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Writing is one of the things in life I’ve considered myself good at. Growing up I always excelled at it. I became known as “the writer” of the family. I was constantly drafted by my extended family to head certain projects, such as creating a written family history and even writing final remembrances for family funerals. Often for relatives I didn’t even know. In accepting my “god given talent” (as my family referred), I have often questioned what makes a good writer.
When I arrived at college I realized there are many unique characteristics that make ones writing good, and that there must be inherit balance among those characteristics. Specifically, when I entered into my English composition class I learned that within all great writing lies fundamental principles that must be studied and practiced. These principals, as described in the syllabus, are content, clarity, style, and integrity. Looking over these principals, I feel that, while I have a great start, I still have a lot to learn and practice before really being able to utilize my writing in the way that I want.
For me, style, content, and to some extent integrity come relatively easy, but my writing needs to be clearer, especially for writings in college. Nevertheless, I am a quick learner and I feel that my strengths far outweigh my faults. The grade I am expecting in this class is an A
When I was young I used to read comics for hours on end.
I had my heart set on becoming a comic artist. After many crudely drawn super hero hands and crumpled notebook pages, I decided that I would be a writer instead. In reading those thousands upon thousands of comics I started to differentiate between the styles of the various writers. The guy that wrote Spiderman seemed to write more natural sounding dialogue than the guy that wrote the Green Lantern, and so on. So I started to develop my own style of writing comics, based on these wonderful writers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was developing key skills of style. The book Everythings an Argument has this to say about style: Even a well-shaped and coherent argument flush with evidence may not connect with readers if it is written in a dull, inappropriate way… Some characteristics of style as described by the course sylabus are tone, register, punctuation, mechanics, spelling choice, and grammar. While I will not touch on every single characteristic, I do feel that one specific factor of my development of style is tone. It’s what makes writing and reading enjoyable to me. My teachers through high school always commented on how they could instantly recognize my writing assignments from my peers. I even had a teacher who announced in class that what differentiates me from every other student in the room is that my writing doesn’t bore him to tears. I feel this is the affect of tone. I try to relate to the reader in the most unassuming way possible. In my essays, even academic ones, I try to keep the atmosphere “light” and enjoyable. Far too many times while reading academic essays I find myself being talked down too, or lectured. I think the most effective means of transmitting an idea is through conversation, not lecturing because the idea can be infused in the readers thinking instead of forced. This really does lead to a better understanding, in my opinion. Other aspects of style may be grammar, spelling, word choice, and many other things. The fantastic thing about style is that all of the contained characteristics move and influence each other. For example my sense of grammar influences my word choice and punctuation. I read a lot of poetry in high school, including great writers like T. S. Eliot, E. E. Cummings, and even great rock poets including Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. With all of these writers grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice etc. play a major part in developing their style. All of these men influenced me to take chances and make my writing fresh and unique. When I was in high school I wrote an essay dealing with Nazi Holocaust issues for a social studies class. When I wrote this, I decided to write in a very concise, simplistic way. My claims and corresponding information was very to the point especially when I interpreted events in individual holocaust survivors lives. My teacher really liked the essay and thought that I handled the information well. After received the paper back I took it to a neighbor, who had survived a nazi controlled concentration camp as a young child, although her parents did not. She stated that my essay stated exactly how she felt about her experience in the camp. I can recall her saying: …everything in my mind is very black and white about my childhood. Like life and death. These words still ring in my mind to this day. And the fact that she made a copy of my essay to give to a friend really made me feel the power of effective writing at a fairly young age.
I learned writing that holocaust paper that the content of a work of writing, especially in an academic sense, must be just as important as the style. When referring to content the reference book SF Writer states, Dont be satisfied with a minimum number of sources or a series of generalizations without texture or grip. I feel this is a great way of thinking about what content is and should be. When writing my papers I make every possible attempt to state my claim and then support it with as much evidence as possibly can. Early in my college education I became very interested in journalism and decided to try some classes and see how I liked them. I loved them so much that I actually got a job with a small newspaper The Red Springs Citizen. While working for them and taking journalism classes in college I learned that within the realm of journalism content takes precedence over anything in news writing. While working for the paper i covered stories ranging from local school issues to car accidents. One thing you learn in journalism, is that you do the story fast and you do it correctly the first time. You rarely get a second chance. You must make sure you content is correct. You must make sure that you have answered the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how? If you make mistakes in can resort in bad factual information or in some cases even lawsuits and the loss of ones job. This type of pressure really made me concentrate on the content of my stories. Did I get the name right? Is that the right street? The right police officer department? These were typical questions I had to ask myself on a story-by-story basis. I once covered a very heated town meeting in Red Springs concerning a city tax hike. It was mid-July, in record heat. The room was packed with people. Some were even standing outside in the hall. To top it all off the air conditioning was broken. Needless to say tempers were flaring amongst citizens. I had my small tape recorder and I was jumping from person to person getting quotes and so on. I called my boss during a break and told him what was going on and he told me to make sure that I get a full explanation of the tax hike from the council. Im glad he reminded me. In the heat (literally) of everything I had gotten so caught up in opinions of citizens and various officials that I hadnt even picked up an official copy of the tax hike explanation from the board. If I had not received this my coverage of the meeting might have been factually incorrect and I could have gotten in a lot of trouble. In the end I realized that journalism was meant for me. That simply stating facts wasnt challenging me enough creatively. One thing I has always stuck with me after my stint with the Red Springs paper is make sure my writing is backed up with acceptable evidence.
Even with my journalism experience I still have problems with a certain criterion of effective writing, namely clarity. The syllabus to English Composition 106 states that clarity should: present information in a clear, logical fashion. In my own writing I can honestly say that I try to be clear in my ideas, but in many cases I can judge by the person reading my essay that he or she is somewhat confused at what the point may be. For example last Thursday, September 5th in my English class our professor asked us to exchange the preliminary draft of the paper you are reading right now with a classmate. I did so. When I received my paper back it stated that I need to be more clear about what specifically my claim is. When I read over the paragraph that while I was telling a good narrative, I was not being clear as to what my claim is. This is a typical problem for me. As I was telling my English teacher, I never get writers block. I get the opposite. My brain tries to push out too much information at once. For a single essay I may write up to 20 pages easily in one sitting. Of course there are great benefits to this as one could imagine. Im really never at a loss for ideas or different views of a certain situation. However, in academic writing it can become quite problematic. While I feel that my style may entice the reader into reading my paper, the lack of clarity leaves them confused in many cases. Another example of this would be an oral presentation I did on Jazz in the high school. I love Jazz so I decided to go all out. I brought in posters, various pieces of music, and even a video that I edited on Jazz. The average presentation in the class was 10-12 minutes. Mine took 45 minutes. The bell ending class rung and I still was not finished. Needless to say many of my classmates who had reports to do that day were very happy because they received an extra day to prepare. As I was leaving my teacher said that it was one of the most through presentations he had ever witnessed by a high school student. He said the only problem was he could not understand what I was trying to say. While I was giving examples of styles of Jazz music and various players, I didnt have a main topic at all. I was crushed, but I learned from that. So, to this day I make every effort to ensure that my papers are clear and concise. I will let my peers read them and well as my aunt who is always a great source for information and critical ideas. Even after I write, I will make an outline to make sure my information is presently clearly. Nevertheless clarity is one aspect of good writing that I continue to work hard on even to this day.
The final element of good writing as stated in the coarse syllabus is integrity. Integrity can cover a wide array of things such as properly cited quotations, giving proper credit for written phrases used in ones on writings, and even plagiarism. The English department guidelines for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke define plagiarism as Intentionally or knowingly presenting the work of another as ones on… Personally, I have always tried my best to form original ideas and statements regarding my essays on various subjects. In my opinion, that is the whole point of learning and one of the major points of writing in general. As evidenced in the essay that you are reading now, I feel that I have taken great care to present information stated in my own personal way. Any and all information in quotations will have to be properly documented in my works cited page. Integrity is something that threatens all good writers at one time or another. To be honest I can recall times I have been more than tempted to steal a few paragraphs from certain sources. Or perhaps I may have recorded certain information in a fashion that was too similar to a written source. These are things that can spell trouble for a writer, especially a young one who may become too dependent on source material for original ideas.
Good writing is painfully hard to accomplish at times. Its difficult to maintain and balance all the aspects of integrity, style, clarity, and content. At the end of my 10th grade year I had a teacher, who profoundly affected my writing, scribble on the back of my end of grade test, Jerry, the only danger in writing is being average. Everyone remembers great writers and horrible writers, no one remembers the average ones. I still have that test to this day, and while I have long forgotten everything on the front of the final paper, ill always remember her words she wrote on the back. That is the reason why in this English course, I will strive to be a writer deserving a grade of A. There simply is no in between for me.
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