Constructive Criticism For My Neighbor’s Please-Move-Your-Car Note

Constructive criticism, by definition, acknowledges both the positives and where there is room for improvement. Instead. Of? Just. Focusing on the negatives. See how grammar and sentence flow really make a difference? Let’s get to it.

The opening line has some obvious strengths. 1) It’s direct and to the point; no beating around the bush with pleasantries or nonsense and gobbledegook that never arrive anywhere near the actual direction of a point, much less a point of view, and just rambles on and on and on, quickly losing the reader. See how that can be annoying? But a lot of people do it. So good! 2) The other positive is that the opening sentence contains none other than the MAGIC WORD. Please! You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, as the saying goes. To summarize, the opening line is both direct and polite, two very strong qualities in a move-your-car note.

There is, however, a glaring weakness, which belies the overall weakness of the note: ambiguity (specifically, in the relationship between author and reader). You can’t have it both ways, folks. The opening, as written, is an interrogative sentence. Which means it should end with a…that’s right! A question mark. By using a period instead, this small but critical error falls short of two different 3rd Grade ELA-Literacy Common Core Writing Standards: (3.4) produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose and (3.3A) establish a situation.

Easy fix, though. Can you please park your car in another location? Now, the purpose and the situation are established, clearly and effectively, with the proper punctuation. This is not a declarative sentence, or even further from the truth, an imperative. The intended audience of the note is on level ground with the author, and therefore has a choice, in this case, whether or not to move the vehicle. It’s amazing how much punctuation matters. Otherwise you risk alienating— or even insulting— your audience.

Though there’s more we could look at with the opening, let’s not get bogged down and keep moving.

Unfortunately, despite the admirable intentions and use of persuasive logic, the second line also contains a significant flaw. I’ll let you go ahead and reread the line and see if you can spot it. Go ahead. It’s rather blatant. Did you get it?

The error of the second line is one middle school and high school english teachers are all too familiar with: superfluous words. In fact, an entire phrase that doesn’t belong. By writing “I realize that…” the writer is in fact weakening his position, rather than strengthening. I’m talking about the soul of wit, the hallmark of all good Please-Move-Your Car notes. Brevity. Listen to how much stronger line two would sound without the I realize: “I’m hoping not to have a car parked in front of my house for a couple of days.” Tight. Direct. Honest. And brief. Now that is a great move-your-car sentence because it’s revealing, without any fluff. Often times just deleting an extra phrase can really make a move-your-car note shine.

Now let’s clean up a couple of nit-picky errors and glean further instruction from line two. Notice that the word “of” is in cursive. It’s important to stay in one font, or, in this case, style of handwriting. A random switch can take the reader right out of a move-your-car note. Finally, diretly or dirctly is missing a letter. Spelling mistakes can draw the ire of any reader because it shows a lack of care. When you proofread, you show respect for your reader, whether you are requesting that reader to move an automobile or not.

Another common error for beginning move-your-car note writers is redundancy, which is what we see in the third line. “I appreciate your understanding and thank you.” Choose one; less is more. “I appreciate your understanding.” Or, “Thank you.” Either one is sufficient and meets 3rd grade Common Core ELA Writing Standard W.3.2.D provide a concluding statement. Notice the standard doesn’t say, provide two concluding statements.

Writing is hard work. First drafts need careful revision. Yet, with a little practice and some constructive criticism, any novice can write clear, strong, move-your-car notes to leave under the windshield wipers with pride and confidence.

Finally, in closing, it’s considered good form to sign your note. Otherwise you’re just a wuss.

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