Chapter 4: From Thesis to Essay
Editing and Rewriting for Precise and Muscular Language
Because you have completed a number of edits, it is likely that the components of your thesis are already quite strong. Now you need to focus on being as precise as possible with your language, so that your analysis of the author’s argument is as clear and sophisticated as possible.
Revisiting the evidence you’ve chosen in storey one is a good place to start. Ideally you want to choose words and small phrases that are rich in connotative value. That is, language that can mean multiple complex things at once which then also fit into the rich language around it. For example, identifying and focusing in on the fact that an author uses the term “Facebook” six times is not that useful as the word “Facebook” is more informational and less descriptive or argumentative and therefore does not have much in terms of connotative value. However, in “The Plot to Privatize Common Knowledge” from the first chapter, the word “common” is very rich and deserves much more attention: by definition is carries the meaning of sharing something (i.e. having something in common), as well as being meaning something that is regularly occurring. These two meanings then get added to the author’s definition of what a Commons is (i.e public and shared property). Look at all the work that single word is doing! Therefore, when identifying the best pieces of evidence as the base for your analysis of the author’s complex argument, look for the language that is the richest in connotative value.
As discussed in Chapter 3, the Ctrl-F is a tool meant to help you identify broad words so that you can chose more specific vocabulary in your revision process. When applying the Control-F List, opens new window to your thesis, the intent is not to say that you should never use words like “society” or “people,” but rather to say that those words are so ambiguous and general that they retain very little value. Instead, you should say what you mean! Instead of “society” or “people,” you mean “2017 first year university students in Canada.” Look back through your thesis and ensure that you are replacing those broad terms with language that speaks more directly to the author’s audience and complex argument.
A verb is an action word and most often the heavy lifter of any sentence you will write. As such, a strong verb will do the work of three simple words and will provide your reader with a more compact and clear version of the argument you are recreating. For example, think of the difference between the verbs “move” “run” and “gallop.”
- “Move” as a verb is far too broad and simple. What part of the body is being moved? In what manner?
- “Run” is better as it implies a speed and a specific action with a body but is still generic.
- “Gallop” is much better as it carries with it the connotations of a horse and gives the imagery of that specific locomotion. As well, using that word also brings up the connotations of animalistic movement. Instead of needing an adverb, as “move” and “run” likely would, “gallop” is a word that is doing a lot of work on its own.