True mastery of the principles of grammar we discuss in this class cannot be reached until you’ve had a chance to apply the principles in your own writing. This assignment gives you a chance to do so while at the same time encouraging you to think metacognitively about how to incorporate the language features into your writing and what effect they have on the writing.
You are to craft a piece of writing in which you strive to incorporate the language features discussed in class. Ideally, this piece is something that emerges from the writing we’ve done in your writer’s notebook, where you’ve already been playing with some of these concepts. However, you can also compose something separate—maybe a piece that you’ve always wanted to write, or you can use something that you’ll turn in for another course. Your writing should be prose, but it can be fiction or non-fiction. The topic of the writing is entirely up to you.
Length & Format
To complete this assignment, you must use Microsoft Word’s reviewing features. To enable these, select the View > Toolbars > Reviewing menu option (or select the Review tab on the ribbon if you’re using Office 2007 or later).
As you incorporate a feature into your writing, you should add a comment that identifies the feature and discusses why you choose to use that feature (highlight the revision and use the New Comment tool from the reviewing toolbar). For instance, if you choose to place a pair of adjectives after the noun they modify instead of before the noun, you would highlight the two out-of-order adjectives and add a new comment to them (something like “put the adjectives here out of order to create variety in the rhythm of the sentence and to highlight them since the order is non-traditional”). See the back of this sheet for examples.
The practice piece should be long enough to demonstrate a solid understanding of a variety of grammatical moves that we discuss in class—I want you to identify and annotate at least 10 of these techniques. Remember that these techniques are like spices, so you won’t want to add too many at a time; strive to keep your writing “real” and to use these techniques in authentic ways rather than simply to show me that you know how to use them.
We will discuss a number of ways to enhance the rhetorical effect, syntactical variety, and clarity of our writing. As you compose or revise, you should keep these concepts in mind:
- out-of-order or delayed adjectives or adverbs
- use of participial phrases to enhance action
- appositive and absolute phrases to add additional information and description
- crafting compound sentences with various techniques (comma/conjunction, semicolon/conjunctive adverb, dash, etc.)
- using subordinate clauses to create syntactic variety, creating noun/adjective/adverb clauses to show relative importance of ideas
- clarifying vague pronoun usage, using the old-new contract with pronoun phrases
- use of active and passive voice
- use of punctuation marks to signal connections between ideas (colons, dashes, semicolons, etc.)
I will be evaluating both the quantity and quality of your usage (i.e., are the features appropriately and effectively used); I will also be assessing the thoughtfulness of your annotations. This is the breakdown in scoring:
____ / 15 Grammar Features
- use of features shows good understanding of the techniques
- use shows awareness of rhetorical purposes and effects of the techniques
- enough features are used to demonstrate understanding (12+)
- a variety of features (including punctuation) is used, demonstrating mastery of much of what’s been discussed in class
- identification of grammar features is accurate
- correct usage of grammar features, including punctuation
____ / 15 Annotations
- annotations explain accurately and adequately the effect of each grammar feature
- annotations show thoughtfulness and careful consideration of the use of these tools, especially where options are considered (placement, different punctuation, etc.)
- the writer’s thinking and reasoning is explained in the annotations
____ / 30 Total Score
I’ve created a model of this assignment, just a single page of a larger piece of writing that incorporates some of the grammar features and (most importantly) models the annotations for you. You can view a PDF version of the model here.
You are to bring a draft version of your writing practice piece to class on the day specified in the syllabus. Although this draft need not be complete, you should have some progress made (at least a handful of annotations); of course, the more complete your draft, the more helpful the workshop will be. In class, you will pair up and evaluate some specific aspects of the practice piece and annotations that I will describe for you.