While I was meditating last night, I realized that I need to be doing more as an advice columnist. While students readily come to me for advice about sex and relationships, there are some things that they are too ashamed to admit they need help with. And it’s not penis abnormalities, because I get plenty of those questions; what I’m talking about is their writing. Grammar, word choice, sentence structure, a thesis statement; to many students, these are foreign ideas. As a newspaper columnist for almost 52 weeks now, I have accumulated a wealth of invaluable professional writing experience, so why not share it with the public? Exactly.
Public, I am proud to present you with Dear Igor’s style guide to University-level writing. The topics are listed in order of importance, and if you follow my advice to the word, I can guarantee you will notice a dramatic difference in your grades.
Have a Proper Writing Environment: So many students make the mistake of writing in a space that actually hinders and slows their writing. They will go to the library, turn off their wireless, and write free of the “distractions” of their roommates or Facebook. Distractions? Try idea machines. Why come up with an argument on the Treaty of Westphalia’s significance in today’s international political system all on your own, when you can ask your high school ex-girlfriend on Facebook chat? First, you’re going to need to comment on her pictures, though, to make sure she doesn’t feel like you’re using her. Whoa, who’s that guy with his arm around her? Are they going out? He’s got the weirdest-looking face I’ve ever seen. What school does he go to? Oh, SLO. I guess it’s a long distance thing. Weird, we actually have a friend in common. Jenny Monroe from elementary school? That’s so random. I wonder how she’s doing?
By the time you finish idea hunting in this manner, you will have so little time left that your essay will simply fly from your fingertips.
Use a Proper Font: Why the Times New Roman, people? When you choose it, your mediocrity shines brighter than the sun. You’re a default, that’s all; just a big, stinking, default. Free yourself from your fontsy foolishness!
You need to choose a font that warms your TA, a font that coddles her, wraps her up in its warm blanket of homeliness, and takes her back to when she was just a small girl on a farm, spending her days playing in the meadow and milking Teats, her cow. This is what Calibri does. It’s been the secret to my success, and I’m sharing it with you now. Use it carefully.
Write a Proper Thesis Statement: TAs will tell you that a thesis statement is an argument which answers the question posed by your assignment, while laying out the general organization of your paper. They will say that it should be one or two sentences long at most. This is all hollywobble. Do you want to be like all the other students with their cookie-cutter essays, just following the crowd, easily leading their TAs to their theses? Of course not! TAs are people too, which means they love surprises and they love treasure hunts. So break your thesis apart and spread it all around your paper.
Mention your thesis casually in the opening paragraph, giving your reader just a taste of what’s to come. For example, if your essay asks whether dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was necessary to win WWII, write something like this in your opening: With a metallic whirr the bomb bay door of the B-52 opened, and the infamous atomic weapon was released over Nagasaki, causing tens of thousands of deaths. But was the devastation really necessary? No one will ever, ever know… unless they read this paper. Bam! Did you feel that? That’s called suspense, and authors like Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling use it all the time. Why bore your TA with a well-reasoned, falsifiable argument, when you can leave him scratching his head and eagerly searching for clues as he tries to piece together the jigsaw mystery of your thesis?