Good Writing File


A “Good Writing File” is a compilation of sentences that you consider to be examples of effective writing. You will find these sentences in your day to day reading. Look around you; the world is full of effective writing. You can find this writing in textbooks, novels, newspapers, magazines--anywhere writers are engaged in the act of expressing ideas clearly and effectively.

One set of files contains three entries, so you will collect and analyze three effective sentences per week. Subsequent files will be due every Wednesday. Each week I will read and respond briefly to your entries. The writing files are a weekly writing assignment and as such they well make up a significant portion of your daily grades.

The Good Writing File is designed to give your practice in two areas that are crucial in developing and improving your own writing style. First, the file will proved practice in being a critical reader, a reader who reacts to a writer’s style as well as to a writer’s content. This skill will help you to develop your own writing style.

Writing is the art of producing desired effects on the reader. Good writers know not only what effect they want to produce but also how that effect can be achieved. Good readers understand not only what effect was produced but also how it was produced. As you become more skillful as a reader, you will become more skillful as a writer.

Second, the Good Writing File will give you practice in analyzing and explaining prose. If you can break a piece of writing down into its disparate parts, analyze how it works, and explain how it works to a reader, you demonstrate true understanding of that piece of writing--exactly as you will be required to do on the AP exam.

One final benefit of the Good Writing File is that writing is an imitative act. The sentences that you select and analyze--sentences that you have identified as being effective in some way or ways--give you lots of models to imitate!


1. Please type your entries.
2. Include MLA documentation so that a reader might easily locate the original source.
3. Keep all entries in the proper section of your notebook.
4. Date each entry.
5. Each entry DOES NOT need to be on a separate sheet of paper.
6. Underneath the entry (the quoted passage), give your explanation as to why you feel it is
effective, focusing on style rather than content. Your explanation should be as full and as
complete as possible, grammatically correct, and stylistically elegant. Explain what effect
the writer is after and how the writer achieves that effect. Be as specific as possible.
7. Look up any unfamiliar words in the passage before your discussion to make sure they
mean what you think they mean. You never know what you might discover. Explain your
assertions by discussing exactly which words you like and why you like them. Don’t just
say, “I like the word choice.” What effects do these words produce? What makes these
words more successful that other words that might have essentially the same meaning?


“They make us, in whatever darkness, smile.”
Gill, Brendan. Here at the New Yorker. New York: Random House, 1975: 199.

This is the last sentence in a long chapter about a cartoonist whom Gill admires. He wants to stress the warm humor in the cartoons. Gill admires this warm humor most of all. The cartoons do not make readers guffaw; they make readers smile and he wants to emphasize that word. The writer achieves this by moving the parenthetical expression into the middle of the sentence, which puts the greatest stress on the word ‘smile.” Emphasizing the last word shows how the cartoons effect Gill. If you read the sentence in the other ways he could have worded it, you’ll sense the difference in meaning; embedding the parenthetical thought subordinates the darkness while keeping the reader mindful of it. And placing the word “smile” next to “darkness” accentuates its importance.

Grading Rubric

2 pt. -- You have a worthy sentence.
2 pt. -- You have an MLA bibliographic entry for that sentence.
2 pt. -- You have copied the sentence and the bibliographic information accurately.
2 pt. -- You have explained why the sentence is effective.
2 pt. -- You have been effective in your explanation. (See items 6 and 7 above.)
2 pt. -- You have correct mechanics, usage, etc., in your writing.

Total per entry = 12 pts.
12 pts. X 3 entries per week = 36 pts.
Add 4 pts. for having the work completed on time = 40 pts. (daily grade) each week.
“On time” means a hard copy to turn in at the beginning of the block each Wednesday.