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A College Professor Grades Mitch Albom’s Latest

Posted By Carson Cistulli On November 16, 2012 @ 12:56 pm In Big Idea | 40 Comments

Mitch, some notes on your recent paper for WR 122:

• Your enthusiasm for your subject is apparent throughout. Successful writing requires, first and foremost, the engagement of the author. If he or she isn’t engaged, then the reader definitely won’t be.

• Be careful about rhetorical fallacies. For example, you imply early in your piece that supporters of Mike Trout’s MVP candidacy — and particularly those supporters who offer quantitative analysis as evidence — never watch games. The danger with absolutes (never, all, always, etc.) is that even a single exception to your characterization can dismantle the rest of your argument.

• Your essay includes a number of ad hominem attacks. Abusing a person or group is, at best, irrelevant; at worst, it undermines the nature of your argument by suggesting that you, as an author, are forced to resort to name-calling owing to a lack of actual, substantive material.

• Not entirely separate from the above, but also worthy of note here, is the question of tone. An effective argument relies upon the author establishing a trustworthy tone or voice, the voice of one who would give credit to the “opposition” (itself even perhaps an extreme characterization) when it’s due. The tone of your piece (see: “I mean, did you do the math? I didn’t. I like to actually see the sun once in a while.”) skews shrill with some frequency, which hurts your credibility.

• Regarding your conclusion: your instinct to “mirror” or “echo” your introduction is a good one. It certainly signals to the reader that the piece is nearing its end, and also gives the impression of a meaningful structure. However, it’s also important to avoid the trite. Merely returning to the paper’s opening line (“The eyes have it”) is facile and perhaps even insulting to the reader.

Grade: C+

Note: if you’re interested, I’d be more than willing to discuss your paper at greater length during my office hours. How are Tuesdays for you?


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