Chapter 6 Composing Essays

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Chapter 6 Composing Essays

    Chapter 6 Composing Essays

    Focus 1 Criteria of a Good Composition

     What are the criteria of a good composition? We all know that it should have something interesting and/or important, and if possible, something new, to say and that this “something” is expressed clearly, accurately, and appropriately.

    We can see that before we write, we must decide on the purpose and audience of our writing and try to adapt the style and language to suit our purpose and audience.

Focus 2 Steps in Writing a Composition

    1 Planning a Composition

    When a topic is assigned, we should work out a plan and make sure that we have enough material.

    (1) Putting down all the relevant facts

    Actually, what the writer should have done at the very beginning was to think of as many relevant facts as she could, make such a list as the one above, and then try to find a proper theme.

    (2) Thinking of a proper theme and deciding on our purpose

    Having listed all the facts, we should think of a theme, that is, a controlling idea, and decide on our purpose. (3) Re-examining our list of details and outlining

    Now with our purpose in mind, we should look at the list again and cut out irrelevant, unnecessary, or unimportant details. Then we should rearrange the facts in a logical order and write and outline. While doing so, it may be necessary for us to add important details which will help us achieve our purpose.

    Sometimes, after the outline is written, we may find the topic we have first decided on does not express our central idea.

(1) Types of outline

    An outline like the above is called a sentence outline, for it is made up of sentences. We see that the controlling idea or thesis

    is subdivided into smaller parts. Roman and Arabic numerals or letters of the alphabet are generally used to number and order ideas:

    Sample outline

    Thesis: The war on drugs will do far more to control and eliminate illegal drug use in the USA than will the legalization of drugs.

    I. Epidemic proportions of drug problem in last decade have prompted efforts at all levels of society to address problem A. Three pronged effort of President's war on drugs - overview

    1. enforcement

    2. education

    3. treatment

    B. Legalization also proposed by many as solution - overview of sketchy implementation plan

    II. Arguments in favor of legalization

    A. Takes away criminal element

    1. citation of Amsterdam experiment - Goldblatt

    2. analogy to legalized prostitution in Europe, Nevada

    B. Government can control drug quality and quantity

    1. FDA supervision

    2. more personnel and support required

    C. More revenue to support prevention and education

    1. estimates of revenue by Scheffer study

    2. analogy to revenue from state liquor operations - Maine, Oklahoma

    III. Arguments against legalization

    A. Violates moral/ethical principles of country

    1. Taber's assessment of constitutional intention

    2. Heritage Foundation study

B. Makes drugs permanent fixture of society

    1. analogy to prostitution - Rosenburg study

    2. normalization lowers standards - Whitten's study

    C. Encourages greater drug use by wider spectrum of users

    1. Post Vietnam study of mid size American cities

    2. Impact on middle class and youth - Fallow's views

    . Subsidizes addiction with public money D

    1. Amsterdam argument - Goldblatt's rebuttal

    E. Does not address causes of addiction - inner city survey from 1996 IV. Three pronged war on drugs addresses supply, prevention, treatment A. Coordinated law enforcement efforts at local, state, federal levels

    1. Legislative intent - McMurphy Bill

    2. sample cases from PA, MA, DC, CA

    B. Education - treatment programs at state - local levels

    1. success of NA based programs

    2. statistics on welfare cost saving

    3. 1997 Florida based study

    C. Attention to factors encouraging drug dealing - addiction

    1. poverty and lack of education - Wilson data

    2. low self-esteem, lack of hope - AMA's new policy initiative

    3. lack of community involvement with youth - Center for Urban Studies position paper

    V. War on drugs clearly better than legalization

    A. War on drugs is long range solution

    B. War on drugs addresses underlying causes

    C. War on drugs consistent with country's values

    D. War on drugs will eventually end widespread drug use

    There is another kind of outline called the topic outline. A topic outline consists of nouns and their modifiers, or their

    equivalents, that is, gerund phrases or infinitive phrases.

     Before writing a paper, we may prepare either a topic outline or a sentence outline. A sentence outline, on the other hand,

    provides a more detailed plan of the paper. It may take us less time to write a topic outline, but we may spend more time

    developing it into a paper; while spending more time working out a sentence outline, we sometimes find the paper almost

    half done after the detailed plan is written. For a short paper, a topic outline is often good enough, but for a long paper, it is

    perhaps better if we prepare a sentence outline.

(2) Rules for writing outlines

    1. If there is a major point marked ”I”, there must be at least another marked “II”; if there is an “A”, there must be a “B”, and

    so on.

    2. A topic outline is written in noun phrases, and a sentence outline, in sentences. Sentences and phrases are not used together

    in the same outline.

    3. Parallel structures are used for the headings of the same rank. Subheads of like rank are of equal importance and are related

    to the heading and arranged in logical order.

    4. Thesis is a complete declarative sentence, usually in the affirmative. It is not a question, a phrase, or a dependent clause,

    but one sentence which expresses our controlling idea.

    To sum up, we should avoid single subdivisions; avoid mixing sentences and phrases in an outline; make sure that

    subheads of the same rank are of equal importance, are related to the headings I, II, and III, and are arranged in logical order;

    and always write the thesis in one complete sentence.

2. Writing the First Draft

     Now that the outline is ready, we can begin to write the composition. While writing our draft, we may have some new ideas and depart from our outline at one place or another. This often happens, and we need not worry too much. All we have to do is to revise our outline or work out a new one if we find our original outline entirely impractical.

     When writing our first draft, it is advisable to leave both a margin and enough space between lines for future improvement.

    3. Revising the First Draft

    This is an important step but it is often neglected. Furthermore, many people have the wrong idea that revision is simply

    a correction of mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics. It certainly is not.

    If possible, we should write our first draft at least a day or two before the deadline, for then we may be able to examine it more objectively. When revising our draft, we should start from the content, which is the soul of a paper. The following checklist may be helpful:

    (1) Content: Look at the paper/composition as a whole.

    A. What is the topic of the paper/composition? Does the draft fulfill the assignment?

    B. Is the thesis clear? Is it supported by enough facts?

    C. Is there irrelevant material that should be removed?

    D. Is the logic sound? Are there gaps in the logic?

    (2) Organization: Look at the arrangement of the material.

    A. Does the introductory paragraph lead to the main point of the paper?

    B. Does each paragraph have a separate central idea? Does it relate to the paper’s main idea or to the previous paragraph? Are there proper translations between sections? Are the paragraphs arranged in climactic order?

    C. Does the concluding paragraph give the reader a clear impression of what the paper intends to say? (3) Sentences:

    A. Is each sentence clearly related to the sentence before it and to the sentence after it?

    B. Are there unnecessary sentences that may be removed?

    C. Are there structural mistakes?

    D. Are there wordy and redundant sentences?

    E. Is there variety in sentence type?

    (4) Diction:

    A. Are there words that are not appropriate for the topic or the style of the whole paper?

    B. Are there words or phrases which are directly translated from Chinese but which may mean something different in English?

    C. Are there collections which may be correct because they are taken from Chinese?

    (5) Mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics.

     From the list we can see that content and organization are most important to a paper. We should always make sure that we have something significant to say and that we express our ideas in good order. It is difficult and time-consuming to improve a draft which fails in these two respects, not to say that often we have to write another draft. Therefore, we should learn to plan

    our paper first. In this way, we may discover and correct whatever is unsatisfactory before we write our first draft.

4. Making the Final Copy

    After we have carefully revised the draft, we are ready to make a clean final copy, following the rules of manuscript form. The last step in writing a paper is to check the final copy to correct careless mistakes in grammar and spelling before we hand

    it in.

Focus 3 Three Main Parts of a Composition

     Most compositions are made up of a beginning, a middle, and an end. We usually write one topic paragraph each for the beginning and the end, but for the middle, often more paragraphs are needed.

    1. The Beginning

    The beginning rouses the readers’ interest and draws their attention to the subject matter of the paper and/or provides

    necessary background information. Though it is usually short, it is often the most important part for us to write, because we have to decide from what point to start, and in which direction to go.

    There are a number of possible ways to begin a paper, and for different types of writing, some approaches are often better than others

    ; The function --- to introduce

    ; The purpose --- to propose one’s own argument

    “central idea” “topic sentence” “Thesis statement”

    A. 谚语法?用谚语提出自己的观点。

    ; As the saying goes, "Money makes the mare go", but there are many things we can't buy with money, such as time

    and true love.

    ; B. 定义法?通过对关键词做正面或反面的解释;限定其范围;以有利于引出主题。

    ; "Practice makes perfect" is an old saying. It tells us that it does not matter if we are clumsy at doing things. As long

    as we keep on trying and practicing, we will do a good job in the end.

    ; C. 提问法?通过提问;激发读者的兴趣;而引出主题。

    ; What is a good student? Different people may have different answers to this question.

    ; Do you have many friends? Are they similar to you or different from you? Which kind of friends do you prefer?

    D. 概括法?总结文章内容所涉及的现状;然后引出主题。

    ; In recent years, with the development of science and technology, the Internet has come into more and more homes

    and is playing a more and more important role in our work and daily life. It has become a must to us, but at the same

    time, Internet has also brought with it a lot of problems.

    E. 故事法?用简单有趣的故事激发读者的兴趣;从而提出自己的观点。

    F. 调查法?引出调查数据等;借以提出主题。 (如?图表示作文)

    G. 引语法?

    ; "Just as eating without liking harms the health, learning without interest harms the memory and can't be retained."

    From Vinci's words we can see how important it is to motivate the students in language learning.

    H. 假设法?通过假设提出一种选择;交代文章要涉及的问题;从而提出文章的主题。

    ; Suppose you were offered two jobs, one is highly-paid but rather demanding, the other is less demanding, but

    poorly-paid, which would you prefer? …

    I. 综合法?具体写作时;没有必要拘泥于一种方式;可以将上述方法总和起来。

2. The Middle

    The Middle presents clearly and logically the writer’s facts and ideas. As the middle should be a natural and logical follow-up

    of the beginning, for each of the beginnings, there should be a somewhat different body.

    The body of a paper often consists of several paragraphs arranged in some kind of order. The order depends on the nature of the subject, or the type of paper to be written. For a narrative paper, one possible method is to arrange the paragraphs chronologically; but for an expository paper, the paragraphs are often arranged according to the importance of the ideas they express so as to bring about a climax.

    3. The End

    The end winds up the paper often with an emphatic and forceful statement to influence the readers’ final impression and shows them the writer’s purpose.

    The end of a paper is important because it is often the part that makes the deepest impression on the reader. The concluding paragraph should be thought-provoking. It is made up mainly of restatements or summaries of the points discussed. We should not introduce new ideas in such a paragraph.

    Sometimes it is good to link the last paragraph with the first. If a question is asked in the introductory paragraph, an answer

    should be given in the including one.

Concluding Paragraph

    ; The function --- to conclude, to sum up

    ; The Purpose --- to reinforce the central idea, to suggest

    A. 重述或总结主题?在结论处以另外一种表达方式重申主题;与首段照应。

    ; Families offer us warmth and care. Friends give us strength and horizon. They both help us understand the world as

    it is. Both of them are the dearest parts in our life.

    B. 提出建议?

    ; Since postcards do us more harm than good, since we have many other ways to convey our feelings and promote our

    friendship, I hope everyone will take actions now to stop using postcards.

    C. 概括总结?

    ; As we can see from the above, living in the suburb, we can stay away from pollution, lead an easy leisure time, and

    needn't invest too much money, so I prefer living in the suburb to living in the city.

    D. 引用名人名言?

    ; In particular, I enjoy what Francis Bacon said “Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.”

    E. 综合法?与首段一样;结论段也可是多种方法的综合。一般总结加建议的比较多。


    Can Schoolchildren Start Using the Internet?

    1) 随着科技的发展;网络越来越普及,

    2) 网络有其优点但也有缺点,

    3) 我的观点

    Nowadays, using the Internet has become a fashion. Many parents begin to teach their children to use the Internet. However, there are diverse opinions on this. Some think it wise, but I don't agree with them.

    Today, the Internet is becoming more and more common. It begins to play a more and more important role in our society and life. It's so useful that most adults are learning how to use it. What about children? Of course they can start using it. With the development of science and technology, the Internet is now beginning to play a more and more important role in our life. More and more people are starting to use the Internet, including schoolchildren. However, I think schoolchildren are too young to start using the Internet.

    According to a recent survey, Internet users are becoming younger and younger, and Internet bars have become a resort for schoolchildren who log in to chat or play games. Faced with this phenomenon, many people argue for measures to prevent schoolchildren from using the Internet, and I think they have their reasons.

    As we all know, the next century will become one of the Internet. Internet will become more and more important in both our daily life and our work. So I suggest that schoolchildren should start using the Internet.

    So I think school children not only can start using the Internet, but also should start using it. They are sure to benefit a lot

    from the internet.

    Internet can help our children know the world, get useful information, and enrich their knowledge. So I think school children can start using the Internet.

    In a word (In conclusion/ In summary/ To sum up / In short), the Internet is playing a more and more important role in our life, and it is helpful for children's growth both physically and mentally. It is better for them to start using the Internet as early

    as possible.

Focus 4 Types of Writing


    1. What is narrationThe method of development in which the writer tells a story to support a point. Narrative writing tells a story. In essays the narrative writing could also be considered reflection or an exploration of the author's values told as a story.

    The author may remember his or her past, or a memorable person or event from that past, or even observe the present. 2Essential Features

    a. Context--the writer makes clear what happened, when, where, and to whom

    1.) There is a plot that involves escalating conflict between characters, between a person and her-/himself, or between

    people and nature or some other force.

    2.) The conflict sets up an imbalance, a tension that a reader wants resolved, and that finally is. 3.) The setting places the events in a definite time period and particular location

    4.) The events happen to a combination of round characters, the best of whom perform in ways that are unpredictable, yet

    ultimately consistent with their own individual personalities and motivations, and lesser personages. b. Point of view--the writer takes a consistent point of view in relation to the action, writing either as a participant (first

    person -- using "I") or as a spectator (third person -- using "he," "she," "it," "they").

    c. Selection of detail--the writer focuses only on the actions and details that further the story and promote the point, minimizing or eliminating others.

    1.) Expression of feelings

    2.) Dialogue--direct quotes of what the characters say to each other

    d. Organization--the writer organizes the events of the story in a chronological order using time transitions. e. Purposethere's a reason for telling the story. One way to find it is to complete the statement, "The moral of the story is..." 2. Why do writers use narration?

    a. To entertain b. To report c. To instruct

    Ultimate goal: to tell an entertaining story yet also bring readers to a clear understanding of a larger issue. How does one write essays with it?

    a. Determine an audience and purpose in telling the story--a broad instructive point it may make about human nature or the ways of the world. Who needs to have this information in order to have a more satisfying life?

    Determining the audience and purpose helps the writer select details and events.

    It also keeps him/her from wasting time developing a pointless essay.

    b. ContextEstablish the setting of the essay, the world in which the action takes place, in the first paragraph or two. Give the characters real names and include a capsule portrait of each--a one or two sentences or phrases that captures the personalities of the main ones.

    State where the events take place using place names that could be found in an atlas, and/or describing items such that Spielberg's set dresser wouldn't have much trouble knowing what to get or where to put them.

    Use time indicators: breakfast, afternoon tea, midnight, sunrise, almost noon, first, then, next. . . c. Keep a consistent point of view throughout the essay, writing either in the first or third person throughout. Eliminate any "you" or "your" that creeps into a sentence by revising it.

    d. Select details and events that serve a worthwhile purpose, but not so much that there is an excess of information that is ultimately boring.

    e. Organization: Give the information needed in the order that the reader needs it. Whether the story goes straight from the beginning to the end or uses a flashback or frame technique, keep the reader in mind. If words like "I forgot to mention earlier...," creep in to the text, write another draft in which the information appears where the reader needs it. An outline can


    f. For the most part, past tense is the most effective verb tense to use because it is the easiest for most readers to comprehend.

    Keep the verb tense consistent.

    g. Use time transitions as needed but not obtrusively.

An Example and Outline for Narration Writing

    If assigned a narrative essay, start like this: think about one of the most important lessons that a person can learn from life.

    Recall how you came to learn it, list the major events, and develop them to write the story of how it happened for you. Organize it using this outline.

    I. Introduction which

    Establishes the setting, characters, and time period

    Identifies the event and the lesson learned from it in the thesis sentence

    Uses a college level strategy

    II. Body

First major event

    Second part of the story

    Third part …

    Climax, the high point in the narrative

    Resolution in which the tension is resolved III. Conclusion

    To tell it with a flashback, include the current concern in the introduction, make the transition to the past, narrate the events in the body, return to the present in the conclusion, and explain the relationship of the past event to the present.

    P142 Exposition

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