Day 16 - Tuesday

Day 16 - Tuesday


I. Housekeeping

  • sign in
  • paper #2: returned Thursday
  • evaluations: Thanks for the feedback. I'll do my best to implement your ideas. Those who haven't filled out evaluations, extras are available in the paper box; fill them out and leave them there. Note your section number.


II. Essay Three Assigned

  • Note: length, internet sources
  • Discussion re: article and movie


III. Introduction to Actions and Characters

We're moving to an even more local level. We've moved from large global issues to smaller local ones; finally we're at the sentence level, the word level. Remember, though, that course principles are hierarchical; the global principles re: argument, etc. are more important. Beautiful sentences not helpful if your ideas aren't in order.


A. Looking at troubled sentences (page one of handout)

  • Read these paragraphs. Jot down three words you might use to describe them.
  • Share responses. Responses are impressionistic &endash; descriptive but not cause-oriented. High school writing courses are primarily impressionistic. Even the word "passive" is a descriptive word, not a cause-oriented one. Why are these passive sentences ineffective? What are the causes of your negative responses? That's what we'll begin to get at today.

B. Redefining the effective sentence

  • What is the traditional definition of a sentence? Subject/Verb
  • ENWR is not a course on grammar, therefore that definition won't be what concerns us. We ask you to think more critically about the nature/purpose of language.
  • We know (from studying problem statements and creation myths) how important stories are to the human psyche &endash; how compelling we find the story's rhythms, etc. Translate the definition of the sentence into story terms: not subject/verb, but character/action. The best -- most readable, most compelling -- sentences first present an agent (a character) and then present that agent's action. The lesson: main characters (agents, doers) should be the subjects of your sentences. Memorable actions should be the verbs. This method makes each sentence a mini story.
  • Writing sentences is not, in other words, just about having a subject and a verb. Writing good sentences is about choosing the most appropriate subject (a character) and the most appropriate verb (the action). Is it possible to turn an action into a noun -- to prevent it from being a verb? Yes -- to nominalize is to turn an action into a noun (see e.g. #1, first sentence). Is it possible to avoid naming the agent? (see e.g. #3, first sentence who must prove? etc.) This kind of writing is often called passive.


IV. Exercises (page two of handout)

Students work them one by one. Class goes over each, discussing individual revisions.


V. Group work [time permitting]

Groups re-write initial examples (handout page one)



1. Read the example on page three of handout. Why does the writer's failure to use appropriate character/action structuring render this paragraph unethical? We'll start with this question next class.

2. "Translate" 2-3 consecutive paragraphs of the Kemp article. In other words, revise Kemp's sentences so that they offer clear characters and actions.