What is good writing?
What is good writing?

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What is good writing?

2.6.2 Hansa's essay

Hansa's essay would get a higher grade than Philip's. But, like his, it has both strong and weak points.

Strengths

  • subtle understanding of Ellis's argument

  • excellent focus on the question in the title

  • generally sound structure

  • some very fluent writing in places

  • plenty of attack in the opening – pacey first paragraph

  • good sense of how to draw a conclusion

Weaknesses

  • one weak point is in her paragraphing

  • in places, language over-formal and sentences too densely packed

  • needs to clarify her line of argument (that is, reorganise a little)

  • could pay even more attention to signalling how the argument is developing

  • doesn't quite set up the frame of reference within which she is arguing

If I were Hansa's tutor, I would write to her in congratulatory and encouraging terms. This is a very creditable job of getting to grips with quite a subtle article and an essay title which demands a bit of careful thought. Hansa has studied well and attacked her essay with insight and flair.

This comparison of Philip's and Hansa's work shows that essays can be good in different ways. And it shows that when we make judgements about the quality of an essay, we need to think about both the quality of the ideas in it and the way these ideas are presented. After all, the ideas only really ‘exist’ in the form we see them on the page.

As I've suggested, judging one essay against the other I'd say that Hansa's is better than Philip's. That is mainly because she addresses herself to the essay question she was set, and puts together a reasonably well-connected argument that leads to an answer to it. Along the way, she shows that she has a good grasp of the ideas contained in her source material.

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