Word Count: 1181
How to Write a Clear Paper
When I give my paper to others,people always tell me that no one writes the way I do. However, the essay seem fairly understandable to me. The format is correct; the paper contains a thesis, three body paragraphs to support the thesis, and a conclusion connected to the thesis. I cannot find mistakes on own. I had asked professors and classmates how to solve this problem. They answered, “Try to find a way to explain your ideas more clearly.” I started to think about the word “clear”. The question repeatedly comes up, “How do I describe the word ‘clear’ clearly?” Therefore, I tried to analyze my drafts, thinking about how to write an understandable essay in my first college year. Through this process, I have gradually come to understand my weaknesses in word choices and understand how to complete a clear paper.
Writing a clear paper was once an impossibly difficult task to me. In WLD57, the professor told me to compare my hometown, Taipei, to Davis. This assignment became a nightmare. Students are expected to write complex sentences and use metaphors in Taipei. However, in the US, the basic requirement for students is to write clear and straightforward sentences. In addition, the grammar rules for Mandarin are so different from those in English that I always spend a long time translating my thoughts to English, especially when people tell me to introduce my hometown. How can I introduce a culture or a place really different from the US in English when I cannot even write English sentences clearly? In Taipei, there are many ideas not clearly converted in English. Not surprisingly, when I finished my first draft, no one could understand my paper. I felt so upset but still told myself it was not time to give up. I kept revising my drafts and tried to find writing tutors for help. There had to be a way to make the paper clear to my audiences. Therefore, I began to do step-by-step analyze for my paper.
The first step is analyzing my comparison essay is to figure out what really makes it unclear. Looking at my paper, I figure there are some proper nouns in Mandarin that people may not know. For example, I tried to describe a traditional structure in Taipei where people can hide to avoid the rain. I looked up the word in the dictionary and translated the Chinese word of this structure into English. I chose the word “terrace”. However, when I took this paper to the professor, she told me that when people talk about a terrace, they usually think of a small area for tea and coffee. Even though the dictionary may gave me another correct definition of “terrace” similar to the structure I wanted to describe, readers still cannot understand me. Also, I assumed that everyone knows one of the tallest economic buildings in the world called Taipei 101. In fact, many classmates asked what Taipei 101 stands for. Because I always think my readers should understand my meaning and I do not have concrete writing skills, my language becomes difficult to understand. For myself, the hardest thing for me in writing a paper is to recognize how to lead my audiences to understand my words.
Another problem for me is word choice. The dictionary does help me come up with better vocabulary and complex sentences. However, language is too flexible to copy down the exact same words from a dictionary. Definitions in Mandarin are so different from definitions in English. I used the word “diminish” to describe the lighting in a Taipei’s bar. The explanation in the dictionary is “To make smaller or less or to cause to appear so.” It definitely works when I plug this definition into the Mandarin system. However, the tutor circled this word and asked me again, “What are you trying to define right here?” After spending a long time trying to describe my idea to the writing tutor, he said, “You probably can use filmy here.” Surely I understand that filmy is an adjective that comes from film, describing a fading film light as in the theater. Although filmy is a simpler word compared to diminish, I had never thought about this word to put in my essay. Instead using a word I do not really understand its meaning, I could use simpler words to describe the paper.
After the experience of writing a paper of my hometown, I figured out that since I do not have really strong writing skills, it is better for me to write simple sentences and make my sentences understandable. In addition, sometimes I have to use more words to describe a subject that people with good writing skills can describe in a few words. These writing tips do make my grades improve to a level to pass my first year’s English classes. However, I also understand clear papers do not completely equal simple papers. It is inappropriate to stay in this situation for a long time. In fact, if I am afraid to challenge myself, I will not have the ability to write advanced papers for future classes and in my career. Now, I am planning to read more books and watch more movies, trying to find how good writers arrange their words to make their essays clear and attractive. Keeping a journal or vocabulary list could be an effective way to improve my writing skill. I believe through the process of taking notes from these writer’s sentences, I can gradually find patterns that help improve my writings.
By looking at an essay I wrote in the past, I could see the improvements I’ve made and I am really happy to recognize I have become a better writer. In the beginning, I could not understand why people did not understand my essay. However, as the classes become harder, I should prepare to see other kinds of essays that may require more writing strength: I will not only need to write a simple essay, but write a clearly defined essay with more variations of vocabulary words and sentence structures,.