This Week in College Writing

A colleague and I have been sharing with each other highlights from our college writing classrooms. Sharing these highlights is helpful and cooperative and a lot of fun. Sharing with him moved me to share in this forum as well, since so many of us who visit each other also write, edit, and teach writing. So here goes, a few highlights from this week in college writing:

*I used Risa Nye’s poignant short essay “Early Departure,” from Tiny Lights, to show how a personal narrative can parallel a societal or global one. My students pointed out that her piece is a great example of an implied thesis.

*I’ve observed just how often my students splice sentences together with commas (and without conjunctions), so I started my Wednesday classes with scare tactics. Maybe it’s because of the flu shot I got on Tuesday, but I informed my students that comma splices are a plague. I didn’t sense they were getting the urgency. To drive it home another way, I compared comma splices to bedazzled leather underwear. I said comma splices, like bedazzled leather underwear, are occasionally—only occasionally—an appropriate and justifiable style choice. I came, I saw, I wore bedazzled leather underwear. 

*We read the lawn-running excerpt from The Great Gatsby as a favorite example of descriptive writing. I revealed that sometimes I paste it at the top of my drafts; it reminds me just how good, how perfect, writing can be. “The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens — finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.”