ENGLISH 098: ENGLISH FUNDAMENTALS Spring 2014 • Section 7110  •  Instructor Karl Sherlock

Paragraph Assignment 1

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A "First" Assignment


The major difference between expository writing (composition and essays) and creative writing (stories, poems,

etc.) is in their motivation:  expository writing aims to "expose" a truth in a direct and clear manner, while creative

writing lets a reader experience a truth in an indirect but entertaining manner.  Usually, these two types of writing

are kept far apart from each other in a college setting, with one exception.  The "descriptive-narrative paragraph"

allows a writer to discuss a topic by combining clear and direct explanations with entertaining descriptions and

storytelling devices; this style of writing is also called "creative nonfiction."  The expository language tries to be

clear, precise, interpretive and academic; the creative language is often purposefully ambiguous, impressionistic,

and figurative.  (If some of these words are unfamiliar to you, this is an excellent opportunity to use your dictionary

before starting your assignment.)


In 2 – 3 double-spaced pages (500-750 words, in MLA document design*), write a SINGLE PARAGRAPH (not a

whole essay!) that descriptively tells the story of an important first-time experience, then, in the same paragraph,

explains what the importance of it is (or was).   Your "long-ish" paragraph should contain a minimum of 13

sentences, or a suggested maximum of 25 sentences, and it should be written in, both, expository tone and

descriptive-narrative tone.  It should accomplish the following in exactly the order and development presented here:


Introduce a major claim about the first-time experience and its general importance:


1 – 3 complex or compound-complex declarative sentences;


formal or casual tone.


Explain this claim in detail WITHOUT yet telling a story, by defining ambiguous words, concepts, or ideas;

some general examples are permitted, but do not as yet introduce the details of the "first-time" experience:


3 – 5 sentences of varied sentence type;


declarative sentences only;


expository tone.


Narrate one primary representative first-time experience:


5 – 10 sentences of varied style;


descriptive-narrative voice (interjections and informality are permitted; dialogue is encouraged);


exclamatory and interrogative sentences are permitted; no imperative sentences.


Follow with an extended explanation of the importance of this first-time experience:


3 – 5 complex and compound-complex sentences;


declarative sentences only;


formal, expository tone only.


Conclude with a reiteration of your paragraph's main objective


1 – 2 sentences, any sentence type but imperative


voice and tone, at your own discretion.

This is one of two writing assignments this semester in which you will be encouraged to be more creative in your

language choices and writing style.  Take more risks to write in a literary voice when its appropriate (as in #3 in the

outline above), and try not to sound stuffy and literal unless you are requested to do so (as in #4 above);

furthermore, avoid


clichéd phrases and images ("so hot, you could fry an egg on it"),


clichéd storytelling devices ("little did I know"; "as time went by").


bland generalities ("she was always there for me"),


swear words ("mad as all hell").

The goal of your writing in this assignment isn't to EXPLAIN everything about why a first-time experience has a

lasting importance, but rather to SHOW some of it and explain parts of it when those parts aren't obvious.  That

means, this paragraph is really about your own truth, and not solely about the facts.  In the narrative-descriptive

portion of your paragraph, use descriptive detail appealing to all five senses, and narration to tell us what

happened, but use figurative language (similes, metaphors, style, and tone in usage) to build your point.

*MLA document design will be discussed on the same day as your first peer editing session, but you are encouraged to study the

assigned readings in A Writer's Reference and prepare your working draft with your best effort to follow these guidelines



Too Broad a Topic

Life, death and love are "big" themes.  The most successful responses to this kind of assignment are those that take

up less grandiose experiences.  Instead, they find the uncommon significance in the commonplace experience.

Additionally, don't write about more than one specific first-time experience, regardless of whether it is one in a larger

pattern of experiences or a larger episode in your life.  Otherwise, the story becomes too general, too complicated,

too long: in trying to contain it to a single-paragraph, you'll either have to resort to too many generalities or you'll do

an incomplete job of narrating and describing them all—and you don't want that to happen.

Too Many Points to Make

Be aware that this is a SINGLE PARAGRAPH assignment only.  This is not an essay assignment.  Follow the outline

above, and don't try to write an introductory paragraph or develop a complex thesis statement.  Stay the course and

be very specific about your choice of first-time experience, so that your examples and the details in the body of the

paragraph will also be specific.  This is how you will keep the writing contained to a single paragraph (albeit a

longer paragraph than you might be accustomed to writing).

Too Obvious a Topic

Some "first time" experiences are already understood to be important, and their significance doesn't merit much

explanation.  You're urged to select a topic that holds some suprirse, both, for your readers and for you: use this

assignment as a way to explore for the first time the significance of a formative experience.  Here are a list of "first

time" experiences you may wish to avoid unless you are absolutely certain you that their significance isn't just like

anyone else's:  first time meeting your significant other; first sexual experience; first time you experienced a loss or a

death; first time being left on your own; first day in school; first friend you ever made; etc. As with any blanket rule,

there are usually exceptions; so goes it with the topics just listed.  For instance, if your first friend were physically

disabled, this may have had a more meaningful influence on you worth writing about.  Or, if your first love or sexual

experience had been "unconventional" or "nontraditional," this could lead to a more revelatory discussion.

("Revelatory" means, pertaining to a revelation or realization; an epiphany.)


Topic Selection: (Week 4) Wednesday, February 19

Bring a prospective topic assertion and any invention and pre-writing you have completed.

Working Draft: (Week 5) Monday, February 24

Bring two (2) copies of a completed draft, typed, double-spaced, in MLA document design. (Handwritten work will

not be accepted.)

Final Draft: (Week 6) Wednesday, March 5

Submit in a two-pocket folder with all drafts, pre-writing, invention, and previous drafts.

Definition of Terms

What's a Working Draft? On the due date of a working draft, bring 2 copies of your paragraph (one for your peer

editors to read, and one for the instructor). You won’t need to bring a two-pocket folder until the final draft is due, but

stapling your materials together is appreciated. Your working draft should be reasonably complete insofar as you

have attempted to work through the entire narrative-descriptive paragraph, start to finish.  Drafts that are obviously

incomplete won’t be credited, and they won't inspire the kind of input for which peer editing sessions are meant.

What's Due On the Final Due Date? Submit a printed copy of the final draft in a plain, two-pocket folder (paper).

Include in the pocket folder all prewriting, peer editing, previous drafts, outlines, notes, topic development exercises.


For each of the following in the process of writing this paper, one-third of a letter grade will be removed from the

essay's final grade:

failure to submit a typed or computer printed Working Draft (reasonably complete) on the due date

failure to participate in peer editing of Working Drafts on the assigned date (during classroom  hours)

failure to submit the peer editing sheets and edited working drafts in the same folder with the Final Draft

failure to revise the Final Draft using comments and corrections from the Working Draft and peer editing sheets

For each day that the final draft of the assignment is delivered late (including the day on which it is due), one-third of

a letter grade will be additional removed from the essay's final grade.  The latest submission date for any late paper

is the next class period, after which time the essay will not be accepted. For a detailed grading rubric, consult on-

line version of this assignment on the course website.



Topic Point


Paragraphing (use of support and development; detail of content)


Writing (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary)


Topic Point (Topic Assertion)


The topic point makes a complex assertion that forecasts a sophisticated and organized paragraph of development.

Both, its ideas and its arguments, are detailed and may be provocative as well; also, it uses complex or compound-

complex sentence structure.


The topic point introduces a limited version of the topic and a claim or attitude about it, and includes a statement

about why the claim can or should be considered.


The topic point adequately introduces a limited version of the topic and a claim or attitude about it, but only

minimally, with only a simple assertion.  Frequently, it uses simple or simplistic compound sentence structure.


The topic point may be problematic in one of the following ways:  it is missing either a limited version of the topic or

a claim or attitude about it; it aspires to be no more than a claim of fact.  Also, its location in the paragraph may be



A topic point is missing altogether.


Paragraph Development (use of support and development; detail of content)


Development of all four of the remaining stages in the paragraph is detailed and well organized, with good

transitions.  Its ideas and explanations may, be exceptionally sophisticated.


A "B" paragraph may demonstrate some unfamiliarity or awkwardness with one or more stages of development,

even though its ideas may demonstrate good critical thinking skills and good detail.


An average paragraph will include minimal development for each required stage of development and/or may have

inadequate transitions.  Also, it may suffer from minor problems of organization.


A "D" score is indicates one or more stages of paragraph development is deficient or absent.  It may suffer from

pronounced disorganization and/or missing transitions.


A grade of "F" usually indicates serious incoherency.  The paragraph may demonstrate failure to recognize patterns

of development or may altogether lack a topic appropriate for this assignment.


Writing and Mechanics (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary)


The writing excels in its command of grammar, proofreading skills, accurate use of vocabulary appropriate for parts

of speech and context, complex- and compound-complex sentence structure, style and tone, and a precise use of

MLA document design.


The writing shows generally good command of mechanics and grammar with some minor mistakes. It may use

better vocabulary and diction but falter at times in its usage and tone. It may contain minor errors of MLA style

document design.


Writing abilities may show an average command of mechanics, grammar and sentence structure, but with one or

two major mistakes suggesting a need for better proofreading.  Vocabulary may show some awkwardness in usage

but understanding in parts of speech.


More serious deficiencies in writing may include repeated major errors of sentence structure and grammar,

simplistic vocabulary, and frequently repeated minor errors.  These patterns of error belie deeper

misunderstanding, not just poor proofreading.


A failing grade in Writing and Mechanics may indicate the writer's neglect for matters of style and document design

altogether.  The patterns of writing error may be severe enough to warrant additional outside help.  In some cases,

an "F" may suggest a serious lack of proficiency in English as a second language.