Then go back to the draft and re-read it. As you read each sentence, ask yourself the following questions: “Does this really make sense?” This is not clear at all. “” This sounds pretentious. “” What does this mean? “” What is the connection between these two sentences? “” Am I not just repeating this? “And so on.
Make sure each sentence in your draft serves something clear. Get rid of all those who do not. If you can not decide how a given sentence contributes to the central discussion, get rid of it. Even if it sounds good. You should never introduce new ideas into your work unless they are important to the main argument, and you have enough space to really explain them.
If you are not happy with a sentence from the draft, ask yourself why it bothers you. It could be that you do not really understand it, or that you do not really believe in it.
Make sure your sentences say exactly what you want them to say. For example, suppose you write “Abort is the same as killing.” Is that what you mean? So when Oswald killed Kennedy, was it the same as to abort Kennedy? Or do you want to say something else? You may want to say that abortion is a way to kill. In a conversation you can expect people to understand what you mean. But you should not write like that. Even if your evaluator can understand what you mean, it is poorly written. In philosophical prose, you must be sure to say exactly what you mean.
Pay attention also to the structure of your draft. When you review a draft, it is much more important to work on overall structure and clarity than to clarify a phrase or word here or there. Make sure your reader knows what your main thesis is, and what your arguments are for that thesis. Make sure your reader can say what the idea of each paragraph is. It is not enough that you know it. It has to be obvious to your reader, even to a lazy, silly and malicious reader.
Another good way to correct your draft is to read it aloud. This will help you see if it makes sense. You may know what you mean, but that may not be what you’ve written. Reading aloud can help you see holes in reasoning, digressions, and unclear prose.
You should expect to write many drafts of your work. At least 3 or 4. Check out the next page on the web, which illustrates how to review a short philosophy article through several drafts. Notice how the work in each review improves:
3. Minor Details
Starting your work. Do not start with a sentence like “Humanity has always wondered about the problem of …” There is no need for preheating. You should go straight to the problem from the first statement.
Also, do not start with a sentence like “The dictionary of the SAR defines soul as …” Dictionaries (general) are not good philosophical authorities. They simply pick up the way words are used in ordinary discourse. Many of the same words have different, specialized meanings in philosophy.
– Do not use the word ‘thing’. You must choose the words very well. Remember that in philosophy each word has its specific philosophical meaning.
– Use ‘I’ to talk about your ideas; Do not use ‘us’. By doing so, you take responsibility for what you say. It also clarifies the discussion, helping to differentiate your ideas from the ideas of those you discuss or comment on.
– It is permissible to begin certain statements with ‘but’ or ‘and’. Many times they help to follow the discussion and the argument.
Secondary reading. You do not need to read more of the texts given in class. The reason for the readings is to teach you to analyze a philosophical argument and to present your own arguments for or against some conclusion. The arguments we will consider in class are difficult enough to merit your full attention to them alone.
Can you write your essay in the form of dialogue or story? No. Well done, these forms can be very effective in philosophy. But it is extremely difficult to use them well. They tend to make the author inaccurate and use unclear metaphors. You need to handle well the ordinary way of writing in philosophy before you can do a good job with these other forms.
Shape. Make sure your essay has a number of words less than or equal to the one assigned to you. Long trials are usually too ambitious, repetitive or full of digressions. The evaluation of your trial will be affected if you have these defects. So it is important that you ask yourself: What is the most important thing I have to say? What can I leave out?