Evaluating Your Own Writing
Begin by reading "How to Say Nothing in 500 Words" by Paul McHenry Roberts (available through Blackboard).
Your Writing Task:
For this paper, you will be using one of the criteria discussed by Paul McHenry Roberts and applying it to your own writing. After you have thoroughly digested the Roberts article, choose one of his pieces of advice at the end, and, using examples drawn from your own writing, discuss how you could apply the advice to make your writing better.
Hints for Success:
- If you are convinced that the Roberts article is arguing against having a football team, that shows you have only read the first 872 words of a 5141 word article—and have missed all the material at the end about how to write a better paper. Go back and read the rest. Don't stop after you have read only the first 17%. (Even those first 872 words contained rich hints that the article isn't just a rant against football. Pay attention to what you are reading.)
- If you are expecting all college writing to be as colorless and boring as the instructions for changing your oil, you need to open your mind to the world of humor and satire. This article is an excellent example of humorous writing that isn't exactly belly-laughs or obscene jokes, and Roberts did it for a reason. It really is possible for a smart, well-informed person to make a joke—don't call him an idiot.
- Even more than most of your writing, this essay requires specific example material: "Here is a sample of my terrible writing before" and "Here is a rewrite to make it better."
- If you really are Mary Poppins and your writing is "practically perfect in every way" so that you have no places to apply Roberts's advice, go to some nationally-distributed source such as the Washington Post or Time magazine, find examples that illustrate a point Roberts is making, and suggest a rewrite of the author's work. (By the way, if you don't have a very solid "A" average on your writing, you don't fit into the "Mary Poppins" category!)
Length: The equivalent of a three-page paper. A three-page paper should be between 880 and 1060 words long, not counting title, your name, etc.
Format: Standard MLA format. (12-point Times Roman type, double-spaced, 1" margin all around, MLA header.)
Submitting the paper:
- The English Department wants electronic copies of all your essays this semester, so please upload the final product to the drop box in Blackboard. Some students (especially those who use Google
Docs) have trouble figuring out how to do this, so ask if you are uncertain how to proceed!
- If you have any trouble getting the Blackboard upload to work, simply print a copy and bring it to class.
- Evaluating your opening paragraph: Bring in a printed rough draft of your paper Friday, November 3, 2017
- Final copy: Monday, November 6, 2017
This essay is worth 75 points.