Guest Post: Evan Trout

Evan is a sophomore at Miami University, and he’s studying English in Ghana this semester. He is known for his superb taste in music, his Ohio pride, and his accomplishments as co-founder of Sports Clubs. For some reason, Ghanaians pronounce his name as either “Evans” or “Heaven.” He was previously mentioned on this blog for his daring undercover work during the Ivory Coast vs. Benin football match, and his blog can be found at http://ghanaghanaghana.blogspot.com/

Evan wants to be a teacher, which explains the weird format of this post. He gave me a prompt, told me to write a response to it, and said that his evaluation of my response would be his guest post. My writing is in gray and Evan’s is in green. He highlighted some of my essay, which is shown in blue.

Also please note that this does relate to studying abroad in Ghana because it illustrates how living here has induced strong friendships and it shows just how much free time we have.

Enjoy! -Alanna

Evan in northern Ghana with one of his travel wives. Photo credit: Katie Hughes.

“Everybody plays the fool”. Write a 300-word response and I will evaluate it on your blog as my guest post. –Evan

The phrase “everybody plays the fool” suggests deep meaning, since it evokes thoughts about human fallibility, the idea that only God is perfect, and the reality that you can’t be liked by everyone. But when I heard Evan say it, mostly what I thought of is that oldies song. Do you know it?  Thesis?

According to the song, “everybody plays the fool sometimes. There’s no exception to the rule” in reference to falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. Most people have at least had unrequited crushes, and a few times in high school I was infatuated with various guys only to later severely question my own judgment. I don’t think I was ever in love with them, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t played the fool in so many other contexts. When I worked at IHOP, I was incompetent at responding to customers who were dissatisfied with their orders. I was definitely a fool in my reaction to them. When I went to college, I foolishly denied my own dissatisfaction with the school for years. In Switzerland, I was foolishly afraid to speak Swiss German. In Ghana, I’m a fool when I talk more loudly than social rules allow and get intimidated by aggressive men. Besides these finite moments in my life, I’m also a fool in more lasting ways, such as my foolish indecisiveness and foolish lack of specific ambition and foolish avoidance of things that make me feel guilty.

But everyone plays the fool! Right? It’s reassuring to think that I’m just one of billions of humans constantly making mistakes and learning. But in that case, I take too much comfort in the thought that I’m only human. I’m human, yes, and a fool, yes, but that doesn’t mean that I can be satisfied with it. Using the argument that foolishness is universal does nothing for self-improvement. So, I think the thing to do is accept the social support of my foolishness, but I don’t want to be so much a fool that I’m happy staying that way.

This really showcases my ability to take any prompt and talk about myself. Hope you enjoyed!

Do you know it? – I know that while this is a personal essay and therefore first person is appropriate, academic writing does not typically lend itself to the second person; try to avoid this whenever possible

Thesis – Where is your thesis statement? The structure of this essay is very loose, almost stream-of-consciousness. Always remember, your structure begins and ends with your thesis (literally and figuratively)

Rule” – Though not the biggest offense ever, it would be nice to see a comma at the end of the quote (though still inside the quote, obviously)

Guys – the word has a colloquial connotation; try, instead, “classmates,” and, if you are concerned with gender-specificity, you can add “male”

I don’t think… – The word “think” weakens your statement. Always speak in the affirmative when possible. For example, you could say, “Though I was never…” Then, in the second clause of the sentence, you write “that doesn’t mean I haven’t…” The use of double negatives again has weakened your sentence. Remember, part of the word affirmative is firm. Do not be afraid to make bold statements. “Yet still I have played the fool…” Lastly, this sentence, as well as the entire essay, is rife with contractions. I tried to highlight them but there were so many, it is likely I have missed some. When it comes to professional and academic writing, leave contractions out; they are meant to be conversational (which can apply to writing at times, but definitely not here)

IHOP – This is more of a warning than a correction, but always be sure to write out acronyms. IHOP is recognizable enough that it is not an issue worthy of loss of points, but I just wanted to put it to your attention

“When I…”; “In…” – The next few sentences show two pairs of parallel constructions. Though a good tool at times, I believe in this case it would be beneficial to experiment with different structures to avoid a feeling of monotony in the reader

Foolish – The use of the word “foolish” three times in the one sentence is a bit much; again, it is a good display of parallel structure, but the textual context allows the reader to know that “foolish” modifies each item in your list. This is a personal choice, but to me it sounds unnecessary and overly repetitive

“Things” – This is a weak word; you must learn to be more concrete! What is it that is making you feel guilty? Mentioning it, even briefly, will allow your sentence and idea to be more concrete as well as establish a greater connection and understanding between the reader and yourself

“Fool! Right?” – So far the theme of this critique has been your unwillingness to take a firm stand alongside your ideas. This is but another example.

“I can be satisfied…” – “Can” is the wrong word to use here. You certainly can be satisfied to accept your foolishness if you so choose. In light of this, a better word would be “must” or “should.”

“I think” – Just strike this entirely. I think by now you should know why.

“The thing” – Same as last time; do not cop out with the use of the word “thing.” “Course of action” would be an appropriate alternative.

“This really showcases…” – This is unnecessary and contributes nothing to the paper. Not only that, but in using at as a conclusion, you have taken away an opportunity for the previous sentence to a conclusion, which, with a little re-wording, could be a strong close. The only thing I would suggest would be to not limit the revelation you have come to to yourself, but issue it as a challenge to your reader, an urge and a call to action to your reader to consider your thoughts and whether they are right for him or her.

               Alannah, I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed in the work you put into this assignment. I am disappointed most of all because of your effort and refusal to take this seriously. Many students think they can put a paper together last minute, but few can pull it off. Nine times out of 10, it is painfully obvious to the reader, as was the case here. Note, however, my use of the word disappointed. I would not have used it had I not expected greater achievement from you. You have a powerful mind and the ability to put together some intriguing ideas, but you have shunned that ability. Why, I cannot say. What I can say is that if you do not start taking your schooling seriously, it will be extremely difficult for you to become a healthcare professional. I would be sad to see you fail to accomplish this goal, as many others would, and especially you.

                In terms of actual overall critiques, there are a few I would like you to work on for next time. I think you already know by now that my number one complaint is your refusal to consistently make concrete statements. The benefit your work would see with such a slight change would be instantly noticeable. I also think there are some different structures besides parallel construction that you could use to spice up your work and keep the reader interested. While your audience may not realize it, sentence structures can have a huge impact on the reading of a text and the only one who needs to be aware of this is you. This is one tool that is often overlooked but which can propel your work to greatness. Lastly, I would like to see a much more refined structure. Structure is always the one aspect of a text that suffers the most when a writer is rushing. You have blatantly failed to include a thesis statement and your second paragraph is meandering through your thoughts without aim.

                On the positive side, there are two specific points in your paper I would like to draw attention to. First, your introductory sentence: you start this paper off on an excellent note. It sets the stage for an intellectual and searching discussion to follow. This would be a great start to an introductory paragraph, and should you feel compelled to make revisions, it still can be. Also, the ideas you have presented are good and show some thought. As I know my students, I know that it does not take much for you to come up with quality ideas, but the fact remains that they are above average and worthy of note. Lastly, I want to make quick mention once more that you have the makings of a potentially great conclusion. With more attention to structure and if you decide to put a decent effort into your work, you can be a great writer. Do not hold yourself back.

-Mr. Trout

If only I always got feedback like that. Thanks Evans!

Previous guest post from Adam Schneider

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One response to “Guest Post: Evan Trout

  1. Well! Evan sounds a little like my high school English teacher only more sensitive and kinder.

    Alanna, your grandmother loves you just as you are and write.

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