© Damen, 2002

Librarian: "May I help you?"
Student: "My teacher told me to read a book. She said you'd have lots of copies of it. It's called Oranges and Peaches."
Librarian: "I don't see any book by that title. Do you know who wrote it?"
Student: "Charles Somebody."


Finally, I realize I'm asking a great deal of you. I know it's hard to bear all these factors in mind at once and at the same time tackle the great issues of history. I also realize you're not going to become professional writers—or historians!—in the space of one paper, or even ten. The suggestions and guidelines above are intended only to help you start down the road toward a more competent expression of your ideas. Your grade will not rest primarily on your following these strictures. They serve merely as guidelines to better writing.

Indeed, if all you achieve in this class is the mastery of one or two of the aforementioned items, you'll be just that much better a writer. For instance, if spelling is a problem for you, conquer it word by word. Learn to paragraph in moderation. And don't let yourself get lost amidst the details, lapse into narrative and forget the main point of your argument. Above all, understand that preparation is the key to success in making any argument, frankly, in any endeavor.

Also realize that good writing is a powerful tool by which you can reshape and accommodate your ideas to suit the world better, and vice versa. Let this class be part of a process that will lead you eventually to higher achievement in life and the fuller enjoyment of its opportunities. If you do all this, you'll be a better student, a better worker and a better voter. Indeed, those who know how to construct a good argument can see through bad ones more readily, especially the many, many bad ideas cast about in the world of politics. Our democracy, no less, depends on its voters' ability to cut through folly when they meet it. So, start by understanding your own fallacious thinking, exposing and eliminating your own illogical and unconvincing presumptions, and then turn that savvy on the world at large, making it a better, more reasonable place for us all.



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