Dayle Turner
English 100
Leeward Community College

Tips for Essay One

(or How to make your teacher happy and improve your grade)

Ideas:

What I am looking for is how well you recreate the events you are writing about. In other words, an excellent piece will leave me with a sense that I was there. Obviously, you won't be able to tell me everything that happened--that's an impossible task--however, you should describe the event(s) so that readers can experience them (and don't limit yourself to just visual details); you should provide ample factual information about what happened (who/what/when/where/why/how); and you should use dialogue from time to time so readers can "hear" some things that were said. In two of the sample essays I provided to you, The Rollercoaster Ride and Because, conversations between characters are used to great effect.

Organization:

In this area, I look for a clear sense of a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of a good piece is catchy and grabs my attention somehow (see pages 347--349 for tips on how to begin an essay). What's more, somewhere in the beginning you should make it clear what you are writing about and your feelings about what happened (thesis). For instance, if wrote about the time you quit smoking, you might say, "When I gave up cigarettes for good, I went through hell." To continue the example, the middle (or body) of a well organized piece would go on to emphasize the hellish time you had. Just like the example I've just given, your piece should have a thesis and the body that supports it. As for concluding your piece, I look for a connection between beginning and end. For example, in The Rollercoaster Ride by Janel T., she effectively links her conclusion to her opening by making a reference to the rollercoaster ride.

Vocabulary:

In this area, I am not necessarily looking for "big" words. Instead, I look for how well the words you use (and how you use them) fit the purpose and context. In some cases, throwing in a couple of esoteric words can weaken a piece instead of strengthening it. I also like to see word play and use of figurative language (metaphor, analogy, simile, and so forth). Recall the roller coaster analogy again. Good writing has a rhythm and flow to it just like good pieces of music.

Voice:

I grade rather liberally in this area, but I do look for a sense of you, as writer, in the piece. I want to hear your thoughts, reactions and opinions. You should sound natural and not too formal and stuffy in this piece.

Mechanics:

Spend time re-reading your piece for mistakes. Pages 386-398 in your text offer some sound editing/revising practices. You can also check out this link for more help with editing and revising tactics. If writing correctly is a big bugaboo for you, consider seeking the assistance of someone with expertise with editing. Also make sure that your piece is in the proper format (headings, margins, spacing and so forth).

Dayle Kalama Turner             |=|=|=|  Leeward Community College 
Language Arts Division          |=|=|=|  96-045 Ala Ike
turner@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu   |=|=|=|  Pearl City, Hawaii 96782        
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ |=|=|=|  Phone: (808) 455-0258

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