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Tutor's Critique for First Draft
Tutor's Critique for First Draft

Score: 3/6

Dear Karen:

You’ve done an excellent job here, especially for a 25-minute essay! In fact, your organization and support are already strong enough for us to begin focusing on some of the smaller details of a fine essay. This is a fantastic start. Let’s see what we can do to make it even better.

First of all, as you’ll see from the USAGE, GRAMMAR, and SPELLING section, I noticed that you are having some problems with comma splices. Remember that you should never link two complete sentences – or “independent clauses” – together with just a comma. In my critique for lines 3-4, I pointed out the three ways you can avoid this. Try to keep those in mind for future essays.

Now let’s take a look at the introductory paragraph. I am not sure which sentence is your thesis statement, which for this kind of essay should always be the last sentence in the introduction. At first I thought the thesis might be “To achieve success, there first must be failure.” But then more than half of the introduction is devoted to famous people in history, and how they have used failure to achieve success. Since you do not refer to any famous people in particular in the rest of the essay, this is misleading. A better thesis statement might have been, “We can see examples of valuable failure in both our everyday lives and in important historical moments.” Do you see how this would better fit the rest of your essay? Always make sure that your thesis statement reveals what the rest of the essay will be about. Please rewrite the introduction to reflect the thesis statement I have suggested. (You’ll see more about why you should do that when I discuss your body paragraphs.)

Also, I had a few problems with some of the language in your introduction: “EVERY accomplishment has a failure or failures attached to it. To achieve success, there first MUST be failure. ALL the famous people in history…” Do you see that the language is too extreme and absolute? I know that personally, there have been a few times I have achieved accomplishments without failing first; and I know that in history, there must be SOME famous people who HAVE given in to failure. Please avoid this kind of extreme language in the future. Instead, you can use words such as “many” or even “most”: “MANY accomplishments have a failure or failures attached to it…MANY famous people in history…” (See the Sample Essay for more on avoiding extreme language.)

As for your first body paragraph, I thought the topic sentence was really superb; I especially liked the way that you used the word “taste” instead of “experience,” or some other more boring word. Excellent job. I also appreciated the fact that all of your support relates clearly back to the topic. One thing I would avoid is clichés: in line 9 you use “bed of roses” and in line 13 you use “life will still go on.” These are commonly used phrases and as such are not that powerful, so try not to use clichés in the future.

I also had one question about lines 15-16: “They will learn that life will not always go their way and that they will make mistakes.” What is the mistake you are talking about? I don’t see a college rejection as a “mistake,” really. Is there a better word you could use?

Finally, and most importantly: does this relate back to the thesis? If your thesis is “To achieve success, there first must be failure,” or “You must keep up your endeavors to taste success,” then this paragraph doesn’t really connect, since you don’t write about any kind of specific success that stems from a college rejection. MAKE SURE YOUR PARAGRAPHS CLEARLY SUPPORT THE THESIS. (You can use my thesis suggestion – “We can see examples of valuable failure in both our everyday lives and in important historical moments” – to fix that problem.)

The second paragraph also has the same problem of not exactly supporting the thesis statement. Using my thesis suggestion will fix this paragraph, too. Otherwise, I think this is a very strong paragraph, with great support. The only thing I would work on would be avoiding repetition: “THEY trusted each other…and THEY succeeded…THEY didn’t waste their time…THEY learned more things…THEY used their knowledge of the failure…” I know you were probably running out of time at this point, but try to combine sentences and use different kinds of sentence structures. For example, you might rewrite the second to last sentence to read, “In the end, the Apollo 13 crisis taught NASA scientists valuable lessons about the risks of space travel and how to build a safer craft.” Try to be creative to keep your essay from becoming tedious.

Your conclusion was good – to the point and not repetitive, which is exactly the kind of conclusion you want for this kind of essay.

So for next week, I’d like you to do the following:

1. Rewrite the thesis statement and introduction according to my suggestions.
2. Correct the usage and grammar problems.
3. Vary your sentence structures.

Again, fantastic job. I can’t wait to see next week’s draft!

Sincerely,
Bill


USAGE, GRAMMAR, and SPELLING

3-4: “All the famous people in history have one thing in common, faced with failure, they didn’t give in to it” – This is what is called a “comma splice”: you have incorrectly connected two full sentences with nothing but a comma. “All the famous people…in common” is a sentence by itself, as is “Faced with failure, they didn’t give in to it.” You can fix this in three ways. 1) Use a period instead of a comma and make it into two sentences. 2) Use a connecting word, or “conjunction” (“and,” “but,” or “or” are the most common conjunctions), after the comma. 3) Use a semicolon (;) instead of the comma. (Since the second rule, “Use a conjunction,” wouldn’t really apply here, you should either use the period or semi-colon.)

8-9: “If they are letters of acceptance all is well” – Usually when you use an “If” phrase, you will want to set off the second part with a comma: “If they are letters of acceptance, all is well.”

9-10: “But life…a favorite college” – This is another comma splice, like the one in lines 3-4. Can you fix it using the information I gave you above?

13: “themselves” – You are not using the word reflexively here – that is, it doesn’t refer back to itself properly. “Teens reject themselves” would be a proper use; but since you are referring to a “personal rejection of them as people,” you should use that word instead.

14: “their life” – Since you are using a plural subject (“people”), you should use the plural “lives” here.

15: “And that…of themselves” – This is not a whole sentence; it seems more like a phrase that has been separated from the sentence before it. Can you connect this phrase to that sentence?

17: “And that despite that…” – To what does the second “that” refer? Please make the sentence clearer here.

23-25: “They trusted…and they succeeded” – When you connect two full sentences (“They trusted each other and the people back in Houston to come up with a result” is the first, and “they succeeded” is the second), you must use a comma before the conjunction (which is in this case the word “and”). Remember that some full sentences can be as short as two words, as is the case here!

25-26: “…safely and in one piece” – This is redundant. In other words, we know that they got back in one piece because you already told us they got back safely. You can just say “As a result, everyone got back safely” here (because “in one piece” is somewhat of a cliché, which you should avoid using).

27-29: “The astronauts…worked the problem out.” There is a comma splice here. Can you find and fix it?