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Quill PenTips for Writers by Brad Hyde

May 10, 2004

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Examples of Student Writing with Teacher Comments from Literature and Composition 4 Students

The students, along with their teacher, helped to revise student work. Comments and suggestions are given in italics below.


     This Wednesday evening was a little bit boring as always. (We played with the ending of the sentence, changing it from “to be” to “has been” and then decided to drop the second verb entirely. The sentence, however, is a strong beginning because it makes us a little bit curious.) In the McGill Branch of the public library (we added the detail "public library" since not everyone lives in Burnaby), a young lady in black, sat by the window, staring at the crowd in the playground outside. The summer sky in Vancouver was just like a sweet lady who always knows what a man expects, blue and clear. (We joined two sentences together, took out the adverb “winningly” and let the metaphor of the “sweet lady” help us to understand Rosemary’s meaning. A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things to show they are alike.) She shows her charming smile; we enjoy the wonderful sunshine. (The semicolon is used to join full clauses [sentences] that have a strong relationship in meaning.) No matter how nice the sky seemed to be, it was none of my business! The lady didn’t know why she thought like this.

Stories are most often told in the past tense.

In all writing, you wish to have a variety of technique, sentence styles, words used and so on. Having the ability to use all kinds of punctuation gives you more options to be interesting.

Happy Time

     My childhood is filled with memories of playing soccer. In Ghana the first game a kid will think of is soccer. Every community in our city had a team. The only game I know how to play well is soccer. I played on the school team during my Elementary and high school years.

For a short piece of writing, the background information should be also short. In this piece, we may be interested in the details BUT we are more interested in your personal anecdote. Avoid doing too much “scene-setting” as you might lose the readers here.

     It was a very hot and sunny day, and I was watching from the bench. (We joined the two previous sentences together using “and” as two details that are giving us the setting and your situation.) The first fifteen minutes was tough. (Here, the short sentence is effective to make a direct statement. Use short sentences to “wake up” your reader occasionally.) The Nigerian team was playing a far better game than us. (Strictly speaking, we should change “us” to “we”; however, to suit Joejo’s tone, it is better to leave it as it is. Otherwise, we could sound overly formal in our sentence.) After twenty minutes, our midfielder got injured. The coach called me: “Joe get up and warm up.” As soon as I heard that, my heart started pounding and I was scared to death. (Here Joejo both shows us “heart pounding” and tells us “scared to death.” In this case, we feel it is necessary to explain the reason for the heart pounding and so both are needed. However, be careful not to tell when your showing is enough.)

Killing a Chicken

     My husband and I are too kind to kill any creatures. Many years ago, our company distributed two live chickens to each employee as a bonus. We got four live, white-feathered and red-headed chickens. We had to kill them, or send them to our neighbours. (We combined the two previous sentences and dropped the phrase “By the time” as it was incorrectly used.) First, we were going to try killing them.

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