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PARAGRAPH ASSIGNMENT 1
The major difference between expository writing (composition and essays) and creative writing (stories, poems,
etc.) is in their motivation: expository writing aims to explain what the writer has already explored, and creative
writing explores what the writer cannot explain. Because of this, the two forms of writing use two very different
methods to communicate ideas. The language of exposition aims to be clear, precise, interpretive and academic.
The language of creative writing is often purposefully ambiguous, impressionistic, and figurative. The one style of
writing where these two most often meet is creative nonfiction, and the most common form of creative nonfiction in
college writing is the personal narrative assignment.
Using as your storytelling model Sister Helen Mrosla's "All the Good Things" (The Langan Reader, p. 640), write a
single personal narrative paragraph (NOT a multiple paragraph essay!) of approximately 500 words (2 – 3 double-
spaced pages), to honor someone no longer in your life. Your "long-ish" paragraph should contain a minimum of
13 sentences, or a suggested maximum of 25 sentences; it should accomplish the following in the order and
development presented here:
Introduce a major claim about who that person is and what, to you, is generally memorable about him or her:
1 – 3 complex or compound-complex declarative sentences;
formal or casual tone.
Explain this claim in detail without using narration (some general examples are permitted):
3 – 5 sentences of varied sentence type;
declarative sentences only;
Narrate one primary representative experience or story true to your memories of that person:
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 how this story supports your explanation:
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);
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 should not be to explain everything you now know about this person, but
rather to transport us readers in our imagination to your experience of that person. That means, this paragraph is
about your truth, and not necessarily 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 of view—the one to which you laid claim in the
topic assertion. Once finished, if your choices were successful, your story will imply its own moral or meaning,
without needing you to sum it up explicitly at the end.
Sister Helen Mrosla's story, "All the Good Things" (available in John Langan's English Skills With Readings, and on
the course website) is an apt example of how a real-life story becomes, in hindsight, a cautionary tale about the
importance of showing one another support, love, and affection. Consider how the internet chain-letter that
explained the significance of Mrosla's memoir detracts from her story's power--how it cheapened Mrosla's meaning.
Study the specific details, dialogue, description, and impressions the author writes to imply her own struggle to find
the meaning in Mark Ecklund's death, and start compiling and inventing your own story with similar techniques.
Also, just because we're using as a model a story called "All the Good Things," this doesn't mean that your truth has
to be about only the good things in the person you remember. If, for instance, you are better off with this person not
in your life, feel free to explore the negative things, or your own ambivalence about that person; this is just as valid a
response to this assignment.
Try not to widen the focus of the assignment to be about more than one specific 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.
Be aware that this is a paragraph assignment only. This is not an essay assignment. Be specific, so that your
choice of examples and the details 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). Least of all, do not write your
paragraph with a long introduction.
Topic Selection: (Week 4) Thursday, September 12
Bring a prospective topic assertion and any invention and pre-writing you have completed.
Working Draft: (Week 5) Tuesday, September 17
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) Thursday, September 26 [new deadline]
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.
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
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.