DICTION Nouns Concrete or abstract? Specific or general? Repetitive? Verbs Active or passive? Too many “to be” verbs? Repetitive? Inappropriate shifts in tense? SYNTAX In the longest paragraph of the essay, chart the following information: How many words are in the sentence? 1st sentence 2nd sentence Etc. Copy the first 4 words of each sentence: SYNTAX REPETITION FRAGMENTS "I want her to live. I want her to breathe. I want her to aerobicize." (Weird Science, 1985) "Late afternoon. The sky hunkers down, presses, like a lover, against the land. Small sounds. A far sheep, faint barking. Time to drive on, toward Strathpeffer, friends, a phone call from my father. (Judith Kitchen, "Culloden," Only the Dance. Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1994) "She's safe, just like I promised. She's all set to marry Norrington, just like she promised. And you get to die for her, just like you promised." (Jack Sparrow, The Pirates of the Caribbean) SYNTAX PERIODIC SENTENCES C U M U LAT IV E S E N T E N C E S "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (The King James Bible, I Corinthians 13) "Her moving wings ignited like tissue paper, enlarging the circle of light in the clearing and creating out of the darkness the sudden blue sleeves of my sweater, the green leaves of jewelweed by my side, the ragged red trunk of a pine." (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm. Harper & Row, 1977) SYNTAX PARALLELISM INVERSION "It is by logic we prove, but by intuition we discover." (Leonardo da Vinci) "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." (J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit, 1937) "Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature." (Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980) "There on the tiny stoop sat Pecola in a light red sweater and blue cotton dress." (Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970) SYNTAX CHIASMUS "You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget." (Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006) "I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction's job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." (David Foster Wallace) FOCUS & CONCISION POTHOLES exercise: For every three sentences in your essay, keep one and cut two. This forces you to focus on what’s most essential, and helps you consider other ways of getting from one idea to the next.