Supporting your assertions With style and grace.
When you make an assertion, you must support it with evidence. Assertions are pronouncements, not facts. You don’t want your audience to have to take your word for them. Your credibility rises when you can prove what you say is true.
Examples of facts: • The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts. • John Proctor is the protagonist of The Crucible and he faces a number of moral dilemmas. • John Proctor has had an affair with the servant girl Abigail.
Examples of assertions: • John Proctor does his best to shield his wife. • Elizabeth comes to know and fully respect her husband, flaws and all. • Abigail thinks only of protecting her own position.
In order to support an assertion, you need evidence. In English class, this is usually events, phrases, or passages from the text.
But what you want to do is weave your evidence into your own sentences. Don’t just plop it in there!
Here is what plopping looks like: John Proctor cannot bear to live without a decent reputation. “Give me my name!” He would rather die than live disgraced. See how the quoted line just blops into the middle without explanation?
Instead of: John Proctor cannot bear to live without a decent reputation. “Give me my name!” He would rather die than live disgraced. Try this: John Proctor cannot bear to live without a decent reputation. When confronted with his false confession, he cries out, “Give me my name!” clearly showing his agony at his choices. He would rather die than live disgraced.
It just takes a little bit of sandwiching to allow your quoted lines to flow smoothly into your sentences.
Another way to go is to use little snippets embedded into your sentences. Think of this like chocolate chips in a cookie.
It works like this (quotations in blue): Samuel Parris calls John Proctor “arrogant” and part of a “faction,” but Reverend Hale knows him to be “an innocent man.” Note: I’m actually making up these “quotations” because I can’t find a copy of The Crucible, but you get the idea.
And don’t forget that you can always use events and summaries as evidence, too. John Proctor demonstrates the strength of his character when he reveals the truth about himself and Abigail. While formerly his pride and reputation ranked high in his priorities, they never mattered as much as his wife’s safety.
So remember two things: 1. Sandwich quotations between explanations of your own.
But I’m sure you’re wondering: But what about the punctuation?!
To figure out the punctation, look at the words that introduce the quotation. John Proctor says . . . Or John Proctor reaches the point of confession.
If what introduces the quotation is a part of sentence, use a comma. John Proctor says, “I have known her.” Note that John Proctor says is not a complete sentence. It can’t stand alone.
If what introduces the quotation is a complete sentence, use a colon. John Proctor reaches the point of confession: “I have known her.”
Colons are generally underused. They are very handy. In fact, they function rather like a pointing hand on a poster:
Colons draw attention to the second part of the sentence, to illustrate the first part. And they aren’t picky about sentences or fragments.
Here is a sentence I like: Cheese: milk’s leap to immortality. Cheese milk’s leap to immortality.
So to review: • Support your assertions. • Sandwich your evidence or dot it like chocolate chips into your sentences. • Use more colons, like pointing hands, especially to introduce quotations after complete sentences. • Use commas to introduce quotations after words like “says,” “states,” or “shouts.”
No assertion left unproven! The result: beautiful, smooth paragraphs that prove what you wanted to prove.