you can't deny it, even though Bill doesn't look any younger, and he still has cancer.

17. Slippery Slope
This fallacy, a kind of fear tactic, states that if we allow one thing to happen, it will automatically lead to other things we don't want.

Example: Some claim that if same-sex marriage is legalized, it will lead to polygamy, as well as marrying family members, animals, and even cars. Others have claimed that, if marijuana were legalized, it would become a gateway drug, increasing abuse of cocaine, meth, and heroin. In American politics, some people advocated a "domino theory" that if we allowed one country, like Vietnam, to become communist, that many more would follow. Today, it's still used to defend America's 2nd amendment, the right to own guns. People say if gun owners needed to pass background checks, or wait a week before buying a gun, it's a slippery slope towards gun confiscation and an Orwellian dystopia.

18. Personal Incredulity
This is when someone refuses to believe an argument because they don't understand it, or find it hard to believe.

Example: Some people still refuse to accept the evolutionary principles that mutated apes into humans, because we look so different.

19. The Gambler's Fallacy
This is the belief that good and bad luck come in "runs".

Example: "The ball has just landed on red at the roulette table 6 times in a row! There's no possible way it could happen a 7th time! What are the odds of that?"

Reality: While the odds of predicting 7 hits on red may be slim, if you spin that wheel again, the odds are still 50/50 of it landing on red, just like the first time you spun the wheel.

20. The No True Scotsman Fallacy
This is when you change your argument with additional stipulations, when you realize you've lost the debate (Note, the name of this fallacy is an Ad Populum attack on the Scottish).

Example: Angus says, "No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."
                 His friend Lachlin says, "Hey, I put sugar in my porridge."
                 Angus retorts, "No true Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."

21. An Appeal to Nature
This is when someone uses nature as an ideal to justify some things, while vilifying others. If something is unnatural, it must be bad.

Example: Some people warn against modern medicine, saying "natural alternatives" are better, even though they're not scientifically tested. Some people say marijuana is safe because it's a natural drug. Some reject homosexuality saying it's not natural. Every time I hear this I think of lions eating gazelles, and sharks eating seals, and wonder where the ethics is in that.

22. An Appeal to Authority
This is when you quote a well respected person, or people, as evidence for your thesis. This is a common argument, and often perfectly reasonable. But, there are five dangers.

      1. Your authority could be wrong. I'm sure someone once quoted pope Urban VIII in saying the
          earth was the center of the universe. And why was this pope wrong? Because astronomy was
          outside his field of expertise. It makes perfect sense to quote an expert in his/her field, like
          Einstein with physics, but start quoting him on other topics, like genetics or medicine, and his
          authority quickly fades - plus you'll find there's not much material to quote.

     2. The authority may have since changed his/her mind. It does no good to quote someone who
         later claims he/she was wrong.

     3. You may have misunderstood the quote. You thought it meant something else. A common
         example is when people quote Picasso, who said, "Art is a lie that tells the truth," and call him a
         liar.

     4. You may be quoting your authority out of context. The quote you found may support your
         argument, but check to see if this expert didn't say still more that refutes it. This is especially
         common with quotes on DVD boxes.

Example: The DVD for Live Free or Die Hard quotes the New York Daily News as saying, "Hysterically...entertaining."

The Full Quote: "The action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon."

     5. The authority might lose his/her reputation. Many famous people fall from grace due to
         scandal. I'm sure Bill Cosby gave lots of great advice to young comedians, and even parents,
         but who cares? The guy's a rapist, and now that it's publicly known, no one's ever going to listen
         to him again. This is a risk you run anytime you use someone's fame and reputation as an
         argument.

23. The Straw Man Fallacy
Sometimes someone will take a quote out of context in order to attack an argument. It's a kind of deception. You change your opponent's argument to make it easier to beat. Republicans loved to use this quote, which made Barack Obama seem anti-business.

Example: "If you've got a business––you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The Full Quote: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business––you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own."

In the full quote, we see that Mr. Obama was really arguing that everyone has a responsibility to give back to the community, through taxes, charity, etc.

24. An Appeal to the Highest Authority
Finally, some people like to think they know exactly what God is thinking, and will use it in an argument.

Example: "God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what HE is doing in the climate is to me outrageous" ––James Inhofe, US Senator from Oklahoma, and chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, on why he doesn't believe in climate change.

How to Write an Essay 4 - Arguments

Notes from The Practical Stylist, by Sheridan Baker, 7th edition

The following are different methods and strategies you can use to form arguments:

Description

1. A picture is worth a thousand words. People care about what they can see and experience. A good writer can make readers care by putting pictures in their mind:

Example: "Almost everything in sight is black, from the tips of trees forty feet above the ground to the powdered ash blanketing the earth. The firestorm that raged through here in recent weeks was driven by sixty-mile-an-hour winds that fanned temperatures to more than 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire was so intense that a gray shadow on the forest floor is all that remains of a fallen log." ––Scott McMurray, from The Wall Street Journal, 23 Sept. 1988

A second ago, you didn't care about this forest, or the fire that burned it up over 25 years ago, but now you want to know where it was and hear more, because you've had a taste of what it looked like. As Stephen King says, writing is telepathy.

2. Description isn't just what you see, but what you hear, smell, taste, and feel:

Example: "Inside, the silence teemed. There was a smell of polished wood, hymnals, and rubber floor mats. The empty air was still vibrating slightly with the suppressed fidgets of children. Except for the pews and the floors, almost every interior surface was covered with statues or pictures."  ––"Great Plains," from The New Yorker, 20 Feb. 1989.

3. "The best descriptions follow the perceptions of a person entering the space described, reporting the impressions, the colors, textures, sights, or sounds as they come."

Example: "Our foreign visitor stands agape at the wonderful residence his second host has built for himself. No expense has been spared here, no decoration omitted. There are little Moorish balconies and Indian domes and squiggly lattice work and an air-conditioner in every window. Inside, all is marble flooring, and in the entrance hall there is a fountain lit up with green, yellow, and red bulbs. The curtains on the windows and in the doorways are of silk, the vast sofa-suites are upholstered in velvet, the telephone is red, and huge vases are filled with plastic flowers." ––Oliver Statler, from Japanese Inn.

Narration

If description creates a picture, narration is like video. It reenacts an event, or series of events, and can even tell you what someone was thinking while it happened. Like with description, the best narration puts you in the writer's head, following everything he/she did, saw, and thought in sequence:

Example: "But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age, I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him." ––George Orwell, from "Shooting an Elephant"

Comparison & Contrast

People generally think of comparison as finding similarities, and contrast as finding differences. A proper comparison covers both these tasks. Remember, compare things point by point, alternating either in sentences or paragraphs.

Metaphor

Metaphors are a useful form of comparison, where one thing is used to represent another.

Example: "He became a shell of his former self."
"It's raining cats and dogs outside.

We know that it's not really raining cats and dogs. Writers use metaphors like these for humour, clarity, or to add a poetic element to their work.

Simile

A simile is a kind of metaphor, stating that one thing is similar to another. Similes usually use the words "like" or "as".

Examples: "It's hot as hell out today."
 "Your socks smell like moldy cheese."

Analogy

1. An analogy is a comparison between two things, not typically associated with each other. It's a logical argument, and it needs to be explained with reasons.

Examples: Life is like a box of chocolates. Why? "You never know what you're gonna get."
 Men are like dogs.                     Why? They're low maintenance. Just give him
some food, scratch his ears and call him a good boy, and he'll be happy.

You shouldn't need to explain a metaphor or simile. Their meaning should be obvious. If you have to, then you've failed. Analogies, on the other hand are meant to be explained.

2. Sheridan Baker warns that analogies are a great way to clarify your views, but you should keep them short, and don't use them to try to prove anything. People lose their patience over long analogies.

Cause & Effect

1. Cause & Effect arguments can focus on the past or future, depending on what you need. You can state an effect, and go back in time as to its causes. Or state a cause and predict what its effects will be in the future.

2. Be sure that you're correct in your assertions. Just because A happened before B, doesn't mean A caused B (the Post Hoc Fallacy). Perhaps it did. Perhaps it was a combination of A, C, H, and Q! Check to see if there aren't more than one causes to a present circumstance.

Classification & Definitions

1. There are many ways to classify and divide things. By making simple lists, classification helps you logically organize your arguments in a way that's easy for readers to follow. You can classify political parties, and so that, when you talk about one, readers assume you'll describe another.
 
2. Another great thing to classify are problems:

Example: Digging the Panama Canal posed very many problems, which can be divided into political, geological, and biological. The political problems involved international treaties between America, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Geological problems included where and how to dig, and dealing with extreme weather. And the worst problem of all was biological - malaria, which killed thousands of workers. Classifying all these problems into a short simple list makes it easier for readers to remember.

3. So far as defining your terms, some words, like cake, shoe, and house are pretty self-explanatory. But some words, like art, are hazy. They mean different things to different people. The People's Republic of China does not reflect a western definition of the word 'republic', nor does the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reflect western principles of democracy. Depending on your topic, you might need to clarify what you mean when you use certain words. Very often, readers dispute an author over the words chosen, rather than the arguments themselves. Quick example, when Richard Hofstadter wrote "Democracy and Anti-Intellectualism in America" in 1953, he wrote several paragraphs defining both democracy and intellectual.

4. Writers may choose inclusive (or loose) definitions, or exclusive (specific) depending on the need.

Examples: A loose definition of love could include romantic, familial, motherly, and platonic. An exclusive definition could be any one of those.

Exclusive definitions are good for narrowing down a debate for ease of argument.

5. There are various ways to define things: by synonym, by function, by comparison, by example, and by analysis.

6. If you're having trouble defining something, ask yourself these questions:

            1. What is it?
            2. What is it not?
            3. What is it like?
            4. What is it not like?

7. Avoid circular definitions! Don't say, "Freedom is feeling free" or "Courtesy is being courteous." Circular definitions aren't clear, and signal intellectual laziness.

8. Don't make your definitions too small. You might define art as beauty, but it's also much more than that.

9. Don't make your definitions too big. You might think that vanity is basically pride, but there are some important differences. Narrow your definition to make it more accurate. Vanity is a kind of frivolous, personal pride, usually stemming from superficial, physical qualities.

Hypothetical Examples

Hypothetical examples, sometimes called thought experiments, are a great way to simplify and clarify a challenging topic. Since we're not dealing with fact or experience, the value of a hypothetical rests only on the strength of its logic.

Example: Suppose someone riding in a bus drops a ball. The passengers sitting in the bus see it fall straight down to the floor. But, the ball also traces a long line slanting downard relative to the rapidly receding highway beneath the car. If the highway curves, the ball also traces that invisible curve. If the bus and passengers were invisible, and an observer standing on the sidewalk saw this ball, he'd see it fall at a diagonal. Now consider that this bus is traveling on the Earth, which is orbiting the sun at 30 km/s, while the sun orbits around the Milky Way at 220 km/s. Now the short, diagonal line becomes as long as a highway. Adding the ball's drop relative to the earth's movement around the sun may be hard to imagine, but calculations of such relative motion are what send our rockets to their meetings with the moon or other planets.

How to Write an Essay 3 - Structure

Notes from The Practical Stylist, by Sheridan Baker, 7th edition

1. Every essay should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

2. The opening paragraph sets the tone and direction of your essay, and should clearly state your thesis, usually at the end.

Example Comparison:

A Bad Opening Paragraph:
"All people think they are good drivers. There are more accidents caused by young drivers than any other group. Driver education is a good beginning, but further practice is very necessary. People who object to driver education do not realize that modern society, with its suburban pattern of growth, is built around the automobile. The car becomes a way of life and a status symbol. When teen-agers go too fast they are probably only copying their own parents."

A Good Revision:
"Modern society is built on the automobile. Children play with tiny cars; teen-agers long to take out the car alone. Soon they are testing their skills at high and higher speeds, especially with a group of friends along. One final test at extreme speeds usually suffices. It is a sobering experience, if survived, and can open one's eyes to the deadly dynamics of driving."

3. The middle, or body, of your essay is your chance to defend your thesis with arguments. A common mistake for students is to skip a solid beginning and go straight into argumentation. "It's all chaotic middle . . . with no structure. It has no beginning, it just starts; it has no end, it just stops, burned out at two in the morning."

4. Organize your arguments, from least to most important, saving your best for last. This will keep people interested - remember boredom grows with every passing paragraph.

5. If your least important arguments aren't very strong, cut them out altogether.

6. Run your comparisons and demolish the opposition point by point. Don't dwell on just one side. The second you concede an opposing view, strike it down with a logical retort. And don't spend three pages talking about cars, and then switch to motorbikes. You'll have to repeat yourself.

7. The final paragraph is your summation and reassertion of your thesis. "You need to imply, 'I told you so,' without saying it . . . and leave them convinced, satisfied, and admiring."

8. Essays are made up of paragraphs, and while each paragraph should focus on one idea, writers have some freedom as to how and when to make them. The purpose of a paragraph is to organize your thoughts, so that it's easier for the reader. Every paragraph is a resting place and a marker, to help readers find their place when they have to pause, or to find some quote they liked, maybe a few days earlier. Every paragraph is also like a miniature essay, with its own beginning, middle, and end.

9. The size of your paragraphs depends on what you're writing. Newspaper articles traditionally fit in narrow columns, so small, one-sentence paragraphs are common. Paragraphs in books are often longer, though not always. In essays, paragraphs are typically longest, breaking only to lead the reader in a new direction.
 
10. The first sentence of every paragraph is the "topic sentence". It introduces the thought. Every other sentence in that paragraph should support and expand on it.

How to Write an Essay 2 - Choosing a Thesis & Title

Notes from The Practical Stylist, by Sheridan Baker, 7th Edition

1. A thesis is the main argument of your essay. It's what you want to debate. A thesis is key to a good essay. It keeps you focused, and helps you plan your essay's structure.

2. A thesis is not a subject. A thesis is an attack. Someone, somewhere must disagree with you, and your job is to prove them wrong. An essay without a thesis, for example the history of cats, from Persia to Siam, would be all description––all subject, and no argument. The result is boring trivia with no context, no reason why it should matter. A thesis is what makes your subject important.

3. When forming a thesis, focus on what you know, and what you need to learn before you can speak about it. Make a list of what you need to research.

4. Steer your thesis toward the truth. Debate something you can prove. Limit your words to what you know is true. Don't make bold claims (odvážne tvrdenie) with no evidence. Use the words "may" and "might" and "perhaps" when you don't really know. You need to show people that you're reasonable, or they'll dismiss you.

5. Look for logical fallacies in your thesis. Short, simple statements might need to become more specific:

Compare:

A Bad Thesis: The answers to crime are longer sentences and more prisons.

Revised: Since the death penalty has proven both ineffective and, to many, repugnant, the only remaining answer to serious crimes is longer sentences and more prisons.

6. The less popular your stance, the more exciting your thesis. Imagine, "Cats are a man's best friend." Many people will disagree with this, so they'll want to hear your arguments.

7. Think of ways to personalize a subject, so you can use what you know to illustrate arguments.

8. At the same time, learn how to generalize your personal feelings and experiences, remembering how we all share common experiences.

9. Choosing a thesis actually helps you, because it narrows and partitions your subject into something manageable. And, it removes all the subtopics that aren't relevant.

10. At the same time, don't make your thesis so narrow that no one cares. If it's only relevant to a handful of people, again, think of your audience, and what they care about, and modify your thesis.

Compare:

A Narrow Thesis: The tourist trade only brings financial gain to a few lucky landlords.

Revised: Although the tourist trade contributes to the state's economy, and provides recreation for many people, the benefits of tourism are not evenly distributed, and there are many downsides that must be addressed.

How to Choose a Title

1. Your title is your first impression, and the first step in persuasion. It's an opportunity to explain your thesis and show your attitude to the reader.

2. Your title helps you focus and stay on track as you compose arguments.

3. Don't get stuck on a title, you can always change it later.

4. Don't make it sound like a newspaper headline.

5. Don't make it a full sentence.

6. Titles don't take periods, but they can use question marks and exclamation points.
 
7. Your title and opening sentence must be independent of each other - If your title is "Polluted Rivers," don't begin with "This is a serious problem." Start with, "Polluted rivers are a serious problem."

How to Write an Essay 1 - General Advice


Notes from The Practical Stylist by Sheridan Baker, 7th Edition

Why Writing Matters:

1. Writing is a way to organize and clarify your ideas.

2. You learn as you write, because it helps you think.

3. Writing is a chance to impress and persuade people––it can be powerful. Good writing shows people your intelligence and education.

General Essay Writing Advice:

1. Good writing is meaningful. Write about what you care about, and learn to care about what you write.

2. The biggest opponent in every essay is boredom. Your challenge is to make whatever you write important, whether it be topical, exciting, funny, or just plain interesting. The longer a piece of writing, the harder it is to keep one's interest, so keep your work as short as possible, while maintaining clarity and accuracy. You'll never win an argument if you put your readers to sleep.

3. Establish a firm viewpoint. Have a point to make, even if your essay is mostly informative.

4. Acknowledge and dispose of the opposition. In some essays, for example, when you describe a poem or story, there won't be much to argue about. But, on controversial topics, you must show your understanding of the opposition, or it will seem that you haven't really studied the subject.

5. Also know that your opposition will vary. "Some of your audience will agree with you but for different reasons. Others may disagree hotly. You need, then, to imagine what these varying objections may be, as if you were before a meeting in open discussion."

6. Consider your readers, and prepare your writing for "the invisible public." An essay is not a letter to your teacher or a diary entry. Think about the questions these readers might ask you, or what they might object to. "You imagine yourself addressing slightly different personalities when you write about snorkeling and when you write about nuclear reactors."

7. Never talk down to your audience. Don't assume they're inferior, don't insult them. Assume they're just as intelligent as you.

8. Don't lose your personality or voice in an overly-serious attitude. Work like a scholar or scientist, but write like a human being. Organize it logically, but keep the tone and movement of a good conversation, in your own voice.
 
9. Plan to Rewrite. Your writing always improves with each rewrite and it helps you as a speaker and test taker. Ideally, you'll write four drafts for every essay. Take some time between each draft, so you return with a fresh mind. Then, it will be easier to see mistakes. Your essay is your voice. If you don't take it seriously, why should anyone else?
 
10. Don't take yourself too seriously. No one knows everything. Don't act like you do, and don't be embarrassed that you don't. Your job is simply to present evidence, enough to show that what you think is probably true. Treat your investigation like a science experiment, with your thesis being the hypothesis. Draw your own conclusion, then leave it for others to debate.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Creative Writing 3 - Proof Reading & Revision

·        "If you're a beginner, let me urge that you take your story through at least two drafts; the one you do with the study door closed, and the one you do with it open."

·        The first draft is all about the story. Write it out quickly, before it gets stale. Writing fiction is "like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There's plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, . . . only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that's always waiting to settle in."

·        Don't think about theme, symbolism, or irony, and don't show it to anyone until the first draft is done! Keep it private and, "No one can ask you 'What were you trying to express with Garfield's dying words?' or 'What's the significance of the green dress?' You may not have been trying to express anything with Garfield's dying words, and Maura could be wearing green only because that's what you saw when she came into sight in your mind's eye. On the other hand, perhaps these things do mean something (or will, when you get a chance to look at the forest instead of the trees). Either way, the first draft is the wrong place to think about it."

·        "All novels are really letters aimed at one person," an ideal reader (IR). It helps to focus on your IR and wonder, what will he/she think of this part? Is there anything my IR wouldn't understand, that I need to clarify? "This is perhaps the best way of all to make sure you stick to story."

·        "It's rare that incoherence or dull storytelling can be solved by something so minor as a second draft." You can't polish a turd.

·        After your first draft is done, put it away and leave it for awhile––six weeks minimum. "If it looks like an alien relic bought at a junk-shop or yard sale where you can hardly remember stopping, you're ready." Read it, looking for underlying patterns. Find the themes and symbols that stand out, and then revise your story to fit them better. One of the jobs of revision is making any themes or symbols more clear.

·        Also, look for any plot holes that ruin the logic and consistency of the work. The most common plot holes have to do with character motivation - people acting out of character.

·        2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10%. "If you can't get out ten per cent of it while retaining the basic story and flavor, you're not trying very hard." "Never keep a passage on the grounds that it's good; it should be good, if I'm being paid to do it. What I'm not being paid to do is be self-indulgent." The story is boss. "If it works, fine. If it doesn't, toss it. Toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Cough once said, 'Murder your darlings,' and he was right." This is why it's so important to wait six weeks between drafts. It's easier to cut things out when you don't remember it all––when it feels like someone else's story instead of yours.

·        Now that you've completed your second draft, it's time to show it. Choose four or five people you respect and ask for their input - find people who will tell the truth, even if the work is bad. Some critiques will be factual, for example, Winchester .330's don't exist, only Remington made a .330. These are the easiest fixes. Subjective crits are harder to merit, so if all your friends hate one part, you should probably change it. If at least half of them like it, then it's probably good enough.

Creative Writing 2 - a Writer's Toolbox

from On Writing, by Stephen King

A Writer's Toolbox:

A writer needs a mental toolbox to keep from getting discouraged, every time he or she encounters a problem.

1. The top level of your toolbox should have:

vocabulary  - "It ain't how much you've got, honey, it's how you use it." Don't dress up
                       your vocabulary, using words you don't really know. Use the first word that
                      comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful." Build your           
                      vocabulary through reading.
                    - vocabulary includes slang, shouts, and noises that aren't standard English.
                    - ". . . vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling." So, copying another
                       writer's words and style won't guarantee a success.
                    - vocabulary also includes profanity, which is sometimes necessary. People
                      often say, swear words are a sign of ignorance. Well, ignorance is a
                      common characteristic, so if you want realistic characters, they have to
                      speak like real people. And besides, sometimes a swear words can be quite
                      creative:

Example: "I'm busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest."
                "Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first."


grammar  - "The best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. But, unless he is
                   certain of doing well, he will probably do best to follow the rules." - William
                   Strunk
                - Proper grammar can sometimes stiffen a sentence.
                - Avoid the passive voice! It's weak. Too much of it annoys the reader.

Example: The body was carried from the kitchen and placed on the parlor sofa.
Better: Freddy and Myra carried the body out of thekitchen and laid it on the parlor sofa.

                - Avoid using adverbs! They're like weeds. The worst kinds are for dialogue attribution -
                  they explain how a writer says something:

Examples: "Put it down!" she shouted menacingly.
                 "Give it back," he pleaded abjectly, "it's mine."
                 "Don't be such a fool, Jekyll," Utterson said contemptuously.

Better: "Put it down!" she shouted.
            "Give it back, he pleaded, "it's mine."
            "Don't be such a fool, Jekyll," Utterson said.

            Why are these words so bad? Because, if you know how to write, we already know how your
            characters sound, and these extra words get in the way. They can even become a joke, known
            as "Tom Swifties".

Examples: "I made this basket all by myself," Tom said craftily.
                   "My pencil lead is broken," Tom said pointlessly.
                   "I'm sort of fond of modern art," Tom said abstractly.
                   "You got a nice butt, Jill," Tom said cheekily.

                - Watch out for pronouns! Too many creates confusion.

Example: "He did it to him before he could do it back."
Better: "Patrick did it to John before he could do it back."

                - Don't use extreme verbs for attribution, like "grated, gasped, jerked out".
                  Simple words like "said, told, shouted, pleaded" are fine.

2. The second level of your toolbox is for style:

style  - Every writer has his/her own style or voice. Some are wordy, some are poetic,
            some may remind you of a certain colour or flavour. Style reflects the mood of the
            writer - serious, comical, nostalgic, bitter, and this mood colours the story.
         - Telegraph style: Some writers use sentence fragments "telegraph style" to explain
            what they see. It adds variety of style, speeds up the pace, and creates clear
            images, but don't overuse it.

Example: "The boat was thirty feet of sleek white fiberglass with gray trim. Tall masts, the sails tied. Satori painted on the hull in black script edged with gold." - Survival of the Fittest, by Jon Kellerman

         - Journalistic style: This writing is short, to the point, factual, and unbiased.
         - You can also add different forms of writing: personal letters, diary entries,
            newspaper articles, etc.

paragraphs  - paragraphs are maps of intent (účel), and are almost as important for how
 they look as for what they say. You can tell how hard a text is just by   
 looking at the paragraphs on a page.
 - Every paragraph should start with a topic sentence, followed by support- 
    and-description. Don't wander off topic!
 - In fiction, paragraphs are less formal, and should flow naturally, like
                      talking. "It's the beat instead of the actual melody."

narration - Narration moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z.
                 - Narration should be graceful. What does this mean? It means telling what
 happened, respecting the story and the intellect of your audience. Graceful  
 narration is tactful, understated, and accurate.

description  - Description creates a sensory reality for the reader. It's not just a question
  of how to describe, but how much to. "The key to good description begins
  with clear seeing and ends with clear writing."
- "Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted.
  Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find
  a happy medium."
- "It's also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone."
  For example don't go into detail about all your character's clothes. "If I
  want to read descriptions of clothes, I can always get a J. Crew catalogue."
- "I can't remember many cases where I felt I had to describe what the
  people in a story of mine looked like––I'd rather let the reader supply the
  faces, the builds, and the clothing as well. If I tell you that Carrie White is
  a high school outcast with a bad complexion and a fashion-victim
  wardrobe, I think you can do the rest, can't you?"
- Overdescription slows down the pace of a story and can bore your reader,
  and worse, it can ruin the bond between you and your readers. The more
  these characters match the picture in your head, the less the readers can
  create their own interpretations. "Description begins in the writer's
  imagination, but should finish in the reader's." A few details will do, and
  the best are usually the first that come to mind.
- Physical descriptions of characters are no shortcut to personality. So, don't
  mention "sharply intelligent eyes, a determined chin, or arrogant
  cheekbones." It's lazy writing. A cardinal rule of good fiction is, "never tell
  us a thing if you can show us, instead . . . I tried never to come right out
  and say 'Annie was depressed and possibly suicidal that day' . . . If I have
  to tell you, I lose. If, on the other hand, I can show you a silent, dirty-
  haired woman who compulsively gobbles cake and candy, then have you
  draw the conclusion that Annie is in the depressive part of a manic-
  depressive cycle, I win. And if I am able, even briefly, to give you a
  Wilkes'-eye-view of the world––if I can make you understand her
  madness––then perhaps I can make her someone you sympathize with or
  even identify with."
- Locale and texture are more important than character's physical features,
  but follow the same rule as above––enough detail to put a picture in the
  reader's head. "If I think longer I can come up with more stuff . . ., but
  there's no need for more. This isn't the Taj Mahal we're visiting, after all,
  and I don't want to sell you the place."
- There are two ways to describing things: straight (literal) and poetic. both
  can be great. Be careful with poetic descriptions, because a bad simile
  (without a logical connection) can ruin a story.

Example: "He sat stolidly beside the corpse, waiting for the medical examiner as patiently as a man waiting for a turkey sandwich."

  What does that mean? Men don't always wait patiently for turkey
  sandwiches. Everyone is different, and sometimes you're in a hurry. And,
  what is the writer really saying? That the man waiting for the doctor is
  bored, or could care less about who died? This is not clear writing.
- Poetic language can be a lot of fun when done right, even when vulgar:

Example: "It was darker than a carload of assholes"
                "I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumber's handkerchief."

  Here the meaning is clear, and it gives you a clue as to the kind of person
  telling the story.
- "The most common pitfall of figurative language is the use of clichéd
  similes, metaphors, and images. He ran like a madman, she was pretty as
  a summer day, the guy was a hot ticket, Bob fought like a tiger . . . don't
  waste my time (or anyone) else's with such chestnuts. It makes you look
  either lazy or ignorant."

dialogue  - Dialogue brings your characters to life, through speech. It defines them, the
good and the bad. People reveal themselves by what and how they speak, often  completely unaware. Let your characters speak freely, and you'll learn about them organically, just as your readers do.
- "The key to writing good dialogue is honesty . . . the dialogue has to ring true
to our ear." This will often get you in trouble with critics who can't see the difference between a flawed character and a flawed writer. Never let the "Legion of Decency" dictate what or how you write. Stephen once wrote about a character who killed a dog. He then received hate mail from people wondering why he hates dogs so much. These are people to ignore.
- Dialogue tells us about characters, little bits at a time, like solving a puzzle.
This is much more engaging for the reader than simply telling her, "this character is smart, while this one is stupid, and this one is short tempered."
- A big part of the readers' enjoyment comes from believable characters - their
behaviours, surroundings, and their talk. The more realistic a character, the more it echoes with the readers' own lives and beliefs. There's a guilty pleasure we get from reading good dialogue, like we're eavesdropping on an interesting conversation.
- "Bad dialogue is deadly . . . Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who
enjoy talking and listening to others––particularly listening, picking up the accents, rhythms, dialect, and slang of various groups. Loners such as Lovecraft often write it badly, or with the care of someone who is composing in a language other than his or her native tongue." One can forgive a writer for bad dialogue, so long as it's scarce. Stephen King praised H. P. Lovecraft as a genius while noting, of the millions of words he had written, fewer than five thousand were dialogue.

3. The third level is for:

plot  - "I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to
  convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I  
  distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless . . . and
  second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't
  compatible. . . my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much
  make themselves."
- "I believe stories are found things, like fossils in the ground . . . The writer's job is to
use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it's enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, . . . the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.
- "No matter how good you are, no matter how much experience you have, it's
probably impossible to get the entire fossil out of the ground without a few breaks and losses. To get even most of it, the shovel must give way to more delicate tools: airhose, palm-pick, perhaps even a toothbrush. Plot is a far bigger tool, the writer's jackhammer. You can liberate a fossil from hard ground with a jackhammer, no argument there, but you know as well as I do that the jackhammer is going to break almost as much stuff as it liberates. It's clumsy, mechanical, anticreative. Plot is, I think the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored."
- The century's greatest supporter of Developing the Plot may have been Edgar
Wallace, a best-selling potboiler novelist of the 1920's. Wallace invented––and patented––a device called the Edgar Wallace Plot Wheel. When you got stuck . . . you simply spun the Plot Wheel and read what came up in the window: a fortuitous arrival, perhaps, or Heroine declares her love.


situation - "The situation comes first. The characters––always flat and unfeatured, to
  begin with––come next."
 - The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question:

Examples:  What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem's Lot)
What if a cleaning woman suspected of a murder she got away with (her husband) fell under suspicion for a murder she did not commit (her employer)? (Dolores Claiborne)

- Situation is much more intuitive and organic. "I want to put a group of
characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn't to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety––those are jobs which require the noisy jackhammer of plot––but to watch what happens and then write it down."
- "What happens to characters as a story progresses depends solely on what I
discover about them as I go along––how they grow, in other words . . . If they grow a lot, they begin to influence the course of the story instead of the other way around." This kind of writing is called "character driven". You decide which characters are most important to the story as the situation develops, and that's how you determine which will be the protagonists, and which will be supporting characters.

Note: "character driven" is different from a "character study" in which the whole book revolves around the life and thoughts of one character, without any important situation. Virginia Woolf and James Joyce wrote character studies, using stream-of-consciousness.


believable characters - avoid cardboard characters! In real life, "no one is 'the bad buy'
or 'the best friend' or 'the whore with the heart of gold' . . . In real life we each regard ourselves as the main character." Treat all your characters this way, and remember, "every character you create is partly you."
                                    - "I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things
my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it's something I never expected. For a suspense novelist, this is a great thing . . . if I'm not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out . . . I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes to an end somewhere."
                                    - "Make sure these fictional folks behave in ways that will both
help the story and seem reasonable to us."
                                    - Believable characters are crucial, but it's not enough. They also
need to be vivid and interesting. This is typically much easier with villains than with average heroes.

pacing - "Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds. There is a kind of unspoken
(hence undefended and unexamined) belief in publishing circles that the most commercially successful stories and novels are fast-paced. I guess the underlying thought is that people have so many things to do today, and are so easily distracted from the printed word, that you'll lose them unless you become a kind of short-order cook, serving up sizzling burgers, fries, and eggs over easy just as fast as you can."
"Like so many unexamined beliefs in the publishing business, this idea is largely bullshit . . . which is why, when books like Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose or Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain suddenly break out of the pack and climb the best-seller lists, publishers and editors are astonished. I suspect that most of them ascribe these books' unexpected success to unpredictable and deplorable lapses into good taste on the part of the reading public."
"Not that there's anything wrong with rapidly paced novels. Some pretty good writers––Nelson DeMille, Wilbur Smith, and Sue Grafton, to name just three––have made millions writing them. But you can overdo the speed thing. Move too fast and you risk leaving your reader behind, either by confusing or be hearing him/her out . . . Nevertheless, you need to beware––if you slow the pace down too much, even the most patient reader is apt to grow restive."
"The best way to find a balance is your IR."

back story  - is all the stuff that happened before your tale began but which has an
impact on the front story. Back story is always an important element to a story, because even when you write all the events in chronological order, "every life is in medias res." "How much and how well you deal with those years will have a lot to do with the level of success your story achieves, with whether readers think of it as "a good read" or "a big fat bore."
- Back story helps define characters and establish motivation. "Get it in as
quickly as possible, but it's also important to do it with some grace." Giving back story isn't simply about giving information, it's about building a drama. It's an art.

Example: "Hello, ex-wife," Tom said to Doris as she entered the room.

Better: "Hi, Doris," Tom said. His voice sounded natural enough––to his own ears, at least––but the fingers of his right hand crept to the place where his wedding ring had been until six months ago.

- "The most important things to remember about back story is that (a)
everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn't very interesting. Stick to the parts that are."

research - "Remember that word back. That's where research belongs: as far in the
background and the back story as you can get. You may be entranced with what you're learning about flesh-working bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story."
- There have been very successful writers who rely on fact and research. But,
for every one, there are a hundred wannabes. "story belongs in front, but some research is inevitable; you shirk it at your peril."
- "Also, enough details––always assuming they are the correct ones––can stem
the tide of letters from picky-ass readers who apparently live to tell writers that they messed up (the tone of these letters is unvaryingly gleeful)."

4. The fourth level of your toolbox is for theme and symbolism - things to develop after the story is complete.

theme  - Theme and symbolism are decorative ornaments to your work. They might be
present in the story, and they might not. But, the story always comes first. "Starting with the questions and thematic concerns is a recipe for bad fiction . . the only possible exceptions to this rule I can think of are allegories like George Orwell's Animal Farm (and I have a sneaking suspicion that with Animal Farm the story idea may indeed have come first; if I see Orwell in the afterlife, I mean to ask him)."
- Themes can also be a handy tool in your kit, working like a magnifying glass.
When done right, a theme can give your work resonance - a memory that lingers in the heart and mind of the reader.
            - "Writing and literature classes can be annoyingly preoccupied by (and
pretentious about) theme, approaching it as the most sacred of sacred cows, but (don't be shocked) it's really no big deal. If you write a novel, spend weeks and then months catching it word by word, you owe it both to the book and to yourself to lean back (or take a long walk) when you've finished and ask yourself why you bothered––why you spent all that time, why it seemed so important. In other words, what's it all about, Alfie?"
            - In Stephen's book The Stand, he determined the theme to be, "violence as a
solution is woven through human nature like a damning red thread."
"Near the end of the novel . . . Fran asks Stuart Redman if there's any hope at all, if people ever learn from their mistakes. Stu replies, "I don't know," then pauses. In story-time, that pause lasts only as long as it takes the reader to flick his or her eye to the last line. In the writer's study, it went on a lot longer. I searched my mind and heart for something else Stu could say, some clarifying statement. I wanted to find it because at that moment if at no other, Stu was speaking for me. In the end however, Stu simply repeats what he has already said: I don't know. It was the best I could do. Sometimes a book gives you answers, but not always, and I didn't want to leave the readers who had followed me through hundreds of pages with nothing but some empty platitude I didn't believe myself. There is no moral to The Stand, no "We'd better learn or we'll probably destroy the whole damned planet next time"––but if the theme stands out clearly enough, those discussing it may offer their own morals and conclusions. Nothing wrong with that; such discussions are one of the great pleasures of the reading life."
            - Some other common themes in Stephen Kings works include:

"How difficult it is––perhaps impossible! ––to close Pandora's technobox once it's open."
"Why, if there is a God, such terrible things happen."
"There is a thin line between reality and fantasy."
"Why is violence so terribly attractive to fundamentally good people?

symbolism   - "Symbolism does serve a useful purpose, though––it's more than just
chrome on the grill. It can serve as a focusing device for both you and your reader."
- "Symbolism doesn't have to be difficult and relentlessly brainy. Nor does it
have to be as consciously crafted as a kind of ornamental Turkish rug upon which the furniture of the story stands."
- Your story doesn't have to have symbolism. If it's there, great. "If it isn't so
what? You've still got the story itself, don't you?"

irony - Stephen King didn't offer advice on this, but mentioned it as something to look
for and develop, along with theme.