How to write an “A” FYP essay

The FYP Writing Coach suggested to FYP Tutors each, individually, to formulate what an “A” Grade Range Essay might look like. Here is my unauthorized response.

  1. The Short Answer: Anything that the Tutor can get past Neil!
  2. The more Formal Short Answer: One that I myself could not have written.

This is not meant to be as daunting as it may sound. What I mean is:

As your essays improve, it takes me longer to grade them, since I am scribbling down things I have never thought of.

The Longer and considerably more complicated answer:

  •  It has to be interesting, and not exude the “feeling” of an assignment that needed to be
    completed, or got out of the way.
  • It leaves the reader “panting” for more!
  • Original, informative, lively, engaged and engaging; without redundant repetition.
  •  It has to be thoroughly edited and proofread.
  •  No glaring grammatical errors.
  •  Both an effective opening sentence, and a satisfying closing sentence.

Accuracy is a duty and not a virtue.

– A formula received from A.E.
Housman, a Latin scholar, and the
famous English poet.

  •  No wholly unsupported assertions; with: appropriate academic citation; and with:
    exemplary use of sources.
  •  As an essay develops the writer becomes more confident of the material.  The writer must then return to the beginning of the essay for editing before essay submission: this is necessary to bring the beginning in line with the rest of the essay, where the issues have clarified for the writer.

I understand in order to write, and I write in order to understand.

– St Augustine

  • Each essay sets its own writing standard… any really subpar sentence immediately sticks out, and lowers the attractive effect of the entire effort. And you have no one to blame but yourself: you have managed to convince the reader of the high quality of writing of which you are clearly capable; the reader now expects to find that same standard throughout.
  • My comments – with respect to the FYP submission – are restricted to a dialogue with the essay’s ideas; the tutor is not required to become the essay’s copy editor.

Sound Authorial Reflections

Don’t forget your Horace:

Well begun, half done!

And keep in mind, Thomas Mann (Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1929):

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

And finally remember your Baudelaire (as highlighted by Laura Penny):

  1. Always be a poet, even in prose.
  2. Inspiration comes from working every day.
  3. In literature as in ethics, there is danger, as well as glory, in being subtle [i.e. too subtle].

With respect to Baudelaire’s 1st Principle above: S.T. Coleridge’s definition of Poetry is: 

The best possible words in the best possible order.

In FYP:  Go, and do thou likewise!

Disclaimer:
The views expressed above are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily express those of the Director and Co-ordinators of the Foundation Year Programme, or those of any the teaching staff of the University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Delivered by my own hand (in Halifax Nova Scotia), as revised on this 9th of March, 2018

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