Essay writing Q&A: What this English prof wants you to know
Jan 9, 2020 9:46:42 PM
Our software wasn't created by VCs looking to go viral, or computer programmers playing behind their screens, or by those looking to make money off of students and their parents. Our software was created by professors who really want to help students and educators be successful in their writing goals. So we sat down with cofounder and current EssayJack CEO, Dr. Lindy Ledohowski, a former English teacher and professor to ask what she wishes more students knew about essay writing.
Us: What is the most common essay writing problem you've seen in your 20 years of teaching?
Dr. Lindy: That's a great question! There are all sorts of mistakes that students might unwittingly make. One of the most common ones is thinking that ideas are more important than form or structure. There were many times when students would say things like "but you know what I mean," or "it was clear in my head." However, the point about academic writing (or any writing really) is to structure and formulate ideas as fully and completely as possible for someone else to read. We aren't mind readers, after all!
Us: Okay, so then it's all about essay structure. So if you get structure right mistakes in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure don't matter as much?
Dr. Lindy: To be honest, I'm not all that picky about students making small grammar and spelling errors. However, if they haven't bothered to proof read their essays before handing them in, then it speaks to a lack of professionalism and polish more than a lack of knowledge. There are so many great tools out there to help with simple spelling and grammar errors that today's students should be a bit embarrassed to hand in unpolished work. So, of course, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure matter, but small errors in those mechanical things are easier to fix than big, logical errors in an essay's expression.
Us: Often we hear that students think professors or instructors just don't like their style. I mean, writing is very subjective, isn't it?
Dr. Lindy: To a certain extent, writing is subjective, but to a certain extent it is not. I find that professors and teachers know the rules of good writing so well that sometimes they take those rules for granted and have a hard time breaking it down to students. So while students might think that their teacher or professor has an issue with their style it's more likely that the student is repeatedly making the same structural errors that leads the instructor to point out the same errors again and again. So if students understood better what essay rules they are consistently breaking and stopped they'll definitely see an improvement in their writing and feedback from instructors. What I'm trying to say is at first most students might think it's an issue of style or ideas but this is rarely the case. This goes back to the most common problem I see with students, they miss the point of an essay.
Us: So what is the point of an essay?
Dr. Lindy: Actually, it's quite simple. Most often, the point of an essay is to communicate an idea of point of view as clearly and concisely as possible. And to achieve this clarity there has to be a logical structure so the person reading it understands what you are trying to say. Essays are like a universal framework for written communication. In particular, an essay communicates an insight that requires exploration and/or argumentation. We'd never need an essay on "the sky is blue," because that's self evident, but if you wanted to write an essay on different ways artists have tried to capture the sky in visual arts through the ages, then that just might be worth writing about!
Us: But most of us use various social media and messaging apps to communicate today. So do students these days really need to learn how to write long essays?
Dr. Lindy: It's true that basic written communication is easier than ever these days. However, we still live in a world where we are judged based on how well we do on exams and other forms of professional written communication. Being able to write well is the key that unlocks a number of doors for people, both educationally or professionally. We all know that if we only manage a basic level of oral or written communication we'll never do well in school and get to that next professional designation. Similarly, if we only manage a basic level of oral or written communication, certain professional doors will remain locked to us, and we won't get that next promotion. No one wants to be stuck in an entry level job forever, and often good writing skills can be the key that opens that door to the next level. To a certain extent, mastering essay-writing skills is more important now than ever before, because students are getting less and less used to longer, deeper forms of writing, but that's exactly what advanced studies or higher level professions require. Texts and tweets are superficial; essays require depth.
Us: What's one bit of advice that you would give students who hate writing essays but have to do it anyway?
Dr. Lindy: Don't buy an essay online!!! That's the most important piece of advice I can give. There are a number of reasons for this advice, which include: (1) it's cheating to buy an essay; (2) you rob yourself of the ability to learn those skills that will improve your own future; (3) you honestly never know what you're going to get when you buy an essay online; I have had students burst into tears when the essay they paid $300 for turns out to earn them a D; and (4) you're better than that.
So from all of us at Team EssayJack, we hope you enjoyed this brief Q & A with our in-house writing guru! If you want more writing insights from educators in various fields of academia let us know on Twitter or Instagram!
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