Grissom's Grammar and Composition

This blog is for any student writing papers for college, for current and former students in my Communications Cluster at Lindenwood University, and my students at St. Charles Community College.

Search this site powered by FreeFind
My Photo

I write for myself, for the web, and for everyone who gets me. I've been on a fasting liquid diet, traveled to Europe, and raised 2 kids. And I'm directionally challenged - I get lost a lot.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ways to Get As

For most teachers, an "A" paper is original and goes above and beyond the requirements of the assignment – but not as much as you might think. Targeting a few specific areas of the paper can give you an opportunity for an A with surprisingly little extra effort.

1) Work on the Title

A creative title sets the tone and suggests this paper will be more interesting than average papers. It’s a great first impression for your reader. While titles like “How to Bake Bread” are descriptive, they are dull and uninspired. And it actually isn’t too hard to come up with a decent title.

One of my favorite methods is to take a tired cliché or well known quote and rewrite it. Brainstorm what cliché’s are associated with your topic. Is your paper about animal experimentation? “Man’s Best Friend,” can become “Man’s Best Experiment? For her paper on bread baking, one of my students came up with “The Bun Also Rises,” a play on Hemmingway’s book title the The Sun Also Rises. Check out cliché.com for listing of clichés.

2) Work on the Introduction
Starting with a thesis statement is a traditional method for beginning a paper, but spend some time creating an introduction to lead into your thesis. Get your instructor interested in reading more by telling a brief story, using a description, or providing a surprising statistic or fact to create interest in your topic. For example, tell us a real story about a dying patient and we will be more interested in reading about end of life issues.

3) Use Better Words
After you've done several drafts of your paper, go through your essay targeting nouns, verbs, and adjectives to look for better words to replace the current ones.

Nouns: It’s not just a dog, it’s a poodle. Specific nouns create a more specific picture in the reader's mind.

Verbs: Use the same idea for verbs. Did the poodle mince, prance, bounce, lope, or zoom?

Adjectives: It's the same for the adjective, angry. If the poodle is angry, is she irritated, enraged, pissed, irate, or cross?

4) Say Something New
If you can, pick the type of paper no else wants to do or the side in a subject no one usually argues. After an instructor has read 40 papers on “Preventing Drunk Driving” a paper about anything else will be fresh and original in comparison.
Caution: If you have strong feelings about an issue, it’s a struggle to write a view you don’t agree with. Don’t try to go against your convictions. Choose a topic you have few strong feelings about, or come up with new arguments for the usual side.

5) Don’t Forget A Conclusion
Once the paper is finished, don’t forget to create a conclusion that wraps up the topic. Don’t trail off just because you are done. Try one of the following techniques:
Look into The Future – speculate on what will happen with this topic in coming years.

Tell Us What to Do – Now that you have explained your topic, what action can your reader take to make a difference?

End With a Quotation– Check Bartlett's Familiar Quotations on-line for a quote that sums up the topic for your audience.

6) Clean Up the Paper
We all get tired at the end of a long project, but leaving your paper full of typos or ignoring the paper formatting style your instructor requires leaves a bad last impression that can undo all your efforts to get an A. So proofread it, or have someone you trust take a quick look for errors, and if the instructor wants your last name and page number on every page, make sure it’s there. One or two errors won’t do you in, but more than that will certainly make a potential A into only a high B.