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English Composition 1

Exercise: Strengthening Style

This exercise should help you experiment with ways to strengthen your writing style. This is a separate assignment from your final revisions, but if this exercise helps you make changes to your writing that you like, you could apply those changes to your final revisions.

You need to make improvements to one of your essays using the specific methods listed below. Do not make the same type of change to more than one sentence; instead, use different methods to make improvements to the sentences.

Each change to a sentence will be worth up to 10 points: you will receive all 10 points for a change if you make the change correctly (following the instructions below) and if the change results in a good sentence without any errors. No points will be given for a revised sentence if the change results in a sentence-boundary error (a comma splice, a sentence fragment, or a run-on sentence) or other serious error.

Extra credit: Each change to your sentences is worth up to 10 points, and there are 16 possible changes that you can make. You can earn extra credit for this exercise by making more than ten changes (but each change must use a different method described below.) The points you earn over 100 percent will be recorded as extra credit. In addition, the grade on this assignment will be recorded twice, meaning that, if you earn a perfect score on this assignment, you will have two new grades of 100 percent recorded along with 120 percentage points of extra credit (added to the "Miscellaneous" category of assignments). Wow.

Instructions

  1. First, make a copy of one of your essays.

  2. Second, find a sentence you could improve using one of the methods below. (You can rewrite two or more sentences into one revised sentence, or you can add words or even complete sentences so that you can make the changes indicated below.)

  3. Third, copy the sentence you plan to change and paste it directly after the original sentence in your essay.

  4. Put the copy of the sentence in bold fonts and revise the sentence using one of the methods explained below. Leave the original sentence in the paper and revise the new version immediately after the original version. I need to be able to see both the original version and your revised version.

  5. At the beginning of the revised sentence, write the number that corresponds with the method listed below that you used to make the change.

  6. Repeat this process until you have made as many changes to your essay as you can,  using a different method presented below for each sentence that you change. 

  7. If you have a sentence that already fits one of the descriptions below, just put that sentence into bold fonts and include the number that corresponds with the method listed below. You may also add sentences to your paper to complete this assignment.

Remember to

Each change should be made within your essay and should follow the format below: 

Original sentence without any changes. (10) Revised sentence using number 10 below as the revision method.

Methods for Strengthening Sentences

  1. Delete at least three unnecessary words from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.

  2. Find a sentence that includes an unnecessary adverb or adjective (including "very," "really," and "extremely") and rewrite the sentence without the adverb or adjective.

  3. Find a sentence in which you can place one of the following transitional words and phrases and add the word or phrase to the sentence: at the same time, in addition, furthermore, therefore, consequently, in other words, likewise, nevertheless, however. (Be careful not to create a sentence-boundary error as you make the change.)

  4. Find a sentence in which you use a form of the "to be" verb ("is," "are," "was," etc.) and rewrite the sentence to eliminate the "to be" verb or to replace it with a more effective verb.

  5. At a good place in your paper, add a short sentence of no more than six words to convey or summarize an especially important point.

  6. Combine two sentences in your draft into one sentence that begins with a dependent clause and ends with an independent clause. The first part of the sentence (the dependent clause) should begin with a word such as "although," "because," "while," or "when," followed by a comma and the independent clause. For example, the sentences "I did not have my essay ready for class. My dog ate my computer disk" could be rewritten as "Because my dog ate my computer disk, I did not have my essay ready for class."

  7. Find a sentence in which you use a quotation and rewrite the sentence using the pattern below, explaining the significance of the quoted words after "suggesting that." If you do not have a quotation in your paper, instead present a description of something, followed by "suggesting that" and an explanation of the significance.

    "Quotation," (character or person) says, suggesting that _______________________.
  8. or
    Description of something, suggesting that _________________________________.

  9. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence that uses a two-word descriptive phrase at the beginning, as in the following example: "Slightly embarrassed, I tried to pull away but her grip held me" (Gary Soto).

    (Two word descriptive phrase), ___________________________________.

  10. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "He could feel his horse under him; he could feel the sun on his face and the stirring of a little wind at his hair" (adapted from N. Scott Momaday).

    (subject) (verb) ____________________; (same subject and same verb) _________________________.

  11. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "Unlike novelists and playwrights, who lurk behind the scenes while distracting our attention with the puppet show of imaginary characters, unlike scholars and journalists, who quote the opinions of others and shelter behind the hedges of neutrality, the essayist has nowhere to hide" (Scott Russell Sanders).

    Unlike ____________________, who ___________________, unlike __________________, who ___________________________, _________________________________.

  12. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "The more severely their freedom to act was reduced, the more they became unable to contemplate independent action" (adapted from Bruno Bettleheim).

    The more _______________________ , the more_____________________________.

  13. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "This is his legacy: nothing is ever escaped" (James Baldwin).

    This is (or was) _________________ : _____________________. (two independent clauses, with the second elaborating on or clarifying the first)

  14. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them true power" (Gloria Naylor).

    _________ is (or are) ________; it is _____________ that _______________.

  15. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "When he did, bringing his new friend with him, there was a different look in his eye" (Alice Walker).

    When _________________, _________-ing ___________________________, there is (or was) ______________________________________________.

  16. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence using the pattern of the following: "Madge was subdued that night, perhaps realizing that this outing, which must have cost her a great deal of money, had fallen flat" (Jean Ervin).

    ______________________ is (or was) ________________, perhaps ___________ing that ____________________________, which _________________________, (verb and completed thought for the sentence).

  17. Rewrite one or more of the sentences into one sentence that uses the following pattern: "There is a black thumbprint on her forehead, as if someone had inked in bangs, as if someone had marked her" (adapted from Maxine Hong Kingston).

    There is (or are) ___________________ , as if ____________________, as if _________________________.

Copyright Randy Rambo, 2013.