Saturday, June 6, 2009

Avoiding Skeleton

Here's a snippet from an "essay" that shows up on one of those "buy a paper" sites on the internet:

"Now I'm going to write about where Pip, a boy from a very humble background meets Miss Havisham, a rich but eccentric lady and how Charles Dickens wants the reader to feel sympathetic towards Pip."

Lesson 2: This opening to a paper on Great Expectations is pathetic.
Lesson 3: Announcing what you are about to do in an essay is exposing the structural elements of your paper, which is like showing your skeleton.

And we all know that if people can see your skeleton, it's baaaaaad. Blech!

So that's why I strongly urge you to avoid "skeleton phrases." No one wants to see the structure of your writing sticking out from the ideas.

Not only do students sometimes announce what they are about to write on, but also they use skeletal language for situations such as these:

Another example of when Smedley reveals his lack of intelligence is when--

"'Gee whillikers, Bob. Is this a bomb?' Smedley asked as he pushed a red button on the bundle of wires that protruded from the dynamite sticks." This quotes shows how little sense Smedley actually possesses.

When you find you have used skeleton wording, you can often remove it and just fix the sentence so it's complete. In the earlier example, it would read: "Smedley reveals his lack of intelligence when he . . ." and in the latter, after the quoted passage, the writer needs only, "Clearly, he possesses little common sense."

"Just say 'No' to skeleton!"

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