My professor says I need to work on clarity and transitions.

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There are a lot of ways that you can create a clearer and more direct paper.

Here are a few of our suggestions:

Overall Organization:

Does the progression of your paper make sense?

  • Organization: The Writing Center's secret to a well organized paper.
  • Print up a copy of your paper and cut it into different pieces, according to where one paragraph ends and another begins. Shuffle up all of the pieces. Then read each piece and try to put the paper back in order. Was the task easy for you to do? While reading each piece did you discover a more logical way to arrange your paper? Sometimes putting your ideas in a different order helps create a more lucid argument.

Paragraph Structure:

Perhaps you paper has a logical progression but suffers from some murky paragraphs that occasionally loose focus.

  • Ask a friend to read your paper out loud to you while you start outlining the key points of it. When your friend finishes reading, your main outline points should match the topic sentences at the start of each of your paragraphs, and your sub-points should follow clear transitions within your paragraphs. If you struggled to create a clear outline while hearing your paper read aloud, go back and revise so that your paragraphs have more direct topic sentences and explicit transitions from one point to the next.
  • Use transition words [doc] to help introduce your points.
  • Need greater explanation? See the Writing Center's description of effective paragraphs in a paper.
  • You can also use this Argument Checklist [doc] to ensure that your subclaims are well ordered and well understood through your writing.

Sentence Structure:

Your argument may unfold in a logical and lucid manner, but your finer points could be lost in cumbersome sentences.

Word Choice

Sometimes the clarity of your argument is lost in big "academic" or "important" sounding words.

  • Remember your writing should be direct, not flowery. Pretentious language does nothing to enhance your argument, so cut out any high-handed phrases that you don't use in everyday language and that fail to contribute to the overall message of your paper.

Verb Tense:

Additional Stylistic Tips from the Swarthmore Writing Center.