© Damen, 2002

2. Definitive Statements.

In general, it's best to make statements as positive and definitive as possible. Rather than saying, for instance, "The Romans might seem to be possibly the greatest success story in Western Civilization," make a bolder assertion instead, something like "The Romans are the greatest success story . . ." Wishy-washy statements, undercut by waffling like "might seem to be possibly," are usually the product of incomplete thinking. It suggests the writer hasn't yet made up his mind about the Romans' achievements and isn't ready to commit them to paper.

Indeed, the force with which you drive home your ideas is a good measure of how well you've done your homework. If you've tackled a problem head on and really wrestled with it, you will have strong opinions about the subject. In that case, the words you use to express those opinions will naturally be forthright and clear.

Let me put it clearly. Keep away from "may," "might," "could," "would," and "seem." Their adverbial counterparts, "possibly" and "probably," also weaken an argument. Instead, do everything you can to avoid writing a paper laced with uncertainties. Study the facts and then trust yourself to declare your opinion in clear and definitive terms.

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The General Tone of Your Writing


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