Essay Writing: Traffic Signals for the Reader
Keep your readers engaged in your essay writing
You're writing a term paper, and you want to get a good grade, or at least to make your reader understand what you are trying to say. When essay writing, try to think about your paper from your reader's point of view. Imagine your reader as a tourist, setting out on a journey, traveling down your written page.
Give the reader direction in your term paper
From the outset, he or she will want a roadmap. What lies ahead? In the first paragraph of your essay, you'll need to give Dear Reader a summary look at where she is going. That's the only way she's going to feel safe and secure about making her way through the verbal landscape of your term paper. Just a few sentences or a thesis statement will do; consider the following example:
"The aardvark and its sleeping habits, its diet, and its play will be discussed, with examples from species found on the African continent."
Keep your reader on track with traffic signals
Once your essay's road map is set, the reader is going to expect traffic signals along the way. Capital letters mean a green light; periods or full stops mean a red light. Without them, Dear Reader will speed along, crashing into your term paper's carefully constructed sentences. If you string together a few sentences without signals to indicate stop and go, expect to encounter a traffic jam or two along the way in your essay writing.
Gently steer your reader through transitions in your term paper
Another signal you need to consider in your essay writing is to give your reader adequate notice before the road branches off to somewhere else. In other words, when you're starting a new paragraph in your essay, give your reader some warning. Dear Reader doesn't like abrupt surprises. We liken this to one of those road signs with an arrow pointing backward and another one pointing ahead. A sentence like, "Not only does the aardvark sleep upside down (that's the sign pointing backwards to the discussion you've just had about its sleeping habits), but it prefers to eat its meals in this position too (that's the road sign pointing to the discussion ahead)." If you put one of these clever two-way road signs at the beginning of a new paragraph in your term paper, your reader will purr right through the transition, secure in where she's been and where she is about to go.
State the obvious
It always helps to point out the obvious to the reader/traveler, just like those road signs that say "twenty kilometers" to your destination, and then a few minutes later, "ten kilometers" to your destination. Wherever you can in your essay, enumerate things and organize neat categories—your reader will appreciate it. If we continue with our aardvark example, we would include sentences like: "There are three things aardvarks like to eat: bugs, roots, and leaves. Bugs are found in the.... Roots are plentiful..." and so on. This information will help the reader keep all of the mileage signs clearly in view.
End your essay with a quick synopsis
Finally, if Dear Reader makes it through your prose, she'll want to stop at the end of the trip and savor where she's been. That's the time to give a synopsis, a look back over the road, and maybe a suggestion for a new travel direction. We would thus conclude our essay on aardvarks by saying: "It is clear that the aardvark has peculiar sleeping habits, subsists on a diet of bugs, roots, and leaves, and likes to play hide and seek with others of its species. What is not known, and may merit further research, is why the aardvark spells its name with two As."
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