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Writing Tips

We’re dealing with clarity and concision. What exactly does this mean? Well, it’s how you write. It’s how you express your thoughts when you write. And we have here, this is a bad example, but let’s just cross this out for a minute and judge this on its own merits, without looking at the bad example part. It says here “independent thought is highly valued in society, but it is better that knowledge, if it is arrived at, is achieved through the collection of a group of people”. OK.

So we’re going to take this apart. What exactly is it saying? Well, it’s a independent thought, it’s highly valued in society. So far, so good. “But it is better that knowledge”. Well, what is it?

Society? Oh, I see the thoughts, so, but independent thought is better that knowledge, wait, no, that doesn’t make sense. So, right off, you can see, uh-oh, this sentence is heading downhill, but that knowledge arrived at.

OK. Is it necessary to say it is arrived out? Does it seem like you’re adding something on? Can’t you express this a different way? Knowledge is achieved through a collection of a group of people. so, what exactly is going on here?

Knowledge is achieved. What sort of knowledge? Knowledge about society in general, just knowledge, well, who are these group of people Are they the ones with the independent thought? What’s going on?

So, at the end of the day you’re gonna have all these question marks here and you can see this is not concise. That means it’s not doesn’t use as few words as possible to convey a point. And it’s not clear, because they’re not exactly sure what it’s saying.

You can even notice here at the end, the collection of a group? A group is a collection. A group of people people are a group. You can see that all of this is redundant. So it’s just a poorly written sentence. So now we’re going to take a look at an example where we have clarity.

We know what they’re saying, and we have concision. It’s not that long, notice right off the bat that the sentence stops right there. It’s almost half the size of the sentence above it. Let’s see what it says Independent thought, while highly valuable, okay so far so good it’s clear, now we know that independent thoughts highly valuable, ultimately needs to be validated by society.

Ah-ha! So society here needs to make sure that whose ever coming up some thoughts, that these thoughts, that this knowledge, or whatever you want to call it that this is important that, and therefore that’s the point here we say with validate society ultimately.

We must validate independent thought That is clear and it is concise, and that is what we want to strive for in our writing. So, again we’re at the very sentence base level here and now we’re going to stick to the sentence base level, but we’re also going to extend it to other sentences.

The idea of logic logical flow. How do your ideas flow within a sentence and how do those sentences flow together? Let’s take a look here at an example Many people have contributed helpful inventions, so technology is making life easier for us.

Okay, we these people contributed. We don’t know who they are but these people contributed helpful inventions. That’s good. So, technology is making life easier for us. So what were these helpful inventions exactly?

Were they the inventions that made life easier for us? Were they like, perhaps a cell phone? Do we know what’s going on here, so is there a logical flow because people have contributed inventions. Therefore, life is easier for us?

Well no, it’s too vague and just because people contributing inventions, how does that help us? How does that make life easier for us? So, you can see that there’s just too many unanswered questions here. There’s really a logical disconnects, so we want to be more specific.

So, let’s take a look here. As a good example, the constant influx of new technologies, so lots of new technologies, can lead us to feel overwhelmed. That makes sense as long as these new cell phones coming out. One replacing the other with 15, 20, 100 different new functions and you can feel overwhelmed.

Okay. So this is clear, concise, I like it. Then it moves on here where it says nevertheless, sort of however, many of these technologies can make our lives easier.

So, it’s not that specific, it didn’t give us anything more specific than technology. But in terms of logical flow it’s good because we have the idea that, hey, technology can make life sometimes overwhelming however, many of these technologies do actually make our lives easier.

So, there’s know question marks there in terms of the logical flow. So you can see that the logical flow definitely connects to clarity as well. We’re trying to express something that’s clarity Of course when you are trying to express the way that ideas flow together then that is clarity or logical flow as well.

Speaking of logical flow and sentences, we have one sentence here and two sentences here. What would make a good sentence right there, well nevertheless, many of these technologies can makes our lives easier, logically, therefore technology, let’s put TECH, mostly makes our lives more convenient, something of that nature that’s logical flow.

Instead of going off here into the metaphorical bushes, so to speak, and talking about something that doesn’t necessarily relate to technology making our lives easier. This sentence right here starting with, therefore technology gives us logical flow.

That’s what we want to go for when we write. So, of course when you’re learning to write, when you’re proofing your writing always make sure you have logical flow. Now, another important element that you must have is the idea of style and sentence variety.

I think here is a good time for me to talk about the idea that ETS or GRE, the people grading your essays here, they aren’t giving this a six. They’re not giving logical flow a the scale from the, the points from zero to six, they’re not breaking it up into this very granular approach .

These graders are basing it on holistic, holistic mean big picture, and when they’re doing this big picture with your essay however, they’re picking up on all these small things, and so if you have clarity, you have concision, you have logical flow.

However, your sentences are very boring. We’re going to look at 2 examples down here. Like, “people can help society. They can help challenge the way we think. They have to first challenge beliefs. Beliefs are sometimes wrong.

ok, Well, this is clear, but it’s really choppy. I understand what they’re trying to say, but there’s logical flow obviously missing. There’s no style. in the way the writing is here.There’s no sentence variety, notice, people, subject, they, people, they, subject, beliefs, now and again, now and again, and that’s again what we call choppy writing because you’re not varying the sentence structure.

Now, let’s take a look at this good example. Each generation has thinkers who challenge accepted beliefs. Fair enough. Clarity, concision, ding, ding, ding, very good. Oftentimes these individuals, notice there’s each generation that now I’ve mixed it up here, oftentimes, I didn’t necessarily start with these individuals.

Oftentimes these individuals, comma, through their intellect and passion injecting a little statement here that we could actually get rid of. It wouldn’t hurt the sentence grammatically. These individuals are able to change the you think. But, by adding this, by putting this back in, it give us a moment to pause and add, again, what we parenthetical information.

And that helps with the flow. It helps to vary up the sentences. And, again, when you’re reading it, that big picture, you notice little things like that, and that influences your overall, that influences the graders overall grade or assessment of your essay, and that’s why, if your writing is closer to this, try to get it here.

Try to learn to vary up your sentences and I’m going to show you some great resources in a moment that will help you do exactly that. But, we’re not quite out of the woods here yet because we have an even better example.

Why not. So what I have here is, throughout history there have always been those who challenge the established order. The realm of thinkers is no different Much of the knowledge we have today, from the way in which gravity works to the way our traits are passed on, is because some dared to challenge the prevailing notions of their times.

Okay, Wow, but really, does it say that much different than this? Yeah, it flows a little bit better logically than that first example, but compared to this example, really it’s, it’s saying, more or less the same things, but its giving us a lot more specifics here.

The language is a little more sophisticated, but also the flow, notice these hyphens here. And so, it is not necessary to write like this at all. And, just because you can write like this does not mean you will get a 6, or a 5, or even a 4.

Maybe you have this wonderful sense and you fall asleep, or you decide to break down all logical flow in your essay. Who knows. But The essays that usually get six tend to have language like this.

That sort of style and se,tence variety. However, this good example, perfectly fine around that four or five, nothing wrong. Even this essay maybe could get a six. It’s that holistic big picture approach. Do they argue their point well?

That’s really what they’re looking for, but again and sixes usually look like that example. So, how then, to get to that level? We’ll show you in a moment. But, some things that can sabotage us here.

This idea of grammar and spelling. We’re actually going to look at spelling here first. Spelling. You think, wait a second, who really cares? We have spell checker. Do we really need to know how to spell?

but don’t necessarily, look at it from that angle, because the GRE graders don’t. In fact spelling is something they hold very dear. they believe, and this is hallmark of true academic. Whatever it may be though, make sure you know how to spell words and maybe even a better way of putting it.

Know those words that you struggle to spell. Story of a student I had, his name was John and John loved to spell necessary like that. He would always do this on his essay and it was problematic because I couldn’t help but notice it and say hey look the greater themselves, but notice this as well.

So if you can’t spell certain words, come up with synonyms for these words. So, necessary, maybe in the context required would work. or sufficient with, if that’s easier for you to spell than necessary. Whatever it may be, but definitely try to use synonyms or, know these weak words and constantly write them until you feel you know them.

But, if there’s any doubt on the test again. While you’re writing, there’s no spell checker. Can’t look anything up. Use synonyms. It’s very key. Now, small mistakes ok, not these small mistakes, but small mistakes in terms of grammar.

I don’t mean “the dog are barking”. Oh, It’s only one word. The dog are versus the dog is. It’s not that bad right? Is that a small mistake? No, that’s a major mistake.

That’s not what I mean by the small mistakes in grammar. is a very fundamental basic mistake and that, of course, you want to avoid. What I mean by small mistakes is at a higher level if there’s not always perfect parallel structure, or maybe there’s one or two misplaced modifiers.

Then, you don’t have to worry about that too much. You definitely want to capture any big basic grammatical mistakes and definitely any spelling mistakes if you can. And that’s why it’s of course also important to edit at the end. Now I talked earlier about resources that can help you with grammar, with writing holistically, with sentence flow, clarity, concision, all of that good stuff that we’ve gone over these resources are, on writing well, by William Zinsser and this really gives us a big holistic take, or big picture take, on Writing, a lot of this isn’t just essay writing, there’s travel writing in there, there’s for writing, all this stuff that doesn’t necessarily pertain to the GRE essay test but a lot of it does.

So, go through there and this can definitely help you see the big picture in how to improve your writing. But if you really want the the more nitty gritty, that Elements of Style by Strunk and White is a classic.

They will help you understand the use of commas better, semicolons or hyphens if you like. They will go through words that people oftentimes confused that people use. Like irreggardless, to sound intelligent, but that are actually not words.

The word is simply regardless. But if you use a word like irregardless in the essay, the graders will notice that and that’s definitely not going to help your score. So that’s definitely something that is covered in this book, so pick this up, pick these books up to help you.

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