Five-Hundred Words · 8 April 1982
I have done many essays since I was introduced to the five-paragraph essay format almost thirty years ago. More than a few of them have just been for fun. Many people I know think that I am crazy when I say that I like to write. Even more of them would think so if I said that I have actually written many essays that were not assigned by my teachers or professors. I guess I have my high school English teacher, Ms. Reed, to blame for that. She was the one who assigned the following essay. And she is the one to blame for my enduring love of writing. After all, it was she who gave me so much encouragement.
Five-Hundred Words was written in April 1982 during my senior year in high school. I made one or two minor changes before including it here on my website.
Five-hundred words. These three words put fear into the hearts of many English students. The reason for this fear is not just five-hundred words. As any teacher can affirm, students can normally spill forth five-hundred words verbally, in about three minutes. The three words have a deeper meaning, theme paper. A theme paper is a paper that the student writes about any subject. Any student should be able to write five-hundred words about a subject which he can talk about for hours. This assumption is not true in many cases. For many students, writing a five-hundred-word theme paper is not easy. Besides the fact that the theme must have five-hundred words, the paper is difficult because the mechanics, thought, and organization must be adequate.
Although the mechanics of a paper should be automatic for every student, they are often where the mistakes of an otherwise thorough paper cause a worse grade. Mechanics include spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and a good choice of words. Of these, the first three, spelling, punctuation, and grammar, are the easiest to do correctly yet are where the majority of mechanical errors occur. This is either because of careless, thoughtless errors or the students’ previous teachers did not teach these things. The sentence structure, or correct placement of each part of a sentence, and the proper choice of words are also parts of mechanics. Sentence structure should be automatic and not pose any problem, yet at times it does. Proper choice of words is not totally automatic and requires thought. Words such as “good” and “fine” must be used sparingly which is difficult for many students who use these words frequently. The total mechanics of a paper are not extremely difficult but pose problems for many students.
The thought part of a paper is not as automatic as mechanics, therefore require time and planning. The first part of the thought process of a paper is finding a meaningful subject, meaningful to both the student and teacher. Although many subjects are stored in students’ minds, few make it past the first stage. The subject must then be limited to a size suitable for a five-hundred-word theme. Since many books could be written for many subjects, this phase of the thought process is difficult. After the first two phases are completed, a pointer or direction for the paper must be found. The paper must then have adequate, specific support or the paper will not be convincing. The thought process of a paper takes the most time but it is not the most difficult part of the five-hundred-word theme.
Organization is by far the most difficult part of the paper. This is so because it must be carried throughout the whole paper or else it will be evident regardless of the quality of the rest of the paper. The paper must have a clear beginning, a clear middle, and a clear ending. The beginning should be an introduction which contains a “blueprint” of how the paper is made and an adequate thesis statement. The thesis statement is the foundation of the paper so it must be faultless. The middle is the difficult part. It must contain paragraphs supporting the topic sentences which point back to the thesis statement. The ending is not as difficult because it only sums up the paper by restating the thesis statement. The beginning, middle, and ending should be clear to help the reader. Coherence must also be kept in order to have an excellent paper. Each sentence must relate to every other sentence and to the thesis statement. If coherence is not kept, the paper will not be acceptable.
Although each part of a five-hundred-word theme is difficult, the hardest part is still to use five-hundred words.
© 1982 Michael T. Miyoshi
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