I ran into my English essay the other day and greeted him with a hardy, “Hey, English paper, what’s up?” Titling the monocle hanging ever so pretentiously from his left margin, my essay replied, “I shall not respond to such vulgarities.” Naturally, I was taken aback by his curtness, for this was the paper that I had worked so hard to complete, and yet, seeing him there, smoking his large full bent billiard pipe, I could scarcely recognize my creation.
I told him, “Well, what’s your deal? When did ya become so pompous?” Blowing a perfect smoke ring from his pipe, the paper replied, “If you wish to engage in proper discourse on the matter, I have no qualms with that intention. However, I will again ask you to refrain from such crude speech when addressing me, for I am English paper. I am not one of your chums with whom you waste hours playing Call of Duty. Nor am I your girlfriend who your ceaselessly text your absolute rubbish. I am no agent of conversational tonalities. I respond only to the most sophisticated, carefully crafted discourse.”
“How dare you…” I cried, but before I could respond further, my English paper challenged me to a duel, which I readily accepted. The following morning, the stage was set: pistols at dawn. Our seconds by our side (my English paper predictably chose my Master’s thesis to be his right hand man), pistols were primed; we walked 10 paces, turned and fired. Unfortunately, while an undisputed purveyor of high discourse, my English paper did not have hands, and therefore, could not fire his blunderbuss. My aim, however, proved true, and my bullet found a home in the center of the page.
“I am bested,” my English paper gasped. “However, I will conclude on this note: bullets are not the material by which elegant arguments are forged. Words and their deft employment will strike the mark truer than any firearm ever could. With this, I bid you farewell.” Revolver smoking at my side, I shed a tear for my fallen foe, for he, despite his snobbish behavior, was a true gentleman, valiantly vanquished. But the world belongs to the living, and my second and I promptly traveled homeward to play several hours of Call of Duty, leaving my English paper to blow lifelessly among the inarticulate fallen leaves.
For their divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers, the San Francisco 49ers needed a little extra motivation, which is why Coach Jim Harbaugh called in the 16-time heavyweight champion of the world and self-professed “dirtiest player in the game,” Ric Flair to provide his team with a pep talk, a pep talk that would undeniably be the deciding factor in the 49ers' subsequent victory.
Now some may wonder why Coach Harbaugh would call a fake wrestler, albeit the greatest fake wrestler of all time, to speak to his team. The answer is quite simple: Ric Flair is a master rhetorician. Let us consider the facts. Ric Flair was considered the greatest heel or bad guy in wrestling history; therefore, his job was to utilize various rhetorical appeals to get the audience to despise him enough to pay money to see Ric Flair dismantled by heroes of wrestling such as Dusty Rhodes, Sting, and Ricky Steamboat. How did he achieve this so flawlessly?
First, Flair was a master at understanding his audience whenever he spoke. Most notably, he would rant and rave about all his material possessions: the fact the he only wore custom-made clothes, lived in the most lavish of homes, and owned diamond-encrusted Rolex watches. These materialistic verbal rampages would offend the more humble sensibilities of the average wrestling fan, sparking all sorts of outrage.
Ric Flair was also operating at the vanguard of popular culture. While most professional wrestlers would ineloquently bark about how they were going to throttle their opponent, Flair would populate his promos with phrases appropriated from the world outside of professional wrestling. For instance, referring to himself as a “the Limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun” was an allusion to a Jerry Lee Lewis song. Flair, himself, is now entrenched in the popular culture as Will Ferrell lifted his look and mannerisms on the provocative show, Eastbound and Down.
Most importantly, Ric Flair—despite saying off-the-wall things on a daily basis—was passionate about what he said, and that passion was nearly palpable. So many writers struggle with their writing because they are not passionate about the topic or the writing experience itself. To all those people, I tell them to, like the 49ers, take some inspiration from Ric Flair. Find something personal in your topic and maximize it, so the reader believes you care about the topic. For 40 years, Ric Flair believed in himself and what he said, even when he was bashing someone in the skull with a steel chair. Woooooooo!
2013 has come and gone, and here on the blog, we’ve had fun talking about all sorts of writing concepts interspersed with pontifications about video games, Batman villains, Big Macs, Pokémon, and Charles Barkley. Today, I thought I would be a bit more serious and offer you some Writing Resolutions for 2014 to consider as you compose reports and essays for your various classes. These five suggestions are not necessarily as fun as playing Wave Race 64, but will pay huge dividends in your writing.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
This may be the hardest resolution to keep. The typical college student stereotype is the one who stays up all night, chugging Mountain Dew to stay awake, in order to complete a 10 page paper due the following morning. How does that work out for the majority of students? Not so well. Giving yourself as much time as possible to compose an essay not only reduces your general stress level, but also gives you more time to think about what you’re writing, which always leads to a better paper.
2. Brainstorm and Outline
Once you eliminate procrastination, you can spend more time planning your papers. Brainstorming and outlining your papers in advance are excellent ways to generate content, build organization, and establish cohesion in your essays as opposed to writing it on the fly. Just a few minutes of planning before composing often makes a world of difference in terms of the essay’s quality.
You’ve probably heard it many times before: Good readers make good writers. Reading improves your vocabulary and understanding of sentence structures. It also builds your collection of knowledge that you can subsequently pour into your essays. Impress your Sociology teacher with a reference to Dostoevsky. Wow your English teacher with a discussion on Principia Mathematica. Read often and read different types of texts.
One text you always want to read is your own writing. You spend hours composing your essay, but will you spend a few extra minutes reading through it for grammar, content, and clarity? Many students do not and get their papers back, bleeding red ink. Proofread every paper multiple times. Read your papers aloud. Just like brainstorming and outlining, proofreading serves a relatively quick process that has a substantial impact.
Last, but not least, share your work. Collaborate with other people and have them read it. Have your roommate or friend read through your paper. Share your work with your classmates in a study group. As always, you have the Academic Writing Center on campus where you can have a writing tutor read through it. Another set of eyes and a new perspective usually means considerable improvement.
I know it’s tough, but see if you can keep a few of these resolutions in 2014. If you do, your writing will undoubtedly improve. Have a great start to a new year!
Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun—such are the ingredients of the colossal, legendary burger known as the Big Mac. Before the mass invasion of sandwich shops (I believe there are ten in close proximity to UC’s campus. Insane.) and burrito joints (in which there are three), there was only the Big Mac. Oh, what a milestone, a step into adulthood, when I—weary of the singular cheeseburger and small fry in the Happy Meal—was no longer tempted by the cheap plastic toy and instead opted for a real meal: A Big Mac.
Yes, the Big Mac has fallen on hard times since then due to the massive amount of competition that I alluded to earlier as well as the general realization that some of the more health-conscious among us may have acquired: that our bodies really aren’t made to scarf down this saturated fat stack. Nevertheless, the Big Mac still serves as a fine metaphor for college writers everywhere for what is known as source synthesis.
Source synthesis is a practice commonly applied in research papers where multiple sources are integrated in the same paragraph. Now a little known rule in the burger biz is that the bread makes the sandwich. This is obviously true in regards to the Big Mac with its sesame seed bun (although I am not sure what difference it actually makes). However, in the compositional counterpart, the “bread” in this case is your own analysis and the “meat” is the quotations you employ to back up your analysis. Let’s take a look at the example below:
The role of a commercial artist is integral to food advertisement. If fast food organizations offered truthfully rendered images of their food options, the result could be disastrous. In “Food Facsimiles,” John Dreiser argues, “Commercial artists access the Platonic ideal of the food we consume” (32). Indeed, the real-life smashed-up burgers offered at your local fast food joint are often in grave need for a drastic reimagining, thus distracting us from the fact the food is not only bad for consumers in terms of health, but often just looks disgusting. Wilson Graves, in “Fast Food Simulacrum,” argues, “Marketing in fast food is all about deception. Consumers must be deceived into thinking there is some positive benefit from eating it” (99). Commercial artists thus remain a staple of the fast food landscape. They serve as convincing answers to the argument that we should probably not being eating fast food, even if their answers are often laden with trickery.
Notice the interplay between the content of the paragraph and the quotes. First we have a statement, then a quote supporting it, followed by analysis (the mysterious third hunk of bread in the Big Mac), another quote, and lastly, some concluding thoughts. Ideally, your paragraphs should follow a similar model, incorporating different ideas and combining them with your own analysis. When writing, follow the way of the Big Mac, friend. When seeking lunch, perhaps consider something else.
In the second part of our installment, Fallacies and Batman Villainy, I am covering the next set of devious fallacies and the Batman evildoers that best represent them. I pray that this post will not lead to Bane giving me a stern talking to.
One common fallacy is the faulty appeal to authority in which the author of the argument appeals to an authority that is well-known, but is not an authority on the manner. Consider this example: “When one considers the treachery of Batman villains, many people, such as Lex Luthor, think them chumps.” Although Lex Luthor is something of an expert on treachery, he is also somewhat biased against Batman villains. If you were to ask a true authority on these matters, you should instead consult The Riddler who is an expert in all things.
Another fallacy is known as the hasty generalization. This fallacy typically revolves around stereotypes or generalizing one example as the norm. An example of this fallacy would be “Bane got the better of Batman in the first half of The Dark Knight Rises. I guess Batman villains win more often than not.” You never want to be too hasty when it comes to generalizations. Instead, learn how to be cool, calculating, and always on point like the villainous Clock King.
The final fallacy of this post is known as the red herring. In this fallacy, the author of the argument employs a tangent to distract the audience from the primary argument. For instance, we have this example, “Batman is a big jerk. He’s supposed to be this great hero, but look how many villains hurt Gothamites on his watch!” Clearly, a villain who has a taste for herrings, like The Penguin, is behind such fallacious comment. Then again, it could be The Joker who is no stranger when it comes to using fish as chemical weaponry.
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would ruminate on the haunting parallels between compositional fallacies and Batman villains. Let’s look at the villainous dossier, so you can trounce these fallacies in your writing like the Cape Crusader vanquishes his foes on the big screen, the small screen, comic books, and on the back of the Batman cereal box.
Fallacies are wicked things. They are weaknesses in your arguments, and they are as numerous as the depraved evildoers in Arkham Asylum. The first fallacy we’ll look at is known as a false dichotomy. False dichotomies occur when the author sets up a scenario where there are only two choices, and then proceeds to construct an argument such a way that there is only appropriate choice: the author’s belief.
Take a look at this example: “Kids are pretending like they are Batman and jumping off the roofs of houses. Either we get rid of Batman forever or all of our children will have broken legs.”
In this absurd example, the author, who clearly wants to get rid of Batman, has set up an argument where the audience has to choose between Batman and saving the injured children. I would still choose Batman in this case, but more mature audiences, tricked by the fallacy, may choose to save the injured children. Clearly, such as a fallacy is the work of the Two-Face, the dichotomous villain who can either be good or evil (mostly evil) instead of just a good-natured slacker who watches Batman: The Animated Series well into his thirties.
Like that fallacy? How about another? The slippery slope fallacy is often used in political rhetoric. The slippery slope is based around a faulty chain reaction in which the author makes a claim that we must do something or there will be dire consequences.
Take a look at this example: “Our city needs to be sure that we purchase the necessary amount of salt for the winter. If we do not and a blizzard occurs, we will not be able to drive to work. We will be locked in our houses for days at a time. The entire city will shut down, and Mr. Freeze will take over and lord over us with his icy fist!”
No slope is too slippery for Mr. Freeze, my friends.
In the last fallacy of this post, I point to the straw man fallacy. The straw man fallacy essentially works in the following manner: an author disagrees with a certain party, so he or she puts depicts that party in a weakened position that is often untrue or exaggerated.
Take a look at this example: “Batman is not a hero, but a vigilante! He just drives around town (not paying attention to the speed limit, mind you) in his bat mobile and causes a ton of damage to our city. Last week, he blew up my favorite vegetarian restaurant. What a menace!”
Yes, Batman may have wrecked that restaurant, but the author, in this case, is neglecting the fact that he did so in order to capture the villainous Scarecrow, the undisputed master of the straw man fallacy!
That wraps up this edition of fallacies and villains, all composed without the help of Robin, the Boy Wonder! Happy Halloween!
The five page argument paper is a bit of a bear. So many words to write, ugh, and you have to incorporate all that research. In that research, you found a beautiful long quote, totaling some 53 words. You could just slap some quotation marks around that bad boy and stick it in your paper, but before patting yourself on the back and congratulating yourself on the 53 words you didn’t have to write, you may want to keep some tips in mind regarding long quotes. Lest you become a blockhead.
First, remember that writing is the product of numerous rhetorical choices, and while placing long quotes in your paper is easy, you should probably have a stronger rationale for choosing to do so. Ask yourself: what purpose does this quote serve and can it be shortened in any way? If your quotation has a lot of fluff in it, then you’re probably better serve to trim it down a bit.
If you find that all that quoted information is vital to your paper, then you can incorporate it as a block quote. Block quotes are typically quotes longer than four lines and are formatted differently than regular quotes. You do not include quotation marks, but rather indent the entire quote one inch from the margin. Block quotes are double spaced like the rest of your paper and the period placement goes before the parenthetical citation.
Block quotes are helpful rhetorical choices that incorporate substantial blocks of research to bolster your argument. However, use them sparingly. Although there are no strict rules regarding the number of block quotes, I would limit their use to one block quote per every few pages. Using too many block quotes is usually a signal to your professor that you may not be giving your best effort in the paper. Write the best paper you can. Then you can play the wood block all you want!
You have a choice, and it is an important one. There, sitting on Professor Oak’s desk, are three pokeballs, containing a bulbasaur, a charmander, and a squirtle. Now is the time to make the most important decision of your life.
You have another decision, and it is an important one. There, sitting on your desk, is your laptop. You have to write a paper, and you can emphasize logos, pathos, or ethos. Now it is time to make a somewhat important decision in your life.
Bulbasaur is a logical choice. The grass-type pokemon employs a balanced attack and will serve you well against the rock-type pokemon in the Pewter Gym and the water-type pokemon in the Cerulean Gym. But who wants a pokemon with an onion on its back?
Logos is always a strong tactic to utilize. Hard facts and statistics along with a strong logically-argued setup yields great success in numerous paper situations. But who just wants to write a paper populated with a bunch of facts?
Charmander, now that’s a pokemon. The fire-type struggles initially against the initial gyms, but has a fiery personality to overcome virtually all comers. Also, charmander evolves into charizard, a straight-up fire-breathing dragon. Don’t be a fool. Choose the dragon!
Pathos is a powerful rhetorical tactic that employs strong emotional appeals. No matter how logical an argument may be, if the conflicting argument’s pathos is strong enough, it will incinerate it since humans are emotional creatures who tend to think dragons are cool.
Squirtle, now there’s a dark horse. The water-type pokemon can immediately douse charmander’s flame, reducing him to a puddle of wet ashes. Also, with his strong defensive shell, squirtle proves quite sturdy against blunt physical attacks.
Ethos can employ a fortress of credibility to protect itself against strong bursts of emotion. Although arguments heavy with passion can appeal to human nature, a credible author often quells even the fieriest emotions.
Of course, with all things, balance is key. Sure, ethos can quell pathos, but can a low-level squirtle beat a mighty charizard? I think not. Ideally, you want to ensure that your paper represents all three of these elements, not to mention a sense of chairos, best represented by the awe-inspiring Gengar.
Disclaimer: This article’s message, meaning, and utility is based entirely on whether or not you are familiar with the 1986 action-fantasy film, The Highlander. If you are unfamiliar, I suggest you educate yourself and treat yourself to fine cinema.
There can be only one…
The tagline from The Highlander is true for all things (except in the cases where the can be more than one thing, which is actually quite common). Spoken by The Highlander’s protagonist, Connor MacLeod (as opposed to Fox McCloud from Starfox. Man, a battle of McClouds, I am about to lose my mind!) as he dispatched immortal baddies with a swipe of his sword and a lightning bejeweled decapitation.
There can be only one…
The same holds true with the revision process. For your papers, there can be only one, one paper that you can submit to your professor, one paper that will be graded and live on for eternity (or until the end of the semester). If you are diligent, you will slay inferior drafts with your editing pen, the compositional equivalent of MacLeod’s Scottish Claymore, and with each defeated draft your paper will become stronger.
Sure, you can submit a singular draft and not participate in the revision process. However, your draft will be an inferior highlander; it will be littered with numerous problems like a weak thesis, structural issues, content problems, incorrect citing, missing citing, a faulty works cited page, bad introduction and conclusion paragraphs, comma splices, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, poor word choice, informality, an incorrect heading, a generic title, poor transitions, a missed Oxford comma, the wrong punctuation of titles, no signal phrases, incorrect semicolon or colon usage, poor verb tense, poor development, and I am just getting started. How will such a paper stand up against The Kurgan? How will it survive the immortal endgame and save the world? Don’t you want to be the last highlander standing? Don’t you want to be the immortal of immortals?
There can be only one…
So don’t hold back your editing pen. Mercy is for the weak. Slay those inferior drafts! Off with their heads! Be like Connor MacLeod! Absorb the power of your inferior drafts into your own mighty draft that will make even The Kurgan quake in his boots. There can be only one!
Nice haircut, Scotty.
Yesterday, F. Scott Fitzgerald ran into me on the street. I knew it was Fitzgerald because I had just composed a five page essay on The Great Gatsby for my American Literature Survey course, and his dapper mug was on the side cover, which I found to be a bit pompous. “Oh, look at me, I am a famous dead author fancy boy.” Give me a break. I was going to do what I typically do when I run into famous dead authors: ignore them, but Fitzgerald grabbed me by the arm.Redford>DiCaprio
“Hey, old sport, I got a bone to pick with you,” he said.Is that Fitzgerald or Loki?
“Wait, you actually say, ‘old sport?’ That’s pretty lame,” I retorted.
“Your face is pretty lame,” Fitzgerald replied, quite smug with his
comeback. “Is it true that you titled your pathetic essay on my book, ‘The Great Gatsby?’”
“Hey man, I got a B+ on that paper, and I didn’t even read your book, but watched Jack Clayton’s 1974 film, The Great Gatsby with the incomparable Robert Redford in the starring role.”
“That movie is terrible,” Fitzgerald sneered before taking a swig from his flask. “It doesn’t have a cool hip-hop soundtrack like the latest Great Gatsby movie.”
At that point, I started to flee, but Fitzgerald once again grabbed me by the arm, which apparently besides being a great writer was another talent of his. Some people are truly blessed.Hemingway will coldcock you.
“Answer my question,” he demanded.
“Yeah, I did title my paper, ‘The Great Gatsby,’” I admitted. “That was what I was writing about after all. What of it?”
“You can’t do that,” F. Scotty Too Hotty admonished. “You can’t just reuse my title for your paper. That’s bad form. I wrote The Great Gatsby! Me! Me! Me! Think of some other title when you write about another author’s work."
“All right. All right,” I said. “What about ‘This Side of Paradise?’ Is that a good title?”
“I wrote that too!” he yelled.
“What about ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?’”
“That movie didn’t have a hip-hop soundtrack either!” Fitzgerald cried. “Why is Baz Luhrmann the only person who understands me?!”
“Look over there. It’s Ernest Hemingway!” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.
Fitzgerald yelped in terror, allowing me adequate time to escape. As I fled, I thought to myself that The Great Gatsby was actually a pretty lame title anyway. Not as a lame as my face, of course, but still…