Essay Summary

Posted: October 17th, 2013





Essay Summary

This is the summary of Paul McHenry Roberts essay titled How to say nothing in 500 words. He starts by giving an example of an assignment that the students are given by their English teacher on a Friday evening. The students are told to write a five hundred word essay on college football and hand it in on the following Monday. He illustrates how students struggle in writing their essays, hand them in and score Ds with the teacher commenting on their essays as being weak in content.  This is because the teacher rates the essay as reasonably typical since most of the students have written the same content (Roberts, 1950). This essay explains the different ways that students write their essay, which renders the content weak, and how they can improve on these ways.

The students write the obvious content in the essay by arguing out the first ideas that come into their minds. These arguments come to every student, and this makes them all write the same content. To avoid being obvious the student should eliminate the arguments that come immediately to their minds, and instead focus on keen and perspective arguments. Even if the arguments are trivial or foolish, they are different from the other students’ ideas. Most students take the easy side to argue out their points, which makes them end up with the same argument. To avoid this, a student should take the side that most of the students will avoid which is always interesting to write. Most students write their abstract in general, which makes the essay dull to read. Students should elaborate their abstract in details to form concrete arguments through illustrations and facts. This creates a picture of the unfolding arguments before the readers mind.

The other way that students render their essays poor is by padding up the words. This means that they use ten words to describe one word to achieve the desired word count. This makes the content weak. To make the content wholesome and still achieve the required word count, the student should look for more content and use direct sentences. Students also use padding to avoid being immodest on topics that are touchy or controversial. The student should state what they mean in a direct manner to avoid beating around the bush that weakens the content. The student should also avoid psychology polysyllables and modern jargons that rob the paper of its crispness. Students use expressions that are commonly used which limits their content and make the content weak. The students should try to avoid them at all cost and only use them where necessary.

Students often use colorful words to convey the meaning in order to persuade the reader, which are intended to induce an emotion. This may end up turning off the reader who prefers direct short sentences. Therefore, the student should avoid using these colorful words in order to retain the attention of the reader. The other way is the use of colored words, which are words that associate with something else. For example, the word mother is associated with safety, home or food. Some of the colored words are hard to associate with any straightforward associations hence should be avoided. In addition, some colored words that convey contempt should be avoided. Lastly, students should avoid colorless words that render the content general and nouns that have general meaning. According to Paul, students make their essays weak on content by making the mentioned mistakes which if they rectified they would turn those essays into something good.


Work cited

Roberts Paul McHenry. How to say nothing in 500 words. 1950. Web. 14 February 2012.

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