Your response papers are, as the phrase suggests, Individual affairs. What I want, above all, Is your personal response to the readings, and to the questions Vive posed in the accompanying guidelines. In evaluating your papers, above all we consider their content: how well you address the thoughts and arguments presented by these documents, and the quality of ideas you express. That said, please consider these papers exercises in formal writing. That means you deed to adhere to the principles and rules of American English grammar and spelling.
Yes, we will hold your feet to the fire on these matters. A few tips follow, addressing problems that arose In the first batch of papers: 1) Keep your tenses straight. Few trials In life are so agonizing as working through a paragraph In which tenses shift, like a wayward eye, from present to past and back again. When you are writing about the past, stay in past tense. The exception to this comes when you find yourself interpreting historical texts (as you will do in these papers); in this case it is perfectly fine, indeed desirable, to write in the present.
Think of it this way: use present tense when dealing with text, past tense when dealing with historical context. For example: “In this passage, Discusses argues that history is not simply the stories people tell. His approach contrasted sharply with that of Herodotus, who in his account of the Persian Wars mainly collected and retold stories already In circulation. ” 2) Avoid unnecessary capitalization. High-flying concepts, such as State, Religion, or Monarchy, need not – should not! – be capitalized.
They did that sort of thing back In the seventeenth century, but nowadays we use lower case for just about everything save proper nouns and titles. By the way, “Bible” should be capitalized, as it is the title of a work; “God” is likewise capitalized when used in a monotheistic context, as it is considered a proper noun. But more generic usage, as when referring to the gods of polytheistic systems, for example, takes lower case – e. G. , “Thro was the Norse god of thunder. ” 3) Do not use inverted commas (‘… ‘) with quotations, except when you have to place a quote inside a quote (” ‘…
Do learn the difference between American and British usage In respect to quoted passages (Including the placement of periods and commas). In short: American usage requires that periods and commas be placed Inside the quotation marks (though semi-colons are placed outside). Use a pronoun, double-check to make sure you have established a clear precedent. Too often, pronouns show up unannounced in your papers, and it’s only polite to have first made introductions. Whenever you use “it” or “they’ or even “this,” make sure you’ve already provided a solid point of reference.
The second issue concerns he use of “they,” “their” etc. As the pronoun for words such as “anyone,” “everyone,” and “somebody’ – words that otherwise are treated as singular (e. G. “everyone in this class is crazy,” not “everyone are crazy. “) Presumably this is because the old default option, “he,” is nowadays seen as disagreeably male-oriented. I agree that we shouldn’t use “he,” “him,” “his” when the reference is not gender-specific. But this problem can usually be finessed with a little rewriting. For example, try using a plural antecedent – “persons,” “people” etc. – when you foresee using “they,” “their” etc. s he pronoun to follow. 5) Semi-colons can be very useful, but only when properly employed. As a rule, there are two permissible uses. One occurs when you have two grammatically self-standing phrases, but one leans on the other insofar in meaning (that is, one statement is derivative of or supplementary to the other). If the phrase is not-self sufficient, if it is grammatically dependent upon the other, then use a simple comma. The second use for semi-colons arises when you string together a long and complex list of things, and need help in keeping your sequencing clear.
In this situation, the mi-colon serves as a kind of super-comma. 6) Finally, pay attention to paragraph organization. Introduce your paragraphs with a strong lead sentence – something that indicates the content of what will follow. When, three, four or more sentences down the page, you’ve finished with that particular point, make way for a paragraph break (and a new, helpful lead sentence). Your readers will thank for making your train of thought more clear. Even more, your writing will benefit from the ways in which paragraph organization forces you to collect your thoughts and organize them more clearly.