Well, no, I didn’t quite…

Well, no, I didn't quite finish the grading. But there's only about two hours worth left (which includes calculating final grades), and it turns out they're not actually due 'til Monday (I thought they were due today). So I'm still going to try to finish doing them today, but I'm not going to stress about it.

No stress is the theme for today, I think. I slept in for the first time in weeks. I'm still in my pyjamas (green plaid flannel) and may just remain in them all day. I feel absolutely no desire to go outside (though I do have two movies due back today, but if Kevin can't drop them off for me I may just return them tomorrow and pay the late fees). The apartment needs cleaning, but not in any urgent way...I'll probably do it off and on all day. Pretty much the only thing that I really want to be sure to finish today is the CS newsletter. Otherwise, listen to Christmas music, drink tea, watch movies, rest. Any work that sneaks its way into that schedule is welcome, as long as it doesn't disturb my resting mood.

The one thing that really is disturbing my resting mood is Karen's novel dare. I wanna do one! Can I can I can I? The answer is no. Just plain no. Just squash that gleam in your eye, Mary Anne. You have a story to revise, a grad school application to put together, probably a couple of other stories to write (what about that piece for Hanne's anthology, eh?) -- what are you doing thinking about trying to write a novel? In a month? Just what kind of a fool are you? Just be patient -- Susan promises that if you wait until summer, she'll do it with you. Wouldn't that be more fun than constantly being a week behind Karen as she does it? Patience is a virtue, right? Right???

I'll try to restrain myself. But restraint is not my strong point, as y'all might have noticed.

Today seems to be a day for finishing up old e-mails, tidying loose ends, so I wanted to answer a question of Shmuel's regarding a recent journal entry, and I thought I'd answer it publically in case anyone else was (understandably) bewildered.


Why should the writer of an argumentative essay strenuously avoid ending paragraphs with quotations from other writers?


Well, think about your purpose (always a good idea when you're confused) -- why are you writing this essay? Because your teacher assigned it and you don't want to flunk. Well, okay, but remember what she kept saying about the Great Conversation and the ongoing exchange of ideas in academia? You're supposed to at least be pretending (with the idea that this is practice for the future when it'll be for real) that you're participating in this Great Conversation, along with Aristotle and Shakespeare and Galileo and Locke...you, yes you. You're listening to what these people had to say, and what other people have to say about what they had to say, and then you're contributing your own ideas about all these interesting things they said. (Of course they're interesting. And if they're not, it's good practice. Hush.)

Okay, so are you with me so far? Great Conversation, you participating, putting forward your ideas in an argumentative paper. So what does your teacher want from you? Right, she wants to see *your ideas*. That's the heart of the paper, the most important part. If ya don't have a thesis, ya got nothin'. And after the thesis, the claim, comes the preview of the subclaims, the points that you will use to bolster your main claim. And after those come the body paragraphs, where you will take each of the subclaims and back them up with solid evidence. And said evidence can take various forms, from pure logical reasoning to statistical evidence to quotes from experts etc. and so on. But what do we do with all that outside evidence? Do we let it sit there? Do we let 'the facts speak for themselves'?

No! Never! Why? Because facts lie. Yes, they lie. Those supposed facts are tricky little buggers, and you'd be amazed at how they can be twisted around to support almost any position. So what do we need, class, in order to show how the facts do in fact truly support your subclaim (and thus, your claim)?

Analysis! Your own careful, painstaking, search for the true meaning/value of those facts. Your detailed explanation of how this fact really does support (or even better, prove) your claim. Your thoughts, framing and shaping the 'facts' and turning them into real, solid evidence. This is where those marvelous ideas of yours come back in, got it?

And so, logically, we see what happens when you end a paragraph with a quote. You put forward someone else's words, supposedly as support -- but you don't tell us what they mean! Your reader may be interpreting them entirely differently from the way you meant them to -- and neither they nor you will ever even know! Your teacher will have no idea what you wanted her to think about that quote, and will be forced to discard it as potential evidence, leaving your subclaim less solidly supported, thus leaving your main claim less solidly supported -- in other words, taking away one of the bottom cards from a house of cards, and seeing whether it still stands up (maybe -- if you built the rest of it very solidly. But if it was shaky to begin with...well...you can imagine the tragedy).

Of course, we must follow all this with a few caveats. Firstly, you may argue, why can you not simply give the analysis *before* the quotation, thus both giving your own thoughts on the subject *and* ending the paragraph with a quote? Well, you could, theoretically. But it's harder to do in a logical manner (cart before the horse, in some sense). You can attempt it if you want, but I wouldn't recommend that technique for beginners. And secondly, what if the other person's words are better than your own? What if they are beautiful, elegant, incisive and apt? Surely that would be a lovely conclusion to a paragraph or paper? Well, yes, if it were their paper. But since it's yours, do you really want to leave the reader impressed with the brilliance of the person you've quoted? Or do you want to leave them impressed with *your* brilliance? Hmmm...?

Okay. See what happens when you ask me a simple question? You'll know better next time, I hope.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *