Edmond Chang
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GIS 140 (D)
MTuWTh 9:30 AM-12:00PM
(LOW 112)
Early Fall Quarter 2006-07

GIS 140 Message of the Day (Section D Early Fall Quarter 2006-07)

Important class announcements, notes, comments, and suggestions will be made in-class and via email. Please be sure to check your email regularly for messages of the day. Messages will have "[English 131]" in the subject line. MOTDs will also be archived here from newest to oldest.

September 11, 2006: NOTES on the CLOSE READING

Your second major paper, the Close Reading, will be come back to you. As with the last major assignment, take 10-15 minutes to go over the comments on the paper as well as the comments listed here. Consider the grading rubric and the assignment goals, which are located in your course policies and assignment sheet. Keep a running list of comments, concerns, successes, and dos and donts when you work on your future papers.

I think everyone really tried to engage the various readings from class -- from Frederick Douglass's essay to the GIS 140 course policies. Everyone had the right idea to look very closely at the texts, to quote directly from the texts, and to think about what the text was saying, arguing, doing. Now, most have to push the critique more, push the rhetorical analysis more. The following are things I noticed in many of your papers:

TITLES: As with the previous paper, titles are important. They are the first things that a reader will see. Titles need to be interesting, catchy, and most of all, relevant to the paper inside. Most of you took the safe route and titled your paper "A Close Reading of..." There is a happy middle ground between the safe and obvious and the wild and unrelated.

AUDIENCE: The whole point of the audience analysis is really to get you to start thinking about who your audience is and what their expectations are and how your argument may or may not impact the audience. Many of you are still defining your audience too broadly (all readers) or too narrowly (my class). Consider how inexact saying "all students" is? Students where? Students of what age? What kind of students? An audience of incoming freshmen at the University of Washington is very different than an audience of upperclassmen at the Citadel military academy in South Carolina. How are they similar? And more importantly, how are they different? Push your audience analysis.

CLAIMS: The whole concept of claim (or argumentative thesis) is still new to most of you. Keep in mind what a claim does, what a claim is, and what makes a claim important. Remember that a claim is more than just a thesis statement at the end of your introductory paragraph. Remember that a claim is more than an outline of your paper. And remember that a claim is more than just a description or personal opinion. An academic claim does three things: 1) identifies and articulates your topic or focus, 2) identifies your purpose, goal, exigence, or analytical question, and 3) identifies the stakes or the "so what?" of your writing. For the close reading, the claims are subtler and less clear cut than say a claim about a highly controversial debate in the news. However, you can still generate an academic, analytical claim about your close reading. Always read over your introduction and ask yourself, "Am I making an argument? What is my argument? Or am I just describing content?"

OUTLINE/ORGANIZATION OF IDEAS: If you are not in the habit of outlining your papers, you should start -- at least with a brief sketch of your claim and your main subclaims. Consider that each of your subclaims builds into your larger claim.

For example:

Claim: "Amy Tan's 'Mother Tongue' argues for the importance and need for many Englishes."
Subclaim #1: For Tan, literacy -- particularly writing and speaking -- are powerful tools and the means to communicate important ideas.
Subclaim #2: Tan's reveals different Englishes through the figure of her mother.
Subclaim #3: Tan argues that 'broken' or 'limited' Englishes are still valuable and provide insight into people's lives.
Subclaim #4: Though Tan herself does not use 'broken' or 'limited' English, she realizes that she must use her own English to express her ideas.

Each section would be a paragraph (or more) with adequate examples drawn from the text and further explication and analysis. Obviously, you are responsible for deciding what your subclaims are, what their order of importance is, and what is useful and relevant to your overall claim.

ANALYSIS: We've talked about critical thinking and analysis all quarter. Most of the papers were very good about noticing details and language and ideas. However, papers needed to develop clear analytical subclaims, support with detail, and provide your explication and critique. For example: "Amy Tan writes about her mother and her experiences with her mother's 'broken' English." That's descriptive. Like claims, think about what you are trying to say about what Amy Tan is saying or doing: "Central to Tan's essay is the idea that there are multiple Englishes. One way she demonstrates the need to recognize and understand different Englishes is through anecdotes about her mother. For example, her mother..." The subclaim is then followed up by quotes and details. Then the quotes and details are followed up by your analysis, your answer to "why are these examples important?"

OVERWRITING: Even a rhetorical analysis must be clear, simple, elegant, and precise. For the most part, most of you decided to err on the side of more formal language for a more formal assignment. (Those that took too personal or informal tact did not address the needs of the rhetorical situation either.) However, a more formal task does not necessarily mean overwriting or purple prose. Phrases like "the negative and supportive connotations of word choice" or "attempts to convey alienation as a damaging effect" are difficult to decipher. Again, be simple and elegant. Be concrete and specific.

INFORMALITY: On the opposite end of the appropriate language spectrum is being too informal (or mixing informal language with very formal language). One example of being too informal is the use of contractions. Another is the use of slang. As with formality, consider your rhetorical situation and your audience (as well as the overall needs, goals, and expectations of your class and assignment).

QUOTES: Please take a look at your hand out on quotations, using quotes, signaling quotes, and incorporating quotes. Keep in mind the MLA format for quotations.

CITATIONS: Related to quoting, take a look at the MLA parenthetical citation sheet as well.

READ OUT LOUD: Read your papers out loud. Do it.

September 10, 2006: Updated Syllabus

I have updated/corrected the course syllabus. Pay particular attention to the assignments and due dates of the fourth week, the fourth sequence, as well as the due date for the Final Portfolio.

September 6, 2006: Added Office Hour Today Only

I will be holding additional office hours TODAY (only), Thursday, September 7 from 12:30 PM to approximately 1:25 PM (I have to get to a meeting at 1:30).

Also, it turns out that they've closed Suzzallo Espresso (this week at least). So, I will be holding hours at the Atrium (which is the glassed-in part of the HUB dining area).

August 31, 2006: NOTES on the LITERACY NARRATIVE

Your first major paper, the Literacy Narrative, has been commented upon and will be returned to you. Take 10-15 minutes to go over the comments on the paper as well as the comments listed here. Consider the grading rubric and the assignment goals, which are located in your course policies and assignment sheet. Please take into account the marginal comments as well as the overall end comments when you sit down to work on your next papers. Take a look at your own notes, sequence papers, and workshop materials for the assignment as well.

Overall, I can see everyone's enthusiasm for the assignment, the many fascinating and telling stories you tell, and the effort to try to make the assignment your own. Many of you engaged the readings of Douglass and Alexie and Tan. Many of you tried to find some way to make your narrative important, exigent, and persuasive like our readings. Good job and I hope you continue in the same spirit and tenacity in our upcoming papers.

In the spirit of improvement, here is a list of things I saw, commented on, and corrected across a number of papers. Please keep a running list of my notes to you. Print this email out for your records. The same errors and issues should not crop up again in further assignments. Take a look at the following:

HOMOPHONES: Careful of easy but careless mistakes such as the difference between they're/their or it's/its; watch out for other homophones or near words like affect/effect, accept/except, there/their. If in doubt, look it up in your usage book or in a dictionary.

NUMBERS: Generally, spell out numbers under a hundred. Never start a sentence with numerals (e.g. "6 days ago, I went to the store."). Depending on the style manual you're using, the rules for numbers will vary. See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.

DASHES: Be careful of hypens (-) and m-dashes (--). Remember, a hypen connects words (e.g. ninety-four) and an m-dash connects parts of sentences, usually serves as a pause right before an important point or piece of information (e.g. "Johnny was very, very, very hungry--like a rabid wolf."). Usually, people have been using semi-colons (;) to signal a long pause and this is not correct. Either form two complete sentences or use an m-dash. Like most spices, m-dashes should be used sparingly, for emphasis.

SEMI-COLONS: Be sparing with semi-colons (;). See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.

SLASHES: Avoid slashes (/). Usually, using the conjunction is much clearer and better looking. For example, I dislike the construction "and/or" or "he/she."

TITLES: Titles of newspapers and books and movies are underlined OR italicised. Titles of songs or poems or articles are in quotations. See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.

TYPOGRAPHY: be sparing (very sparing) in your use of boldface, underlining, all-caps, and italics.

ETC: Avoid using etc. when possible. If you want to indicate that the list could go on, use a phrase like "and so on." Generally, though, such phrases indicate a lack of detail or automatic writing, which should be avoided.

PRONOUNS: Watch pronouns (like a hawk). Particularly watch 'it' statements. Pronouns are very useful, but they can become confusing when their antecedent gets lost. For example, "The duck and the dog went to the park. They wanted to play near the pond. He was very excited" -- who is the 'he' in the last sentence?

THIS: Avoid "this" statements, particularly starting sentences with "this." Pointing pronouns can become confusing particularly if what you're pointing at is lost in a sea of nouns. It's usually a weak way of writing. Use it sparingly or when necessity requires it.

THAT AND WHICH: Same with "which" statements, which incidentally requires a comma beforehand. For more information about "that" and "which" statements, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, see Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.

OVER-WRITING: Avoid what I call over-writing or purple prose. When you inflate your language, use fify-cent words, complicate and convolute the language to sound prettier, more intellectual, or "academic" (in a negative way), you're not writing effectively. Formality has a place in writing, particularly in scholarship and professional writing, but that does not mean it needs to be stiff, choked with jargon, or indecipherable. Be simple and elegant. You prove your a smart writer if it's readable, if it sounds natural, if it makes clear points, and provides sound support or reasoning.

FORMALITY: I dislike the use of "thus" or "hence" or "often times" since they are overly formal to my ear. Use them sparingly, if at all. Avoid the pronoun "one" as well, particularly since this essay is so personal. Again, much of this depends on the rhetorical situation and the needs of your argument.

I THINK: In academic writing, personal opinion is generally considered to be the weakest of arguments, the weakest of support. However, this does not mean that you cannot use first person or include personal anecdotes. Just keep in mind the rhetorical situation and your overall goal for the essay. Remember to try to locate /your/ authority in the writing, in the argument. Try to avoid statements that begin with "I think" or "I believe." For example: "I think that Hughes' poem is good" or "I believe that the answer to the problem is literacy." Instead, develop direct, clear, argumentative statements such as: "Hughe's poem is an excellent example of two worlds coming together" or "The answer to the problem of ignorance is literacy."

SENTENCE LENGTH: Mix up your sentence length. If you tend to write really long sentences, try a few short ones. If you tend to write really short sentences, try some compound sentences. Furthermore, vary how your sentences are constructed. Realize that your language does have a pace, a rhythm, as well as a voice. You want to modulate so it isn't too monotone and predictable.

ORGANIZATION: Watch organization of ideas. If you have difficulty mapping out where your ideas are going, outline before writing AND outline after. Generating an outline from your finished paper (write down what each paragraph's main argument and subarguments and evidence are) can show you if you jump from topic to topic without clear transition. A good rule is that each paragraph should contain one main idea or one piece of information. Each paragraph should have a clear topic statement or argument.

GENERALIZATIONS: Avoid unnecessarily or overly nonspecific philosophizing or esoterics. Avoid banal claims, broad generalizations, useless generalizations, cliched generalizations, circular logic, and tautologies. Statements like: "The problem of war has plagued mankind for thousands of years" or "Since the beginning of time..." or "The problem can only be solved when the world comes together in harmony, peace, and understanding" don't really say very much to the reader and sound trite. It's automatic writing. Don't do it.

CLICHES: Related to above, avoid cliche words like "unique" or "nice" or "interesting" when you are trying to be descriptive. Use better words, active words, compelling adjectives instead. But make them appropriate to whatever it is you are doing. In other words, don't become a thesaurus-aholic.

DICTIONARY CHEAT: Avoid using the dictionary as a go to for inspiration or definition; usually it's only a form of automatic writing (like banal claims). Generally, the dictionary offers very little in the way of illumination (unless you are using something like the Oxford English Dictionary for historical or etymogical purposes).

FRAGMENTS: Watch sentence fragments (e.g. "Which is what led them to change the law." is not a complete sentence or thought). Sometimes sentence fragments can be very useful, dramatic, and create emphasis. They must be used with care and artfully, not accidentally.

RUN-ONS: On the other hand, watch run on sentences.

COMMA SPLICES: Be careful of comma splices. For example, "John went to the store, he bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." To correct a comma splice, make each sentence separate or use a conjunction. Such as "John went to the store. He bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." Or "John went to the store, and he bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." Depending on whether you want two shorter sentences or a long sentence will determine which method you'll use.

QUOTES: Remember that all quotes and paraphrases need attribution and citation. Quotes should be introduced in some way. "A quote that just sits by itself in the middle of a paragraph (like this) is a dropped quote." Quotes need a speaker and that speaker must be introduced. Give us enough information about the speaker so we can identify their credibility. Dr. John Q. Public, professor of writing at Yale University, writes about the need for "strong attribution and citation" (32) for quotations in academic papers. Starting a quote's introduction with a word or two is not enough. Frame your quotes.

Also remember that quotes are not /your/ arguments. You need to establish a claim or subclaim first. Then use quotes and evidence and examples to support what /you/ are arguing. Instead, many people are just using quotes to stand in for their claims -- you just introduce the quote and the point to it and say "hey, look, this guy says it better than me." That's not strong argumentative writing. That's writing a summary of other people's ideas.

TITLES: Make sure that your titles are appropriate to /your/ project and not some broad abstraction or reference to something other than your critique. A good title is brief, expresses some key idea of your essay, and engaging to the reader.

LENGTH: Remember that paper length is an important consideration. Assignments must meet certain criteria. Your grade will be negatively affected if the paper is too short or too long. Part of the rationale behind length is to force you to consider how to focus or expand your argument, how to include or what to exclude in your writing, and to edit conscientiously. Your ability to control length demonstrates control over your argument, your ideas, and the organization and elocution of those ideas.

DETAIL: Be telling. Be specific. Be detailed. Too many papers began ideas and failed to follow through with enough relevant detail, enough support, enough exemplification. Also keep in mind that your audience, if it is a general one, does not necessarily know everything you know. When you mention specific places, towns, programs, items, you may need just a couple of words or phrases of set-up. If it is a particularly complicated or obscure reference, you might need more. Purposefully obscure or irrelevant references may ultimately detract from the paper.

SATISFY THE ASSIGNMENT: One issue (be it in class, in lab, or on the job) is making sure that you satisfy the task set before you. The assignment sheet and our discussion in class (and via the blog) are crucial to understanding what your paper should do, include, address. A very articulate and well-written essay that does not answer the assignment's questions is technically incomplete (at best) and a failure (at worst). Make sure that you refer to the assignment sheet during your writing and revision process.

Overall, I noticed general organizational, rhetorical, and mechanical errors that could have been corrected very easily if the paper had been read through once. There really is no excuse for not catching spelling mistakes or fragments or formatting errors. If I have to stop reading in your first sentence because there is a glaring error or problem, then you're already in the hole. Finally, read your papers out loud. Have someone read your papers to you. Let your ears catch things your eyes might not catch. Also, budget adequate time for you to work on your paper and then come back to it for revision.

August 19, 2006: Course Reader Available

The required course reader for our class is now available at the Ave Copy Center (4141 University Way NE). The Ave Copy Center is on University between 41st and 42nd, next door to the Gyrocery. Make sure the course reader is for our section (D) and has my name on it. You must have the course reader by the end of the first day of classes.

August 18, 2006: Course Mail "gis140d_au06@u"

I have created a course reflector list, an email address designated for our class. Periodic announcements will be made via this list (and mirrored here on the course website). Sending an email to gis140d_au06 @ will send your message to the whole class. Please treat the course reflector list with the same rules and respect as the class blog.

Speaking of the class blog, please go there and read the welcome post, respond to the welcome post with your own greeting and salutation, and read the required 'blogging etiquette' post as well. If you have any questions about the blog, direct them to email or the blog itself.

August 17, 2006: Welcome

Welcome to GIS 140: Writing, Reading, and Thinking Ready! I just wanted to extend a hearty welcome to the class! Hopefully, everyone is having a good summer so far. Here's to a productive, fun, and interesting early fall quarter (only four weeks to get everything done)!

Please make sure that you look over the course policies and the syllabus thoroughly.


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