Brevity and Clarity of Claims

Thank you for your detailed question, MyStudent.

Your first two paragraphs are a good start, but I wonder if you could say just as much in a couple of sentences. Please consider that this paragraph of yours:

For my research essay I will be examining how one state has a higher murder rate compared to the neighboring state who has considerably less strict gun laws. Throughout the past few years some states have become more stern in terms of gun laws as a result to lower the murder rate. Other states have remained to keep their laws the same because thats what they deem traditional. Statistics provided by, has revealed that the murder rate of Chicago, Illinois compared to St. Louis, Missouri is much higher due to the fact that Chicago, Illinois was at the top of the list and St. Louis, Missouri was two spots away from the bottom of the list. Based off this evidence it leaves people to wonder if states enforce strict gun laws why is their murder rate is so much higher than states who have gun laws that are not as strict?

can be rendered much more simply and clearly as:

According to statistics provided by, Chicago, Illinois, has a much higher murder rate than Saint Louis, Missouri, despite tougher gun laws in Illinois.

And your second paragraph:

During the process of my research I was able to discover that in Chicago,Illinois that most gun related crimes have been committed with guns outside that city or state. This means people are bringing guns from other states into Illinois to commit crimes. Another report showed that the gun laws of Missouri could be argued to be one of the weakest gun laws. This was discovered in the article when the author stated how the regulations in Missouri are similar to other mid west and deep south states, claiming them to be lenient. However even though these laws are lenient they still have lower murder rates in comparison to states with strict gun laws. A noticeably difference between the two states would be within Missouri, their gun laws have remained the same due to their traditional views. Missouri’s traditional views of allowing people to easily obtained guns would eliminate one of Illinois problems. The ongoing problem in Illinois is most gun related crimes are committed with guns outside of that state. If Illinois where to lessen their gun laws people would not need to bring guns outside the state.

is easier to follow when trimmed to this:

My research indicates that guns from states like neighboring Illinois are used in most Chicago gun crimes. If Missouri’s gun laws, which have always been lenient compared to Illinois’ laws, were stricter, it might be easier to control the murder rate in Chicago.

Once you eliminate all the needless language, you can easily see the bones of your argument, MyStudent, and evaluate its strengths. It becomes obvious that you need to be more specific about 1) the actual laws, 2) whether the out-of-state guns do in fact come from Missouri, 3) whether the murder rates in both cities are actually related to gun laws, etc. Those questions are obscured until your claims are laid out simply and clearly.

Don’t Describe; Purposefully Summarize

The Essential Content of the Article: This article goes in depth about Chicago’s gun laws stating if they are in fact the strictest gun laws or not. Throughout the article it uses quotes from people such as the Chicago police officers and Donald Trump. Later in the article it uses a table and pictures of shootings within Chicago since 2010 to help support their claim.

You manage to DESCRIBE the article without saying what claims it actually makes, MyStudent. Do the authors conclude that Chicago’s laws are the strictest or not? What crucial information does the chart supply? Etc.

The Essential Content of the Article: This article reveals each fact in terms of gun laws in Missouri. This article informs the reader about the different gun laws Missouri has within its state borders and how some of the gun laws in Missouri are similar to other mid west and deep south states.

Again, your DESCRIPTION entirely evades the question it should answer: What is the Essential Content?

DON’T DO THIS: We learn nothing from this example.
The study examines the behaviors in Professor Hodges’ composition class and compares it to the behaviors of every other writing course at the college. It puts all the data into a useful chart that makes it easy to compare both student behaviors and the professor’s own behavior so that readers will be able to see how they acted in several categories including tardiness.

DO THIS: We learn the Essential Content from this example.
The study concludes that while Professor Hodges is always early to class compared to other professors in the Writing Arts department, his students are more often late.

Proofs that Don’t Prove

High school essay writers can grab any statistic that seems to support a thesis and use it as proof despite obvious logic flaws that prevent it from even supporting their conclusions. College writers are held to a higher standard.

Logic must meet the facts to force a logical conclusion.

Example 1

The material at the website you cited as a source does not prove what you say it proves. It quotes “use” statistics, but makes its comparisons to “drug offenses.”

  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.

Do you see the problem in the highlights, MyStudent? I want you to be able to prove your thesis if it’s true, but this doesn’t do it. If African Americans represent 12% of the population USING, but 59% of those incarcerated for USING, you have a case. Otherwise . . . you need a better statistic.

This example is part of the larger problem you’ll have . . . one I hope you will solve. This will illustrate:

Males make up 49% of the US population, yet they account for 98% of inmates convicted of rape.

You would laugh me out of the debate if I tried to present that as evidence of the justice system’s prejudice against men. Imagine the same standard of evidence applied to your argument.

Suppose, to be more honest about it, I cited this statistical comparison:

Males make up 98% of rapists, yet they account for 98% of inmates convicted of rape.

You’d laugh again, but this time because the example supports the opposite of my claim that the justice system discriminates against men. Of course it convicts actual rapists of rape instead of seeking a “fair” distribution of convictions across the genders.

Your challenge: How do you demonstrate that the percentage of African-Americans arrested and convicted of drug offenses is wildly disproportionate to the percentage of African-Americans committing drug offenses?

In-Class/Takehome Exercise

  1. Beginning in class today, and finishing before midnight SUN OCT 22, use the 3 Revision techniques above to improve your Proposal+5 before it receives its One-Time grade.
  2. In the Reply field below, respond with a thoughtful comment about the value of these techniques, which one you find most useful, and how it will help you not only improve your Proposal, but also write a better essay. (Or argue that the techniques aren’t particularly useful.)

13 Responses to Revision—Proposals

  1. theadmiral1 says:

    Purposeful summaries and not just describing your source


  2. rainbow987 says:

    I think that the technique to “not describe” will help me to make my purposeful summary more brief and clear. I often tend to use too many words to get my point across when it can be done in fewer words. Therefore, this technique will help me to keep my claims straight and precise.


  3. 11collegegirl says:

    The technique that will help me the most in improving my essay is don’t describe, purposefully summarize. In most of my essay’s, I catch myself writing very descriptively and basically wasting words instead of summarizing what I actually mean in the paragraph. This may be difficult for me to accomplish because it will consist of me writing more purposeful summaries to hit the word count.


  4. chandlerbing27 says:

    The most important technique is getting rid of the needless language in paragraphs to make the argument visible.


  5. flyerfan1974 says:

    These techniques will make my writing ten times better. The one I think is most useful is brevity and clarity of claims. It will trim all of the excess words and make the paragraph only information. Vital information will only be present


  6. alaska38 says:

    I think the one technique that will be more useful to me is to not describe and just summarize. It will help me be more clear and brief.


  7. jadden14 says:

    Purposeful summarization is a great way to clearly state claims and simplify my writing to be much more clear. I think that purposefully summarizing my proposal will greatly help my proposal. It will overall give more essence to my writing and help me to write a better essay.


  8. unknowntrendsetter says:

    When using brevity and clarity in our writing, we take a large portion of our writing, cut it down and simplify a claim that we make into one or two sentences. Dsecribing will stretch your writing but it won’t make it clear and concise. These claims take out unnecessary examples, and only leaves the main idea and what is useful to us. Statistics are helpful, but it doesn’t prove anything on its own, most of the time. Using too many statistics is an easy way to confuse the reader as well as throw off your topic by proving almost exactly the opposite. In simplest terms, “Logic must meet the facts to force a logical conclusion.”


  9. neweditionlover says:

    the value of these techniques will make it easier to summarize my words and thoughts. Summarizing allows you to shortly rephrase or paraphrase something instead of copying or quoting someone but by giving a brief description.


  10. pdqlover20 says:

    The technique don’t describe, purposefully summarizes will help me with my writing by only including information that is important to my writing topic.


  11. theintern50 says:

    This technique could help me keep my thoughts and writings precise without over writing and the purposefully summaries will help me stay on my topic and not go off.


  12. lifeissublime13 says:

    After reading over all the exercises that could improve my essay, the one I found the most helpful would be trimming down what I say. Describing things is my favorite thing to do; it takes up page space and gets the reader to understand what you’re trying to say. The problem with that is that the point never seems to get across. This technique could really help improve my writing and get the reader the information quickly and efficiently.


    • davidbdale says:

      Why does the point “never get across,” Sublime? Probably not because you use too many words. The trouble with wordiness is reader exhaustion. Words in themselves are not tiring, but too many chasing too few ideas wears people out. Lengthy descriptions that add nuance, compare perspectives, or explore complexities don’t merely “take up page space,” they put the space to good use. Of course, be brief when you can; but first, be clear. Claims made well and succinctly are the most effective.


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