Tag Archives: student writers

“I believe the statements that I am making because…”

This excerpt alone is something all writers ask themselves but few actually state. A reader generally assumes the writer believes the statements he or she is making, unless the writer is a satirist or a politician: satirists trust the reader to discover the irony; politicians rely on the reader NOT to discover the duplicity. Most authors, though, try to write honestly, and most readers trust that they are doing so.

In teaching argument, I do remind my student writers to examine the evidence, principles, and precepts on which they are basing their assertions, so maybe this student thought that a sentence stating that he had done so was in order.

But I can usually put my finger on the spot in a paragraph or essay where the student loses faith in either his ideas or his power to express them: the grammar becomes tangled and the sentence becomes repetitious or redundant. And here it comes:

“I believe the statements that I am making because of personal experiences that I have gone through during my life.”

When, other than during his life, could he have had experiences? (We will for now discount the seeming experiences of dreams, or the possible spiritual experiences that might precede birth or succeed death. Even out-of-body experiences occur while one is alive, presumably.)

And what kind of experience might he have had that was not “personal,” at least in the sense that he was having them in person and taking them in directly?

The phrase “gone through” makes those experiences sound arduous, although he didn’t elsewhere characterize them—in fact, I’m not sure now whether he even told the reader what the experiences might have been, although the sentence itself seems like a lead-in to an anecdote used as evidence or example. What I am sure of is that the rest of the essay did not redeem the sentence or recover from it.

For his sake and the reader’s, the whole sentence should have been unwritten, just a conversation between writer and thinker (i.e., self) before moving into the meat of the argument.

I believe this statement that I am making because of personal experiences that I have gone through while reading the writing of students, scholars, essayists, reporters, and others during a pretty long life as a reader. But, dear reader, you knew that already.