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Dear Dr. Louis,

Could you remind me of that wonderful three part phrase about concrete detail?

With gratitude,

Marie S.

Dear Marie,

Of course! For student writers, knowing how to evaluate what evidence to use in an essay is a critical skill. So often, students just drop evidence -- concrete detail (CD) -- into their essays without making sure it's relevant, appropriate, and specific. They simply grab something from what they have read and drop it into their essays out of nowhere! We call that the "Kerplunk Effect." :)

To discern which concrete details are relevant, appropriate, and specific, student writers should ask themselves these three questions:

  1. Will this concrete detail help me to answer the writing prompt's task? Eliminate CDs that do not.
  2. Now that I know my CDs all help to answer my prompt, which ones am I passionate about? In other words, I know I'm going to have to write commentary; so I want to select the CDs about which I can have a good discussion. I might need to do a little research to get up to speed about this CD; but I like it, agree with it, and can use it to further my thesis.
  3. If, however, I think to myself, "I can write about all the CDs I've listed," then, in order to choose the best CDS, I will select the CDs that might just separate myself from my classmates. Classroom teachers and test scorers receive and assess hundreds of essays. Teachers know that when they assign one prompt to a class, they'll likely find the majority of writers choosing similar concrete details and examples. But if a student writer can approach the task from a different perspective by selecting a CD that others might not select, then doing so separates that student from the masses. If  I can separate myself from the masses with a credible different approach to an answer, the reader/grader, psychologically, will think, "Hmm, that's different!" And as long as I convincingly answer the prompt and prove my point, the score will show it!

Keep Reading and Writing!

Happy Holidays!

Dr. Louis

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