Historical Writing Project

Good and Bad Writing -- Exercises in Evaluating Writing Samples

Paragraphs – Good Details and Useful Quotations

 

Here is the question for the following examples of poor, better, and best paragraphs: “Why was the Cherokee removal such a blemish on the American ideals of freedom and justice – in particular, why did some Americans say that the removal was wrong?”

Here are three ways of using a speech by Sen. Theodore Frelinghuysen to answer the question.

Poor:

1. Some senator said that the Cherokee removal was wrong.  This guy thought it was really a bad idea and it was really wrong and said so in the senate – that it was wrong, that is.  I agree with him too.  It was wrong and I’m really glad that the senator that spoke in the senate said it was wrong, because it was.

            Critique: no details, no original thought, no quotations, no good

Better:

2. Not all Americans approved of the Cherokee Removal. In a speech in the Senate, Theodore Frelinghuysen said that removal was cruel to the Indians.  They should have rights too, just like other Americans and it was unfair to treat them as inferiors. It was against American values American principles.  He is my hero.

            Critique: getting better; opening shows original thought; there are a couple of good details; but the final sentence is lame and the details should be fleshed out.

Best:

3. Not all Americans approved of the Cherokee Removal. In a speech in the Senate, Theodore Frelinghuysen said that removal was completely unjust to the Indians.  The people who wanted to force the Cherokees out of their homes were bad Americans.  They were greedy “like the horse leech.”  The senator was proud of what America had been: “Freedom’s hope, and her consolation.”  But now instead, the nation had become “the oppressors of the feeble.”  Frelinghuysen was standing up for what is best in the United States, but unfortunately the removal bill passed in the senate, setting the scene for the terrible “Trail of Tears.”

            Critique: better still; note the addition of quotations (“fleshing out the details”) and the original conclusion.