English Help Please?
November 15, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me fix some problems with my English essay (scribd link) please!

The prompt was:

"Relay a specific incient or story about a time when you feel that you were true to yourself despite contrary influences"

Stuff I need help with:

1. Right now my essay is basically all story with little or no self reflection, is there anyway for me to add self reflection into the essay without messing up the narrative? Or do I need to change the style of my writing?

2. I had to make up some of the dialogue as this happened a few months ago. Does any of it seem fake/contrived?

3. I'm supposed to be economical in my use of language, do any parts seem overly verbose or unnecessary to main point of the essay?

Any general feedback about grammar etc is appreciated also!

If any has an questions about the assignment or my essay I'll be happy to answer.

On a side note, does anyone know another place on the internet where I can share an essay and get good feedback?

Thanks everyone!
posted by kylej to Education (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(the essay is a little over 2 pages, around 700 words)
posted by kylej at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2009

Giving it a very cursory glance, you pluralize "curfews" when it should be contracted ("curfew's") since you're saying "curfew is."
posted by dfriedman at 2:31 PM on November 15, 2009

Um, "Do your own homework"?

I'm asking for help fixing specific problems with my essay. Part of the assignment is getting criticisms and critiques from other people. I thought that people on here might be able to help me with that.
posted by kylej at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2009

hey kylej, can you post the essay in a format that allows copy/paste for those without a scribd account?
posted by lalex at 2:48 PM on November 15, 2009

In the three pages, for a (high school?) English paper, you manage to use the words shit, piss, and pussy. These words don't enhance your paper.
posted by Houstonian at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

That should work, though the formatting is a bit messed up.
posted by kylej at 2:54 PM on November 15, 2009

You're definitely right that the essay, as you've written it, leans heavily towards what happened, and not enough toward how you felt about it, or what your actions say about you. Expanding on the last paragraph would be a logical place to include that, as would a sentence at the beginning laying out the point of the story you're about to relate. That's probably the easiest way to edit it so it does a better job of answering the prompt you were given.

You've done a bit of this at the end, but it's vague and leaves too much room for interpretation.

Houstonian's right about the cursing, by the way.
posted by hwickline at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2009

You start the story in present tense ("I say" and "I reply"), but in the middle you switch to past tense ("I said").

Though there are six of us in one tent, but there’s plenty of room.
In this sentence, either the word though or the word but" should be deleted.

He utters one word, “Helen”, Steph’s middle name
If you are British, the comma is OK. If you are in the States, the comma should be inside the quote marks.

if we get home any later than that.” I say.
I’ll just drive here.” He replies,
until after I graduated.” I said.
In these, replace the first period with a comma.

Carter smiles at them appreciateively “And my
The correct spelling is appreciatively. Add a period to the end of the sentence before the quote.

After a moment I glance over at Jeremy.
Add a comma after the word moment and remove the extra space.

I jog to my car with my brother, all this talking
Replace the comma with a period.
posted by Houstonian at 3:14 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Started a MeTa)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2009

Some quick grammar stuff:

-- Your second sentence doesn't work with both the "though" and the "but" there. ("Though there are six of us..., there's plenty of room" or "There are six of us..., but there's plenty of room," but not -- as you have it now -- "Though there are six of us..., but there's plenty of room." )

-- You're missing a possessive apostrophe in "tents giant door."

-- Commas should go inside of quotation marks. You're consistently placing them after.

-- Likewise, standard practice is to replace the period at the end of a speech with a comma if it's followed up with something like "Carter replied." The "Carter replied" is the end of the sentence containing the speech, not a new sentence.

-- You might be alright ignoring this during quoted speech, but standard punctuation would prescribe adding commas around the name of the person being addressed. You're pretty consistently writing things like "'You’re not worried about getting pulled over Carter?'" Standard would be to include a comma before "Carter" (and another after it, if the sentence were to continue on from there). (One way of thinking about this would be the difference between "I don't know Jane" and "I don't know, Jane.")

Hope that helps a bit.
posted by nobody at 3:17 PM on November 15, 2009

There are a lot of problems with it but it's too much to ask to have someone wade through this correcting it. In brief -

The opening paragraph is a decent introduction.

Compress the rest of what you've written into a "middle section," chop a lot of the dialogue (yes it's contrived) and describe what happened instead.

Create a closing paragraph where you reflect and describe your feelings.
posted by fire&wings at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2009

In the first paragraph, you have a sentence with the following construction: "Though..., but". Doesn't work. take out either the Though or the But.

With dialogue: think of "said" as punctuation; it is largely glossed over by the reader, so you don't need to reach for other versions like "squealed", etc.

You don't need to indicate who the speaker is more than once; on page one, you use "i say" twice as part of the same bit of dialogue, and you don't need to do that. Also, what do you think works better: "I reply incredulously", or "I asked, incredulous. I couldn't believe he was going to come back; was he crazy?" Also: if you're going to append "I said/say" to any line of dialogue, you do not add a period to the dialogue itself. It gets a comma instead.

"I like editing." I said. <> "I like editing," I said. <>
You need to use apostrophes where they're required. All over the place.

I think you'd have better luck if it weren't in first person present tense. It's hard to add reflections into first person present tense. Do past tense and add reflections throughout, attached to each bit of dialogue.

I don't think you need pissed or "pussy out" (WTF?). I'd replace those with something else.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2009

Oops, my little arrows didn't pass on into publication. But I see I'm not the only one to try and school you about dialogue punctuation.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:23 PM on November 15, 2009

Thanks everyone for your responses so far. I've already taken out the swears, fixed a lot of the punctuation, and I think I will change it to past tense in order to make the reflection part easier.
posted by kylej at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2009

[Several comments removed. Whether or not the question should be here is a discussion for metatalk, not this thread.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2009

I think you were going for self-reflection with your last sentence: "I sigh, but mixed within the exasperation is a bit of genuine amusement and affection."

My opinion is that you should cut that last sentence. What I would do is expand (just a little) on the last sentences of your first paragraph, and then refer back to that at the end of the paper.

You set up the story as one in which a group of teenagers are sitting in a Boy Scout tent, playing Truth or Dare (btw, notice the capitalizations there as it needs to be fixed in the paper). It's a juxtaposition of sorts, isn't it? The tent that was formerly used by the group as children on same-sex camping trips hosted by adults is now being used on a sticky August night for a game in which each person dares the others to do something outrageous and rule-breaking.

Finally, the main character is old enough to play Truth or Dare! But, when the time comes for a real challenge -- breaking the rules -- he doesn't. Instead, he relies on the wisdom of his parents. Is this true adulthood? Is this a step back to the reliance a child has on his parents? What do you think? Please add those thoughts as self-reflection at the end of the story, after expanding on the contrast of childhood versus adulthood in the beginning.

(Just my two cents, and I have no idea what your teacher wants.)
posted by Houstonian at 3:30 PM on November 15, 2009

your story goes a long way in addressing the prompt. you do an especially good job of describing the "contrary influences" that tempt you - there's peer pressure to man up and not wuss out, and also the temptation of coming back for your crush.

my biggest suggestion is that you need to set up your conflict a little bit more. we get why you want to sneak out again, but why do you decide to stay in? what are the benefits of not sneaking out? is it just so you don't anger your parents? is this ultimately a story about how you had to choose between peer pressure and parental pressure, and parental pressure won out? i think that if you work this part out a little bit more, you can address the part of the prompt that asks you to how you "stayed true to yourself". as the essay stands right now, we don't know what "true to kyle" means. i also think that addressing these things will help you inject some self-reflection into the story.

i sincerely believe that you can answer your other 2 questions yourself. read the story out loud a few times. sit on it for a few days (if you have that luxury), reread it and see if it sounds fake or wordy, or any of the grammar sounds wrong.

good luck!
posted by be11e at 3:43 PM on November 15, 2009

1. Sure. Throw in a few 'I thought suchandsuch' or 'I felt blahblahblah's in there. Keep 'em short.

2. If it were me, I'd probably go slangier and more profane. I'd also put in a lot more commas, if not actual 'um's or 'like's or something. But maybe my teenage experience wasn't typical.

3. Yes. To pick a single example, consider this sentence: 'I slide my phone out of my pocket; the digital clock face reads 9:50.' Something like 'I glance at my phone--it reads 9:50' conveys all the relevant information.
posted by box at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2009

Thanks everyone who had constructive comments! I've marked all of the helpful comments as best answers!
posted by kylej at 5:11 PM on November 15, 2009

In the three pages, for a (high school?) English paper, you manage to use the words shit, piss, and pussy. These words don't enhance your paper.

He's writing dialog FOR high schoolers. If you ask me, I say keep it true to meaning. Write like you and your friends speak, even if you speak like idiots. But only in the dialog. Keep the pontificating more high-brow.
posted by disillusioned at 9:49 PM on November 15, 2009

90% on my paper (she's a tough grader).

Thanks again for your help!
posted by kylej at 8:19 PM on December 2, 2009

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