So recently I have been marking a lot of essays. I happen to be a tutor at the ANU and this is what I am paid to do. I really must be a masochist, but it’s not all bad. Sometimes the essays are actually quite good. Others tickle me even when they are not so good. But there are some which neither tickle me, nor are they any good. It is for the authors of these essays that I have a few maxims and aphorisms which I would like to pass on. Any aspiring writer looking to improve their writing should stare into their depths and ponder them well. I hope they will leave tortured red marks of ecstasy on your intellect but I’d say the intellect of the typical student is plenty tortured already. And yes, what follows is slightly obscene but I really can’t help myself. By the 50th essay without human contact, the spirit wavers and the mind craves a little bit of exhibitionism. So enjoy, reader, as I lay bare my naked soul.
1. From the CASS school of thought: What does not destroy me makes me stronger. There are 24 hours a day. Essays are now penalised at 5% per working day.
2. Overcoming is a virtue: Hard questions are usually the most appropriate for doing well. Wallow not in flaccid mediocrity.
3. An unexplained example is akin to masturbation. Only one person in the world will ever get pleasure from it.
4. Conclusions: Should always involve a powerful climax. There is nothing worse than simply restating the case and sneaking away
5. Adventure: Only the daring get to view the best scenes. Just make it clear where you are going in the introduction. Even the foolhardy need mental preparation before you break out the whips and handcuffs.
6. Few actually enjoy the company of old dead white men. In orgies and essays alike.
7. Good analysis is like flirting with an attractive stranger. A little bit of teasing. A touch of coy suggestion. But mostly a lot of work.
8. “Direct quotations are but other people’s tools.” Unless you lack those tools yourself, you should use your own words.
9. And behold as the fool wagered his future on a tug-of-war. What sayeth the wise? One should hope that all the paragraphs are pulling in the same direction.
10. On false hope: To promise something and then not deliver is most disappointing. If your argument is not that big, then don’t talk a big game. There is satisfaction in a modest and well-structured argument if you know how to use it.
11. The well-presented essay is like a beautiful woman at a bar. Regardless of what they say, they will get attention.
12. Even God took 6 days for creation. Who are you to try it in 2? Thinkest thou that thou art above God?
13. Obscurantism: To play hard-to-get is to risk losing interest.
14. Causal links: The appetite for reason sometimes needs lubrication. One cannot simply shove the argument in. Don’t forget the foreplay.
15. Are you one who reads? Or one who bullshits? First question of conscience.
16. To reference or not to reference? Second question of conscience.
17. Will they notice if I lie about my word count? Third question of conscience.
18. On the nature of the profound: Any writer capable of the D can get an HD. The D essay is basically a HD essay that is still soft. It all depends on effort and the Will-To-Analysis. The HD is profound, while D is the yet to-be-profound. By implication, any thought carried through to its analytical conclusion is profound.
19. On spanking: To use simple words to convey complex ideas is the mark of intelligence. To use complex word to convey simple ideas is the mark of an ass. And asses are good only for spanking!
20. Must I explain so explicitly? I like my evidence like I like my sex. Pounded deep into every fibre of my being.
May these words serve you well in troubled times. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to go take a cold shower.