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Tutor's Critique for First Draft
Tutor's Critique for First Draft
Dear Lauren,

You did a nice job with a difficult subject. I think you have a lot of great points to make, and I think they would be even better with some organizational improvements.

First of all, I'd like you to think about the beginning of your essay. The introduction, or first paragraph, should do a couple of things: catch the reader's attention and reveal the main point of your essay. Try starting your essay with a quotation about freedom, or a little story about an example of freedom. Perhaps you could even start out with the story about your grandmother and her experience growing up in Germany. Little stories or examples like that are very interesting, and will capture the reader's attention.

Then introduce the thesis statement of your essay. You can read more about the thesis statement on the IvyTown.com web site, but basically the thesis statement is the main idea of the whole essay; the rest of the essay should support that main idea. What is the biggest, most important point you want to make about freedom? Try to put it into a single sentence and put it at the end of your introductory paragraph. The thesis statement will let the reader know what you'll be talking about in your essay.

In your third paragraph, you seem to know what the thesis statement should be: "This is what the word Freedom means to me: being allowed to have as many choices as we want and being able to choose any of them." After reading about the thesis statement on the IvyTown.com web site, I think you'll be able to make that sentence into a good thesis statement. But remember that all the other sentences in your essay must support that statement! Sometimes you include ideas and sentences that are unnecessary. For instance, in your fourth paragraph you talk about the American flag. I think this whole paragraph should be deleted, because it doesn't have anything to do with what freedom means to you. See if you can find other sentences or paragraphs that you can cut out; this will become much easier to do once you find a good thesis to put in your introduction.

You might also want to concentrate on having more clearly stated topic sentences (see "Tips on Writing Essays" on IvyTown.com to read more about this). A topic sentence is the first sentence of each paragraph, and it tells the reader what the paragraph will be about. Every sentence in the paragraph should support the topic sentence; think of the topic sentence as a mini-thesis statement for the paragraph. Working on your topic sentences will improve your essay's clarity.

Something else I noticed is that you use a lot of severe phrases, like "the most important thing" and "wouldn't ever happen." Phrases like that are dangerous, because they are too extreme. How can we be sure that a situation like the one in Germany wouldn't ever happen here in America? In fact, we can't know that. So you should try to make your sentences less extreme -- perhaps instead of saying "He killed a lot of people trying to take away there Freedom but that wouldn't ever happen in America" you could say something like "Because of the freedoms we have in America today, it is much less likely that someone like Adolf Hitler could succeed in killing many people here."

That leads me to my last real critique. It was a great idea to include examples in your essay, like the one you used with Adolf Hitler. Examples make your essay much stronger and more interesting. But in your examples, make sure you include details and specifics to support your ideas. For instance, in the Adolf Hitler example, you say that "that wouldn't ever happen in America." But why wouldn't it? Why couldn't it? Answer those questions by addressing the main idea of your essay: what freedom means to you. Another example you use is freedom of speech; it's great that you used a personal example like that for this essay. But you end it by saying, "And you have to be able to hear the things that other people want to say even if it offends you or even if it makes you feel bad." You need to include one more thing here: why is it necessary to hear offensive things, even if it makes you feel bad? What does that have to do with freedom? You need to support the statements you make a little bit more, by relating them to your main idea.

Basically, for next week, I'd like you to rewrite the essay and focus on improving three main things:

1. Writing a good thesis statement. Read what the web site has to say about thesis statements; that will help a lot. Once you have a good thesis statement, I think a much better organization for the whole essay will reveal itself to you.

2. Supporting your examples and statements with evidence. Don't just say something and leave it at that -- go a little further to explain yourself and relate your statements to your main idea.

3. Leaving out sentences and ideas that don't have anything to do with your thesis statement. This will clarify your thoughts for the reader and make your essay easier to read.

All in all, it's a good first draft. I look forward to reading your second one!

Sincerely,

Becky


GRAMMAR, USAGE, and SPELLING

1:"freedom" does not need to be capitalized, because it is not a proper noun. Unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence, the word "freedom" should begin with a lower case "f" every time it appears in your essay.
5-6: Is the phrase "being able to choose any of them" necessary? It seems repetitive after the phrase "as many choices as we want." Try to get rid of redundant words and phrases in your writing.
8: Use a comma after "freedoms."
9: Can you think of a way to say "showing your face" without using "your"? It's best to avoid using "you" or "your" in formal writing.
10: "don't" -- In formal writing, avoid using contractions; expand all the contractions in this essay. ("Don't" becomes "do not," and so forth.) Also -- "to constantly cover" is a split infinitive, which you don't want to use. A split infinitive occurs when you put a word (like "constantly") inside an infinitive ("to cover," or any verb that has the word "to" before it). One way to fix this is to say "to cover my face constantly." Always avoid split infinitives.
18:When you say "them," to whom are you referring? When you use a pronoun -- like "him," "them," "their," "it," etc. -- you need to make sure your readers know what the pronoun is talking about.
20:"there" -- should be "their," a possessive pronoun.
22:"it's" -- should be "its," with no apostrophe. This is a confusing pair of words -- "it's" means "it is" and "its" is a possessive pronoun, to be used when something belongs to whatever "it" is. When you get confused, try replacing "it is" for "it's" and see if it makes sense: "Another thing about Freedom is that it is name means..." Since that doesn't make sense, you know that you should be using "its."
23:"It doesn't cost us anything" -- this phrase is unnecessary, since you have already said that "its name means it is free."
25:"it" -- unclear pronoun reference (see my note for line 18, above). Also, the sentence beginning "Because" is not a complete sentence. (Go to the IvyTown.com web site and read about sentence fragments under "Grammar Tips.")
27:Since "no one" is singular, the pronoun in this line should be singular: "without his or her knowledge" would be the best way to fix it.
35:"say the things that I am always saying" is a little repetitive. Can you rephrase it?
37:Try to avoid starting sentences with "and." It's not always wrong, but it could lead to sentence fragments.
42:"like those other people" -- What other people? Try to be more specific here.