Xingzhou Liu (Alex)


“Practice makes perfect.” This old adage is used by people of all professions, from magicians to professional athletes. Though I have long doubted the truthfulness of this versatile phrase, I have finally begun to experience what this quote purports. This year, throughout the course, I have changed my writing immensely. Through the various lessons, revisions, and daily writings, my writing skills have matured; I have improved on many aspects of my writing such as flow and syntax. As this portfolio demonstrates, there is a vast difference between my writing from the beginning and end of the semester.

Flow (Known-New Contract, Idea Development, Transitions)

During this semester, I have greatly improved the flow of my ideas in essays. Before the receiving the lessons in English 101, I had many disjointed ideas in my essays. However, now my essays usually contain ideas that all tie into one overarching theme. Instead of abruptly changing and seeming unrelated, my ideas now all flow together into the thesis. Through the known-new lesson and the various writing workshops throughout the class, I have improved the flow of my ideas.

I can say that I definitely agree with Mr. Wilson’s belief that African American culture needs to be recognized, and is a separate entity from white or European culture. In his speech, Mr. Wilson talked about the importance of race and how it helps shape people’s identities or how they view themselves.

from my august-wilson-response-speech in-class writing

In one of my first in-class writing assignments, a response to August Wilson’s speech, I wrote about how I agreed with many of the many points that Wilson made in his speech, “The Ground on Which I Stand”. In the response, I often had many sentences that expressed seemingly unrelated ideas. In the selection from my assignment above, you can see that I went from talking about August Wilson’s desire for African American culture to be distinguished from white culture to discussing what Wilson talked about in his speech. As I learned more writing techniques to improve the flow of my ideas, I began to write in a more “connected” way. My ideas would build on each other instead of seeming like they were just coming off the top of my head.

I care about justice and sustainability. The advertisements in the play, I feel, are a good way for Ed Bullins or whomever is profiting from the play to make some extra money without really hurting consumers too much. I also appreciate that the play was printed on thin paper, although that might have been a way to save money on paper, since it does its job of saving paper and reducing impact on the environment.

from my proposal-introduction-first-draft

In this excerpt from the first draft of my Exhibit Proposal Introduction, I attempted to have my ideas connect with each other. However, I still fell a bit short of having a completely seamless chain of ideas. After my second sentence discusses the effect of advertising in the play, my third sentence abruptly changes the topic to saving paper and reducing environmental impact. Furthermore, I could have better organized the paragraph. Since I introduced the topics “justice” and “sustainability” in that order, I should have also talked about them in the same order instead of jumping to sustainability first and moving back to justice. Later on in the semester, I learned about various forms of the “know-new” idea development method. I realized how disjointed my ideas seemed in my pieces of writing and sought to actively incorporate the development method in my writing.

The 1960’s was a period of great turmoil for the United States of America. It was a time during which the Cold War was escalating, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and it was also a time during which the Civil Rights movement took place. At the time, blacks in the United States were heavily discriminated against in all forms. However, many fought back against injustice (Watson iii).

from the Statement of Purpose of my final-draft-proposal

In the selection from the Statement of Purpose of my Exhibit Proposal, I tried to incorporate what I learned from the Known-New Contract. The ideas in my sentences seem to flow a lot better because they all connect to the previous idea. In addition to better-flowing sentences, the PDF file of the final draft of my proposal also shows that my paragraphs flow together. The paragraphs join together to better communicate my intended message.

Syntax (Grammar, Word Choice, Conciseness)

Besides improving my idea flow in my pieces of writing, I have also begun to improve my word choice and word placement, as well as the overall grammatical correctness and conciseness of my sentences. In my earlier pieces, my often overlooked many simple grammar mistakes and created very wordy sentences.

His purported allegiance to socialistic views have long painted him as someone famous yet somehow un-patriotic. However many do not realize that he was focused mostly on the racial equality he felt while in the USSR. The Soviet Union had a clause in it’s constitution barring racial discrimination.

from my paul-robeson-connections in-class writing

One of my earlier in-class writing responses, a task on finding connections between Paul Robeson and his political beliefs, is another good marker of the progress that I’ve made through the semester. The sentences in this piece contain many grammatical errors and are less-than-concise. The first sentence ends with ” … someone famous yet somehow un-patriotic.” This sentence sounds awkward and has poor wording. The word, “somehow,” does not contribute much to the sentence and could be removed, and the word, “yet,” could be replaced, since being famous and being patriotic are not mutually exclusive. In addition to the problems with word choice and wordiness, the piece also contains several basic grammar errors. The second sentence lacks a comma after the word, “However” and the, “it’s” in the third sentence doesn’t need an apostrophe since, in this context, it indicates possession. Further on in the semester, I began to take greater notice of these errors. However, my pieces still had room for improvement.

Reparative justice is a form of justice where the victims of discrimination reciprocate the injustice that they receive to their perpetrators. Throughout the history of the U.S., discrimination and prejudice against blacks has been a pressing issue.

from my exhibit-introduction

In this excerpt from my exhibit introduction, which I worked on during the middle of the semester, you can see visible improvement of my grammar and word choice. However, I was still prone to writing very unnecessarily wordy sentences. The first sentence in the excerpt doesn’t need the phrase, “is a form of justice” since, “reparative justice” already indicates this. Additionally, the phrase, “to their perpetrators” is redundant since I already stated that the victims, “reciprocate the injustice”. After we spent several classes on fixing the common sentence syntax issues, I realized just how wordy some of my sentences were and sought to use more concise language.

Collaboration is a crucial part of the writing process, from receiving others’ suggestions, to thinking of the audience that one is targeting. In English 101, we often collaborate in the form of peer review sessions to get a different perspective on our writings and to bounce ideas off each other.

from my third-reflection-diary

In my most recent piece, my third reflection diary entry, I caught many of the errors that I had made in my previous pieces. After our in-class peer edits to improve sentence structure and idea development, I began to see the errors I was prone to making more clearly. In my first sentence, I had originally used, “very important,” but replaced it with, “crucial”. Additionally, I scrutinized my grammar to make sure I didn’t make any errors. I replaced my initial, “other’s” in the first sentence with, “others'” to ensure that the apostrophe indicated possession for the plural form of the word.

The improvements I have made in flow and syntax are especially visible in my third reflection diary. In the entry, I made sure to practice what I had learned from the Known-New Contract lesson, to have connected ideas build off of each other. In addition to having well-organized, connecting ideas, I also tried to write concise sentences and remove any words that I felt were unnecessary. While revising the piece, I made sure to fix the grammar errors that I spotted, and re-read the entire piece while keeping the reflection prompt in mind to determine if my entry properly fit into the context.

Flow and syntax are two extremely important tools that allow the writer to effectively and clearly communicate ideas to the reader. Pieces of writing with good flow allow readers to make connections from the ideas presented, and good syntax in writing  Over this semester, I improved not only my idea development and transitions, but also my grammar and wording. Through the many in-class writing exercises, idea development and organization lessons, and peer-review sessions, I have gained much experience and knowledge. I used to believe that writing was a solitary, one-time event, but my views have completely changed after taking this class.