Richard Brereton



Throughout the semester, I embarked on a journey to develop and advance my skills as a writer. Though there were many areas in which I wanted to improve, it would have been an impossible task to significantly advance in all of them. So, I mainly focused on the two areas that could use the most development in my writing: syntax and structure. At the beginning of the semester, my writing was choppy and disorganized; however, now I believe it has become easy-to-follow and smooth. I will explore these two topics in my portfolio, using my writing throughout the semester to further highlight these ideas.



Throughout the semester, one of the two key elements that has significant improved the quality of my writing is syntax. In the beginning of the semester, one of the weaknesses in my writing was choppy, fragmented, and basic syntax.

Artifact 1: 8-29-computer-writing-pdf

One of the examples that exposes this flaw is my writing is entitled “8.29 Computer Writing.” This piece was one of the first in-class writing exercises and was designed to give a tutorial-like walk-through about how to navigate Blackboard. Though this was a straightforward writing, there was definitely room for improvement regarding syntax. Phrases like “find the search bar,” “click on your English class,” and “you will find a link to a PDF” are very generic and dull. Though these phrases provide the reader with necessary information about the topic at hand, they could be better detailed and further explained. Again, this writing was based on giving instructions to access and navigate Blackboard, but even still, these expressions had a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, as the semester went on, my writing seemed to exhibit these upgrades by becoming a bit more descriptive, further engaging the reader, and ultimately enhancing my syntax.

Artifact 2: 9-12-proposal-draft-pdf

In the following few weeks, I continued to think about word choice and sentence structure. In class we worked on a proposal draft that outlined the beginnings of our proposal. Though far from being completed, this structured the start of my work that turned out to be the Proposal and Curated Exhibit. The syntax here was weak compared to my later works. These sentences could have been more descriptive and less choppy: “Goin’ a Buffalo is about young African Americans trying to live and make a living in society. The play reminds me of the “American Dream” phenomena. I also understand that in this play, the characters encounter jails, strip clubs, riots, and complications with jobs. Though temptations exist, these characters deal with the struggles of daily life.” Though it communicates important ideas, these sentences could be better connected and tied together. In terms of a summary, I convey basic but vital information that I need to know and understand for my project. However, there is still room for improvement as my sentences are still choppy, a bit repetitive, have extra wording that can be removed, and should flow more smoothly. I could improve the first sentence of the quotation like this: “Goin’ a Buffalo is about young African Americans trying to make a living in society, reminding me of the ‘American Dream’ phenomena.” This way, it takes out unnecessary wording and connects the two ideas, making it more fluid, easier to read, and easier to understand.

Artifact 3: curated-exhibit-pdf

Still considering the progression and development of syntax throughout my writing this semester, I next turn to my “Curated Exhibit.” This proposal piece comes before the actual exhibit and involves introducing all of the information I will use for the exhibit. Its syntax definitely demonstrates an improvement from the “8.29 Computer Writing” piece. Not only was this writing required to be much longer with more detail, but it was more carefully thought out and flowed more smoothly. One paragraph contains these two sentences: “Though this movement tries to empower black people and make them strive for success and prosperity, it fails to understand sexual politics” and “In a culture and time where racism already exists and where racism is what people are fighting against, further sexism and racism held by black men and women only hurts the movement”. Here, the ideas are complex, but at the same time, concrete and stated in a comprehensive way. Though these sentences are much more powerful, they are far from perfect. They contain broad and somewhat vague terms like “sexism” and “racism” and would benefit from being further specified and by being linked to specific examples. Though improvements still have to be made, it is clear that the “Curated Exhibit” writing’s syntax is much stronger than in the “8.29 Computer Writing”. Further progressing in the semester, the “Narrative Essay” (the featured artifact) exemplifies these refinements.



The second element that has significant improved the quality of my writing is structure. In the beginning of the semester, my paragraphs were not tied with strong transition sentences. In addition, poor idea development and misplaced analysis contributed to deficient structure.

Artifact 1: 9-2-paul-robeson-pdf

At the beginning of the semester, my writing on Paul Robeson gives a summary on who he was and what he accomplished. Though this was not a lengthy assignment and its purpose was to learn basic information about Robeson, my idea development and analysis could have been improved. The last three sentences of the second paragraph exemplify the lack of idea development and analysis: “Before Robeson, a white man played Othello in blackface. Without Robeson, James Earl Jones probably would not have had the opportunity. Today, black people, along with many other types of people, are successful actors, authors, athletes, and political figures.” It is clear that there are three broad ideas presented here that could each be greatly expanded upon. Instead of further analyzing important issues such as why “white men played Othello in blackface” or why “James Earl Jones probably would not have had the opportunity” to play Othello or why black people are now successful in society, the ideas are not expanded upon. In my opinion, I genuinely believe these are fascinating pieces of information, but they are abruptly cut off and not fully explained. My writing would have benefitted severely by further exploring these briefly introduced ideas. This piece exhibits minimal analysis and limited idea development, whereas my next piece does exhibit these two things but lacks transitions between paragraphs.

Artifact 2: 9-19-statement-of-purpose-pdf

The second piece that displays a slightly improved structure comes from the “9.19 Statement of Purpose.” This writing introduces the theme of my Curated Exhibit. At this stage in the exhibit project, I still had not quite decided on who my author would be or what my project would entail. However, despite being at the beginning stages of the assignment, the organization of my paragraphs certainly had room for development. One example in which the lack of transitions is exemplified is in the last sentence of the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph: “Though society may complicate life, these African Americans try to define their own sense of community and family, as they work together in an attempt to create an identity for themselves. / Ed Bullins also communicated the theme of creating an identity through his audiotape interviews.” Sure these two sentences represent different ideas and should be broken up into separate paragraphs, but what is missing is the transition between them. A transition makes reading the sentences much smoother and connects two ideas in a logical way. Though my writing contains solid concepts in the two paragraphs, a transition would strengthen it further. The third piece illustrates improvements in transitions between paragraphs, idea development, and analysis.

Artifact 3: diary-1-pdf

The third piece that exhibits my progression regarding structure is “Diary 1,” written fairly recently and late in the semester. After spending much of the semester striving to polish structure in my writing, I felt this piece exemplified all my efforts coming together. The assignment consisted of writing about the structure of a familiar social networking site and how that site could potentially help format the Portfolio site. I chose to write about Facebook, a site that I visit daily and one that is very user-friendly. Here, my idea development, analysis, and transitions contribute to my success. For example, “Over 1.49 billion people are on this social networking site. The reason so many people use this network is because it is extremely easy for all people to use, all ages, all over the world. You can access it so many different ways: on your phone or computer, in the office, or in the airport. As long you have access to a device with internet, Facebook is available. With technology today, it is seemingly impossible to be without internet for too long.” Here, I propose an idea and expand upon it, providing sufficient explanation and analysis that help get my point across. This example also showcases how the known-new chain builds off an initial idea and develops a train of thought. This writing also demonstrates the effectiveness of functional transitions at the end of the first paragraph and the beginning of the second paragraph: “So, instead of logging into Facebook to check my news feed, then going to to check the news, and then to check baseball scores, I can stay on Facebook and get all of this information there. / Facebook organizes its content in such a user-friendly way.” Without repeating an idea, I transition from talking about how Facebook’s multiple features allow me to remain on one site to describing how it is user-friendly. These two ideas connect well without being too similar, presenting a new idea to the reader that follows along the logical progression from the end of the first paragraph. This third example shows an obvious improvement from the first two examples relating to structure, as it reveals growth in idea development and analysis as well as in transitions between paragraphs.



Featured Artifact: narrative-essay-pdf

One of the things that was most helpful about this class was the constant writing, revision, editing, and reflecting on your own writing. The “Narrative Essay” is the piece in which my syntax and structure show the most growth and became the strongest. For example, in the Narrative Essay, the first three lines of the essay clearly demonstrate the syntax improvement: “Beginning my journey as I enter the exhibit, the title exudes sentiments of resilience and hope. ‘The American Dream’ is one of the most patriotic and powerful ideas that helped shape the country we live in and immediately, I am intrigued. Not only does the subject matter lure me in, but I am captured by the physical layout of the title itself”. Here, even more so than the Curated Exhibit, the phrases are more smooth, sophisticated, and better exhibit the known-new chain. The “Narrative Essay” paragraph about the CD interviews with Sandra Loll illustrates vast improvements regarding structure. This one paragraph demonstrates the ability to introduce, explain, and analyze an idea. I clearly describe the physical appearance of the interviews and the excerpts below them. Then, I analyze the significance of the interviews and how they highlight the struggles blacks faced to reach the American Dream. This Narrative Essay successfully demonstrates how syntax and structure reach their peak after being worked on for the entirety of the course.

Overall, my writing has become more thoughtful and creative. I have worked on thinking outside of the box, making connections, and developing ideas in a more productive and effective way than I have done in the past. I am very pleased about the progress I not only have made as a writer, but as a thinker. I am now more aware of my mistakes and am able to spot them more easily than I was at the beginning of the semester. Through reflective writing about my own work, the weaknesses in my writing become much clearer and I am now equipped to fix them.


Reflection Letter