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According to my instructor’s grades and comments, I did fairly well on my first essay titled, “The Definition of Service.” However, there is always room to improve in the world of writing. By digesting feedback from my professor, and taking time for self reflection on my assignments, I have created a plan to improve upon my future writing assignments.
In my feedback, I had several of my strengths pointed out. One of these strengths was my ability to really convey through words some solid examples of what I thought about my chosen word, “service.
” I was able to do this by illustrating specific examples of how I have given service in my life, and highlighting two main organizations whose founders embody the spirit of service. Another strength that was mentioned was the way in which I reflected on the “meaning and significance” of the word I chose to define as my conclusion to the essay. By doing so, I believe one can really string together all of the different moving parts of an essay into one final thought that really summarizes what the topic was all about.
In addition to my strengths, a few areas of improvement were pointed out to me as well. One area in which I could improve would be to use more “emotional and physical descriptions” to capture the reader. This is important because we as writers may care a great deal about our topic, but we need to be able to show – not tell – the reader why they should care too.
If we are not descriptive in our writing, the reader may become bored by our piece and not bother to read past the first paragraph or two. One way that I could make my writing more vibrant for the reader would be to access a thesaurus to change more ordinary words into descriptive, eye-catching words. For example, instead of saying something like, “The girl was always very happy and upbeat,” we could say, “Sharon had a very effervescent personality.”
One resource that I mentioned previously that could help me in my pursuit of more descriptive writing is a thesaurus. While I don’t actually own a hard copy of a thesaurus, with today’s development of technology, almost anything can be found digitally. Through my research, I located a website called Thesaurus.com, which is an online thesaurus that you can use by entering your word and getting suggestions on a better, more descriptive synonym to use. I have been practicing with this tool by typing in words that I notice I use commonly in my writing, as well as my every day life. I then try to pick a more exciting synonym to use, and I practice using that in my vocabulary each day.
Another resource I found was through the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s website (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/685/03/). They have an excellent article about what descriptive essays are, as well as a simple, to-the-point breakdown of how to be more descriptive in the writing process. I especially will use their bullet about choosing vivid language, as emphasizing words really draw a reader in and may even cause the reader who looks up an unknown word to have an educational experience of their own. I am trying to read more, and look up a word if I don’t know it instead of just skipping over it and continuing on. By doing so, I am able to broaden my vocabulary, which in turn will come through in my writing.
Another area of improvement mentioned is allowing my words to signal a conclusion to the essay without outwardly saying so. This is tricky for me, because I have not been out of high school that long and in high school, we always had certain skills drilled into us, such as using “in conclusion” to signal the final paragraph of an essay. I have done this in all of my essays for every class since then, so it will be a hard habit to break. This requires creativity in creating a conclusion that speaks for itself.
For help with this, I once again turned to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, as they are a credible and scholarly source with tons of great information about different types of essay writing. I was able to find a section on their website titled, “Writing a Developed and Detailed Conclusion.” (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/2/60/) Purdue has an excellent example of how to write a conclusion that summarizes your thesis without actually using words such as “in conclusion” or “hence” to signal an end to the essay. I have been practicing writing conclusions this week by selecting topics I already know a great deal about, writing a thesis statement, and then writing how I would conclude the essay by summarizing the thesis and facts about my topic.
Another resource I found was on the Kibin website, which is a service that proofreads and edits essays for students. They have an informative article called “12 Essay Conclusion Examples to Help You Finish Strong.” (https://www.kibin.com/essay writing-blog/12-essay-conclusion-examples/) It talks about the importance of a strong finish in an essay, and gives several examples of conclusions that would work for different types of essays – such as expository, narrative, etc. I plan to use this in future essays by bookmarking the website and returning to review examples depending on what type of essay I am writing at the time.
The final area of improvement mentioned was the general overall structure of my essay. For example, there were some minor mistakes, such as too much double-spacing between my header and my essay title, and a couple of my paragraphs did not include enough sentences. Additionally, I was not previously aware that the words “Works Cited” for my references should not be written in bold print. I am used to writing in APA format in my other college courses, and in our introductory course at APUS, we were allowed to choose whichever format we wanted to write in, as long as it was indeed an academic form of writing (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) I think that learning better essay structure and learning more about MLA format would assist me the most to improve on this point, so I focused on that as my improvement plan for this area.
One resource I was able to find was a very informative YouTube video about basic essay structure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P4fzbzwwAg). In the video, the instructor describes that all essays have the same basic structure, regardless of if it is a narrative essay, persuasive essay, etc. The video demonstrates how to organize your essay, and even breaks down the different parts of an opening paragraph, which informed me of many new writing terms I hadn’t heard of before – for example, the “hook” in an opening paragraph. I have been using this video to help me improve because I took notes as I watched it a couple of times so that I could learn ways to write meatier paragraphs with more flowing transitions between each paragraph.
For my second source, I once again returned to the good old Purdue Online Writing Lab, to review their guide to MLA formatting of essays (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/24/). I have been using this to improve by reviewing it as a checklist during each essay I write (even in my other classes) to make sure I am including all of the components and formatting that an MLA-style essay requires.
Since reviewing my instructor’s feedback and locating these new resources across the web, I have been making an active effort to improve my writing not only in this class, but my other classes at American Military University as well. I have definitely noticed some minor improvements, such as using more descriptive and engaging words in my everyday conversations at work and also being more aware to transition my paragraphs smoothly. I plan to continue using these resources and skills throughout my academic career and into my professional career when writing skills are required.
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