English Composition 2
Diagnostic Paragraph: Frost's "Mending Wall"
End of the class period, Friday, January 13
The Diagnostic Paragraph: Purpose and Expectations
The diagnostic paragraph allows me to offer you some feedback on your writing at the beginning of the course. The paragraph will not receive a grade and does not count toward your final course grade, but I will collect and evaluate your paragraph just as I will evaluate the essays you submit for the course, giving you suggestions that you can apply to your essays.
Because you do not have a lot of time to work on this paragraph, I don't expect any literary masterpieces, but I will be looking for the basics:
- a clear topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph that identifies the subject and presents the main claim to be argued in the rest of the paragraph,
- a paragraph well focused on proving just one main point,
- ideas developed and supported with plenty of specific details,
- a clear presentation of your ideas,
- sentences free or almost free from errors,
- quotations logically and grammatically integrated into your own sentences, and
- at least 250 words.
Don't worry if these expectations sound intimidating; just do the best job you can in the short time you have to write the paragraph. Throughout the semester, we will discuss a lot of information about strengthening your writing.
In Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" (pages 593-594 or web page), the speaker shares his thoughts concerning a wall that stands between his property and his neighbor's property.
In one paragraph, argue that the speaker of Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"
- prefers that the wall remain between his property and his neighbor's property, or
- prefers that a wall not remain between his property and his neighbor's property, or
- seems unsure of how he feels about the wall between his property and his neighbor's property.
You can assume that your audience has already read "Mending Wall" but has not analyzed or studied it, so you should not just summarize the poem. Instead, focus on arguing one of the interpretations above with specific evidence from the poem.
Organizing and Developing Your Paragraph
You should begin the paragraph with a topic sentence that identifies your subject (Robert Frost's "Mending Wall") and that clearly states the main claim that you are going to argue in the paragraph. In the rest of the paragraph, you should stay focused on supporting and developing the claim presented in the topic sentence. Make sure to use specific evidence from the poem, including quotations, to support and develop your interpretation.
Success in the course depends much on how well you are able to understand information presented in class and how well you apply this information to your writing. To help give me a sense of how well everyone is understanding and applying the information presented thus far, I will give special attention to the following aspects of your paragraph explained below:
- The diagnostic essay should be written in a formal writing voice. Among other things, this means that you should avoid first-person references (the use of "I," "me," "my," etc.), so you should not use phrases such as "I think that," "I believe that," or "in my opinion." Readers will know that the ideas you present in your essay are your own because you are the writer of the essay, so, as you write and revise your essay, you should delete any first-person references.
- As you will see when we get to the section of the textbook on poetry, when you refer to the person who is speaking the words of a poem, you should refer to "the speaker," not to the poet. Robert Frost created the speaker to speak the lines of "Mending Wall," and it's usually a mistake to assume that the speaker and the poet are the same person.
- You will need to use quotations from the poem to help you support and develop your ideas, and every quotation should be integrated into one of your own sentences. In other words, you should make every quotation a part of one of your own sentences and should not have any quotation standing all by itself in your paper. You could simply put the speaker says (followed by a comma) before some quotations to make the quotations a part of your own sentences. There are other ways to integrate quotations into your own sentences that we will discuss in class.
- All quotations should be copied accurately, and you should avoid the use of long quotations. Instead, use short, well-integrated quotations. When you use quoted words, cite the line number or numbers for the quotation at the end of the sentence, "like this" (23). Note the placement of the period and the space between the last quotation mark and the first parenthesis. Also, remember what we discuss in class about using a slash (/) to indicate a line break in quotations of poetry.
The diagnostic paragraph gives me a sense of how well you understand the basics of Standard English usage, so make sure to proofread carefully to avoid and eliminate errors.
Preparing Your Paragraph
You should prepare your paragraph in Word and save your file to a thumb drive or to your network drive. As you are writing your paragraph, click "save" frequently.
Your paragraph should be double spaced. The following information should appear, double spaced, in the upper left of the first page of your paper:
13 January 2012
You do not need to give a title to your paragraph. When you are finished, print your paragraph and turn it in.