To transcend the effects of a self-imposed diaspora from my rhetorical undertakings, I am currently reclaiming the verisimilitude of my ubiquity.

Huh? Exactly.

In my last blog, I attempted to start a conversation about words. I asked readers to present their favorite word, to define it and to use it in a sentence. I wanted to call that blog, "Fun with Words: A Lexical Gala." My title was quickly nixed by my editor and simplified to "Words with Friends: What’s the Craziest Word You Can Think Of?" My editor’s moves make a lot of sense (Editor's note: Thanks, Tim!). I should have known better.

All too often, college students, including those in online degree programs, want to go overboard in their writing. They have the idea that by using big words and approaching big subjects head-on, they will be viewed as being smarter and more deserving of a good grade. Too many big words, however, especially if they are not handled precisely, can distract the reader.

Consider the opening sentence in this blog, for instance. All that I said is that I’m back to blogging after a break. However, when we plug that opening sentence into the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test, it has a readability score of 0%.

Did you understand it when you read it? If so, you may be reading at a doctorate level. Most of us aren't there yet. I only know what it means because I wrote it. Unless you are determined to alienate your audience, it is best to tone it down a bit.

At present, we have recovered from our first sentence, and are now reading at an eighth grade level (65.3% readability) for this blog post. According to the math, this is writing an audience can actually understand.

In essays and research papers for college, it's best for online students to keep it simple, but engaging. How is that done? Here are four tips to consider when planning and writing your essays and research papers:

1. Use language that mirrors the content of the course, but that you are also comfortable with: Don’t use language that is too casual, but don’t forget to write to the task either. Try to write at the level of the text(s) you are studying, but not at the price of moving too far out of your comfort zone. Building your vocabulary is a great enterprise, but you don’t want to appear like you are not confident in your subject knowledge. Even if you can control big words, you don’t want to write above the level of your audience.

2. Find small topics: One of the purposes for writing is to create meaning. If you are working with a topic that is too big or has been discussed too much, what meaning can you expect to bring to it? One of the greatest essays I’ve ever read was on the value of staplers.

3. Simplify, simplify, simplify: Act as if your readers know little or nothing about your subject. Your job is to simplify it, to put it into context, and, most of all, to explain it.  Do not forget your readers. Writing is about communication, not posturing.

4. Don't try to change the world with every essay: An essay is meant to determine how well you can synthesize ideas being examined in the classroom. Instructors are not expecting you to alter reality. Just demonstrate you can communicate what has been going on in the course, and pay attention to your readers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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