Essay writing is one of the main activities for people who go to college. Writing is usually a good way to answer most of the issues presented in a course. In addition, it is a good way to test a student’s understanding of these issues. Writing usually offers room for creativity as well. However, there are often a few challenges for both the tester and the writer. One of them is the argument on which method plays a role in the making of a good paper, and which does not. Some authors consider structured writing to be detrimental to creativity. For others, however, a good structured essay helps one to organize their thoughts. There are those who believe that many writers often do not have it together at the start of the essay. This means that the path they choose to follow may change a few times during the writing process. These changes, for them, are acceptable, as long as they are coherent. In college, most educators insist on structured writing. However, this paper will examine the reasons why this approach may be problematic to both the student and the one marking the work of the student.
One of the main advantages that is given on structured writing is that the thoughts are automatic and that they flow in the best way possible. The example given is the five structure method. In this method, it is assumed that with such a fixed view of the structure, the thoughts will flow to the person writing the essay automatically. However, this is often a misconception about writing (Birkinsten and Graff 2). Having the five paragraph method with no chance to adjust it often means that many of the author’s thoughts are left out. This may include thoughts that would have been useful in the essay, and that would have given the essay more flow. The structure is also often extremely rigid. The advantage, however, is usually seen on the side of the person who is reading the work. Often, these people find that when students are forced to conform to a formula, reading becomes easier and it is easy to spot a topic sentence and develop this sentence. In the case of college professors, such papers are even easier to grade. Critically looking at this reveals that this is a method that mainly has the reader in mind and not the writer (Rose 4). As a result, the range of things from which to write from is limited, and in the same way, creativity is hindered.
As stated in the introduction, structured writing rests on the idea that the material to be written down has to be known before someone embarks on writing. Carter argues that this is one of the main myths about writing (123). In fact, he says that the material to write on can be fully comprehended at any point during the writing process. This presents a solution to writers. It means that they may write the introduction before they know what will be the idea in the body. It also means that they may choose to write the body paragraphs or the conclusion before the introduction. To support this idea, it is also important to dispel the meaning and purpose of revision in the writing process. For many students in American colleges, a revision often means going through the paper in an attempt to fix the grammar, spelling and other errors that may have occurred during the writing process. Carter, with his argument that one may not have got the writing properly the first time, dispels these myths (124). A revision may be the time when the writer reorganizes his thoughts and makes it possible for the piece of writing to be coherent. In addition, there may be more than one revision, with each of the revisions making the initial writing better and better. The revision of a paper may also be the time when a writer decides what paragraphs are to be the introduction, and which ones are to be the body paragraphs. Most of the rigid ways of writing do not provide for this option (Birkinsten and Graff 3). Cater has a very liberal approach to writing, and to the thought of what makes a paper good. He even insists that the idea of five body paragraphs is flawed to an extent (123).
The rules of writing in college papers often present an additional challenge that is often not highlighted. Too much rigidity may cause anxiety on the writer’s parts. This may be displayed in a number of ways by the writers. For example, a writer may write a sentence, then erase it, write another and erase it continuously as they try to find the right way to lay down their thoughts (Rose 4). The reasons for erasing the sentences that they think of first is the fact that they may not fit into the structures that are given on what is considered a good topic sentence or a supporting sentence. These sentences, may, however, make sense in the end. Forcing students to write in a manner so fixed presents this challenge. The bigger downside to this is that most times, the instructor may not be aware of the struggle of the students (Rose 5). Most of the essays in college have a given deadline and are presented for marking within a given time frame. With the rules being so fixed and having nearly no room for creativity or altering anything, students find themselves avoiding the papers until last minute. This trend is dodgy yet avoidable. The suggestions that are given to solve this issue include the formation of plans. However, plans do not always work on the issue of the anxiety a new paper presents. In addition, writing should include flexibility, in a way that any initial plans can change. This is often not the case in many of the college papers.
Writers are usually advised to make sure that their audience is engaged and that they try as much as possible to grab their attention. This is another flaw in the structured writing. It becomes difficult for most writers to grab the audience’s attention and at the same time follow a set of rules (Birkinsten and Graff 3). In addition, this instruction ignores the role of the audience in reading the paper. Most people in the target audience will acknowledge a paper if it is on a subject that they find interesting, no matter how it is written. The main goal for the writer should not be to grab the audience. Instead, it should be to present their information and arguments in the way that the writer understands best (Carter 5). This means rather than focusing on the audience, a good writer ought to focus on themselves. With such an approach, it becomes impossible to present the themes in a way that they brainwash the audience. It also becomes difficult to present the works of others as the writer’s own. The thoughts of the writers become clearer and consequently, the understanding of the audience. This approach may uncover the flaws of the method in which one chooses to focus on the audience and not their own reasons for writing.
While acknowledging the problems with formulas in writing, it is also important to recognize that being entirely against formulas can be problematic as well. For example, it may lead to what is known as formula phobia. This means a situation where a writer, or a reader, sees formulas negatively. The effects are that the writer or reader is unable to see some of the ways in which a particular means of writing has been made easier by the existence of a formula (Birkinsten and Graff 3). For example, in works of poetry, a rhyme may be considered creative. However, most perfect rhymes are a result of engaging oneself in a fixed or an invented formula. Being against formulas entirely may hinder the creativity that comes with the writing of poetry. Another advantage of a formula is that it often makes written works appealing to look at Organization and Genre. Essays with a fixed number of paragraphs and nearly uniform number of sentences in each paragraph often look good (Birkinsten and Graff 3). This is also the case with poems with a fixed number of lines per stanza, and a well-defined rhyme scheme. These two examples show that having a rigid structure is not always a bad thing in writing.
In summary, it is clear from the above that writing can be a challenging process. However, it is an exercise that has to be done by most students at the college level. Figuring out the best way to go about it makes it easier for the readers and the writers. The ideas above have been presented in the ways that they affect the reader and the writer. At the college level, the reader is mainly the professor who is writing. Often, they demand that essays follow a specific formula. The disadvantages of this approach have been highlighted. They include, lack of flow of thoughts, hindered creativity, anxiety during the writing process and a disengaged audience. It is possible for writers to fix these problems while not following a set of rules. However, sometimes this may be difficult. Even with all these issues, it is clear that being extremely against formulas is also problematic. Formulas may make the work easier to understand on some occasions, and make it more appealing to others. My suggestion based on my findings is that some formulas exist, but others should be removed. For example, the five paragraph model is good enough. However, the type of material that should go into each paragraph needs to be revisited.
Birkenstein, Cathy, and Gerald Graff. “In Teaching Composition, ‘Formulaic’ Is Not a 4-Letter Word.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 4 Apr. 2008. General OneFile
Carter, Duncan. “Five myths about writing.” Exploratory Writing and invention. n.d. 122-124.
Rose, Mike. “Rigid rules, inflexible plans, and the stifling of language: A cognitivist analysis of writer’s block.” College Composition and Communication 31.4 (1980): 389-401.
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