Writing is a form of communication between writer and reader. The objective of any writer is to express his or her ideas clearly, vividly, and completely to the reader. Achieving that objective requires a process — of thinking, writing, rethinking, revising, editing, and reevaluating.
This exercise is an opportunity to practice that process. The focus is on the subject of writing and revising effectively. It will require you to rethink and improve upon a piece of writing that you have already completed and submitted for this class.
To do that, you will first closely read and annotate the craft essay,by author and educator William Zinsser.
ABOUT ZINSSER’S WRITING CRAFT ESSAY:
Do not be misled by the essay’s title – this essay is not exclusively for non-native speakers; in fact it is for all writers, and it contains some of the most lucid, useful, and cogent writing advice you will receive in college or anywhere else. Going forward, continue to apply Zinsser’s ideas to your written work.
- Identify, prioritize and summarize the key concepts, ideas, and strategies in Zinsserâ€™s essay.
- Reflect on and evaluate a sample of your own writing using Zinsserâ€™s criteria for writing well
- Improve your chosen sample of writing by applying the insights and strategies he explains in his essay
- Evaluate and reflect on your revisions
- Format your work correctly, adhering to MLA standards (however, you do NOT need a Works Cited)
Instructions and Format:
- Closely read and annotate Zinsser’s essay,
- Then, with the following section titles, each clearly labeled:
B. Original Assignment Paragraph(s) & Description:
C. Revised Paragraph(s):
D. Reflection on Revisions:
RECOMMENDED SUPPORT MATERIALS:
- Writing Task in Four Parts:
1. SUMMARIZING ZINSSER’S TEACHINGS:
Underneath Section A, write an accurate, complete summary of Zinsser’s essay about writing well. Your summary should not exceed 250 words, and should not be devoted to secondary, less important information. Capture Zinsser’s most important and specific tips, ideas, advice, and insights. Do not spend valuable space describe the lesser details. Focus on what is at the heart of the essay.
Remember the qualities of an effective summary:
- It is neither vague nor general
- It is concise, but not at the expense of being thorough and preserving key details
- It should include all the most important information, accurately represented in compressed form.
- Watch the brief, helpful video below – a refresher on summary (although note that despite his instructions to avoid quoting, in the case of this assignment, a brief word or phrase quoted directly from Zinsser would be fine – but not more than that)
2. CHOOSE & POST EXCERPT OF ALREADY COMPLETED WORK
Take a minute to look through the writing you have already completed and submitted for this class. It could be an excerpt from one of your timed essays, a journal, or other piece of writing. Choose the selection that you want to revise for this exercise after looking over what you’ve written. From the assignment you choose to work on, select 1-2 paragraphs (one if it’s a very long one, two if they’re average or brief in length). Copy and paste the paragraph(s) you have chosen, as-is (unchanged) underneath Section B, Original Assignment Paragraph(s) & Description. Do not make any revisions to the work posted under Section B.
Just below the paragraph(s) you copied and pasted, briefly describe, in complete sentences:
- Where the excerpt is from – clearly identify the assignment you chose to use
- The main idea(s) of the paragraph(s) you selected to use
- A sentence or two about why you think this excerpt could use improvement
3. APPLY ZINSSER’S IDEAS TO YOUR REVISION OF YOUR WORK:
Now it is time for application. Review Zinsser’s essay and your written summary of it. Then once again, copy and paste that same 1-2 paragraph excerpt from your older, finished assignment into Section C, Revised Paragraph(s).
- What do you find is weakest about the writing in this assignment?
- How are the writing principles in Zinsser’s essay relevant to this excerpt from your chosen assignment?
- Focus on at least three guidelines or writing principles that Zinsser offers in his essay and use them to guide your revisions of the paragraph(s) to complete this segment of the exercise. Consult Zinsser’s essay closely as you revise.
4. REFLECT ON/EVALUATE THE REVISIONS
In complete sentences, in this assignment’s fourth and final segment, Section D, Reflection on Revision:
- Name the principles you chose to apply in Step 3.
- Explain why you picked them as the focus of your revisions.
- Evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the second, now revised paragraph(s). Explain, using specific examples from both the original and rewritten paragraphs, how applying Zinsserâ€™s advice improved the writing.
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