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Practice FSWE Essay 2

Practice FSWE Essay 2

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Please evaluate my practice FSWE essay.

The actual essay is evaluated from 1 to 12 with 12 being the highest score. I believe that last year the passing score was a 6.

I handwrote this essay in 50 minutes in accordance with the rules of the FSWE. I will present it without spellchecking or editing so to represent the actual essay as it was written.

When evaluating please be aware of the following:
  • When composing the essay, the point of view should be clearly stated and supported.
  • Writing should be evaluated on quality of writing, not the opinions expressed.
  • A sucessful essay should have an obvious structure and clear thesis supported by relevant substantiating details.
  • It should show my ability to analyze the topic in a way that is appropriate for the intended audience (a foreign service officer).
  • The writing should be coherent with only occasional lapses that do not impede flow or readers' comprehension.
  • Language should be generally concise with clear and appropriate word choices.
  • The language should be free of errors in grammar and syntax, with only minor errors in spelling and punctuation.
  • There is no limit on length.

The topic:
In the U.S., we treasure our rights and freedoms, in particular, our freedom to say what is on our minds. We think of this right as fundamental to a democratic society. Therefore, some argue, there should be no limits placed on freedom of speech. Others maintain that limits should be placed on freedom of speech only when our national security is threatened, as it might be when the U.S. is at war. Others argue that hate speech or pornography, at best offensive and at worst dangerous to others, should be limited by federal legislation or by local community ordinances. In your opinion, what limits, if any, should be imposed on our freedom of speech? Carefully explain the rationale for your position.

My essay:

The limitations of Free Speech

     The words "Free Speech" are what the U.S.A. was founded on. The concept of limiting this concept is, perhaps, against our very nature. Yet there are times when limitations must be set. Times of grave danger or war. There are always concerns, though, that we might overstep our boundries, so free speech must remain mostly free. Limiting speech on moral or religious grounds cannot help our society, and in fact, might be its downfall.
     There are times, when people's lives are at stake, where free speech should be in check. The classic example is when a person shouts "fire" in a crowded theater. This is a malious act that can, under no circumstances, be covered under the protection of free speech, since it causes, or can cause, physical harm to others. Another example where free speech can hold no dominion is the passing of terrorist knowledge to dangerous people. Free speech cannot, and will not, be held as a plausible defence for anyone sharing bomb-making information with terrorist groups. But these are extreme cases.
     When looking at your everyday life, the theme changes quite a bit. What of pornography? Holocost denials? Religious proliferation? Some would go so far to say these things, too, pose imminate threats. They do not, though. The private showing of sex acts and the speeches of killers have very little in common. The key to limiting free speech is not to go too far. We can trace back almost any one thing to any other to give us just cause to stop something, but in regards to free speech the limitations should be clear. If speech imposes a direct threat to life or if spoken or read would directly cause a threat to life, that speech should not be covered under the umbrella of free speech. Everything else is fair game. Especially thise things most everyone reads.
     Newspapers have often been the champions of free speech and for good reason. Those who report what those in power don't want to hear (which in itself is a fine definition of 'news') are often the subject of unfriendly politics. In a free society it is of the utmost imporance that political factions do not control the public news sources. Newspapers must, then, have the forsight to limit their own speech so as not to be limited by the government. To do so is risky, but necessary to insure that the people can still get uncensored news. Doing this is, or should be, as simple as making sure there is no speech in the news that will incite a direct threat to life.
     What is a direct threat to life, though? That is a question that befuddles many and has no clear answer. For this reason government regulation alone cannot limit free speech. It must be handled on a case-by-case basis with presidents set, reset, changed, deleted, and altered along the way. As our society changes so does our speech and our laws and regulations must change with them to insure that the umbrella of free speech is never clased and put away for good.
     Free speech is fundemental to our lives and the lives of our children after us. We must weild this great gift wisely, lest we have it ripped away from us at the hands of those who would want to save us. As Mark Twain once said, God gave us the abilities to say whatever we want and do whatever we want and the wisdom to do neither.

P.S.: I misquoted Twain, that is why I didn't put it in quotes. The actual quote is "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."

My outline:

Dangerous speech bad,most ok

  • Bad stuff
    • Fire in the theater
    • Spreading terror
  • newspapers free
    • newspapers by gov't.
    • newspapers regulated by self
  • Offensive Ok
    • porn by 'rents.
    • Freedom of ex.
  • Mark Twain

Please be critical. I want to improve my essay writing skills as much as I can for the test and beyond.

Thank you for your help.

  • Nice job, chief! I think there's a considerable improvement over the last essay I read. You clearly and intelligently state your point of view and it fits really well with the topic.
    Nitpicky spelling mistakes that made me think:
    3rd para, line 2: imminate = imminent(?) When I first read it, I thought you meant eminent (outstanding/famous), but I think maybe you meant imminent (impending). ::shrug::
    5th para, line 2: presidents = precedents(?) When I first read it, I wondered why the president suddenly entered the equation of regulating free speech. :P But then, you can't delete a president (as much as I'd like to delete Bush).
    5th para, line 4: clased = ??? I'm still not really sure what word you want to use, and it makes understanding the sentence slightly difficult. The obvious guess is 'classed,' but I'm not sure by what you mean by it - do you mean that the concept of free speech is not to be classified or categorized and filed away to be forgotton? Maybe this isn't so much a spelling mistake but 'never clased and put away for good' is just a little confusing.
    There were other mispelt words, but they didn't interfere with understanding so I'm not going to mention them. ^_^

    I got stuck on one sentence you wrote in the 3rd paragraph: "We can trace back almost any one thing to any other to give us just cause to stop something, but in regards to free speech the limitations should be clear." After reading it a few times, I think I understand what you're saying - something like 'If we want a reason to impose restrictions on something controversial we can generally find one, however such restrictions or limitations regarding free speech issues should be clear.' Or like 'legal loopholes can be found to end controversial activities, however free speech should be clearly defined so such loopholes are nonexistent.' Like I said, I think I get what you mean, but it wasn't an easy sentence to digest. It uses a couple of general terms that easy get mixed up in my head (e.g. any one thing to any other to stop something - what one thing to what other to what something...?).

    Paraphrasing the Mark Twain quote was good stuff - since you're not using the exact quotation, you don't need to worry about the quotation marks. If you're really worried about making a slight misquote, say something like 'mark twain once said something to the effect of blah blah blah' or 'once said something about how blah blah blah.' I vaguely recall some english professor telling me about how it's actually better to paraphrase quotes because you can slightly re-word them to fit what you're talking about. I think it was a great last sentence.

    Overall though, I think it was a really god job! ^_~ I think that you would benefit by using some more conjunction phrases for some stuff. There were a few fragmented sentences (like in the first paragraph, "Times of grave danger or war.") which would look better anchored up to the previous (or next) sentence.
    While I'm no prefessional, I'd say this guy ranks up there in the 7~10 range, depending on how strict they are about spelling/fragmented sentences. It was a real solid improvement over the last one.

    Good luck on your next one!
    • Thanks for the corrections! I will be writing more essays soon. Your feedback is really helpful!
  • Okay, read it. I'll just preface this with my writing background so you don't think I'm just full of shit (though you're free to anyways ;P) I've been writing for a really long time and have always scored very highly, especially on writing tests. I make a lot of mistakes in my writing too, but I'd say I'm really experienced with the whole "write a political argument in 1 hour" format because that's what every class final was for four years.
    That being said, I'm not an editor, just someone who's done a lot of the stuff you need to do for this exam for pretty much the same target audience and have had a lot of success with it.

    All I can say is I'm reading this as if I had written it myself, and were going thru it as a first draft.

    Only one major grammar mistake I think I have to point out. You wrote, "when looking at your everyday life..." I can say with 99.9% certainty this would make the reader frown slightly. Style nazis say to never use second person (you, your, etc) in formal writing. I'm not sure how anal or hardcore these graders are, but you'd be amazed at how many professors/graders/editors will let a pet peeve color the rest of their grading. I think more professors let spelling errors slip by (because they make those mistakes too) than let tense switching mid-essay slip. But luckily, I think this is one of the easiest things to not do again in the future. :) The common replacement is "one" or "one's" such as, "If you look deep down..." to "If one looks deep down..."

    Your thesis statement and introductory paragraph are the most important (and the conclusion, of course) so I would probably write those last, or people tend to spend too much time on it. But the first paragraph needs to be like, kanpeki. So, first off... don't abbreviate the United States of America in the first sentence, anything that isn't formally abbreviated should always be written out the first time. Next, "The concept of limiting this concept is, perhaps, against our very nature. Yet there are times when limitations must be set," should be written as one sentence, and I would avoid using the word concept twice. Style-nazis say never to start a sentence with And, But, Yet, Or etc in formal writing. "Times of grave danger or war. " is a sentence fragment. I think, maybe, a good way to write this might be: "The United States of America was founded on the concept of "freedom of speech." Limiting this freedom would be against our very nature; however, there are times when limitations must be set such as in times of grave danger or war." Whatever you decide to do, just make sure your thesis sentence is the strongest sentence in the essay.

    Other comments:
    - In general, I think this essay is quite short and lacking concrete evidence. Try (if you can, depends on the questions they ask) tie your essay into history and current events using examples. IE, the whole issue over the offensive Mohammad cartoons in the Islamic world is one I'm sure lots of people would use. These kinds of government-academia types LOVE this stuff. It not only proves your point, but shows that you know your shit. They love random historical references. These types are usually history geeks who would see a well placed reference and go "zomg!!! He speaks my language!! <3!!!"
    - You use the word "though" too frequently. Every time you used it, you could remove it. In some sentences it weakens the argument. Try not to write like you talk, but write like you're being an uppity jerk who forces his opinions down on others with excellent facts.
    - Try not to use slang like, "Everything else is fair game."
    - Paragraphs usually should start with their own mini thesis, have several back up sentences, then end with a mini conclusion that transitions into the next paragraph. You did a good job on transitions on the direct threat to life part.
    • (damn thing cut me off!)

      Now the good stuff!
      You have good ideas that just need to be presented with more clarity and in a better format. Try to support every statement with a fact, if you can. Your concluding sentences "Free speech is fundemental to our lives and the lives of our children after us. We must weild this great gift wisely, lest we have it ripped away from us at the hands of those who would want to save us," is a fantastically written, powerful statement. It's slightly confusing, but it's a very, very strong sentence.

      You make your point, and write in clear succinct sentences. Though as Chris pointed out, I think combining some of them would be a good idea.

      Your essay is intelligent, and your points are good and you don't clutter up your writing with bullshit or filler fluff. That's good. I think to improve your writing, just doing some speed writing of sentences and then having them checked for fragments and stuff might help...or maybe reading that MLA style book (there's a version on the net)

      I hope I helped in what little way I can for your exam. If you need any advice, I could give some, but I'm sure you've gotten all the advice you need from other sources. Good luck on your test!
      • Thanks Himene. Your critical eye is really useful for improving my skills. I don't want sugar coating. Your comments will really help me with my next essay.
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