EPW 210 - Intermediate Composition  


Dr. Kristi Siegel  

Associate Professor, English

Heather Krisman, Intern

Mount Mary College

Fall 2003

NDH 249

Th: 1:00 – 3:50 pm

Office hours: 4:00 – 5:00 Thursdays and by appointment

Office: Fidelis 223, (414) 258-4810, ext. 461

Home: phone no. listed on syllabus

e-mail: siegelkr@mtmary.edu

website: www.kristisiegel.com/inter_comp2003





Required Text:  

  • Dietsch, Betty Mattix. Reasoning & Writing Well

Recommended Materials:  

  • Comprehensive, up to date dictionary, e.g., Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.

  • Grammar handbook, style manual (AP or Chicago), thesaurus

  • Writing journal (for your own purpose; will not be collected)

  • Folder or 3-ring binder for handouts

Course Description


Description:  Intermediate Composition is designed for those who have some idea how to write, but want to learn how to write. Knowing how to write well—versus merely writing competently—gives you immense power and influence. A famous expression (paraphrased) stated that to gain control of a country you should first kill the poets. The point is, of course, if you can write well your options are limited only by your imagination.  
Although innate talent always helps, writing is a skill. As in any other acquired skill, writers learn to write by developing their skills chunk by chunk, a Lego block at a time. We will do the same. A good portion of our class time will be devoted to analyzing prose and doing workshops on various elements of writing: e.g., using effective style, developing a writing voice, creating effective sentences, learning how to pace material, incorporating secondary material optimally, and so forth.
  • The best way to approach writing is to remember this thought: Writing should be written by the living for the living.    

Course Objectives:


  • to develop or improve your writing “voice”

  • to develop or enhance your writing “style”

  • to break down writing into manageable skills that may be practiced

  • to learn new narrative strategies (comparison/contrast, description, definition, classification, etc.);

  • to learn how to effectively edit and revise your writing;

  • to review the basic mechanics of good writing;

  • to become confident as a professional writer, i.e., write to be published; don’t write for the expectations you presume your English teacher might have.  


There will be several shorter skill-based exercises assigned throughout the semester, and I consider these practice exercises as important as many of the final papers you’ll produce. You’ll also be presenting one short (and fairly informal) oral report, as this form of communication is as important as your written skills. Topics will be announced. There will be thee major papers assigned. Each of these papers will be revised at least once. Ultimately, I would like you all to be developing the skill and confidence to know when a paper is good.

  • Paper no. 1............Personal Essay

  • Paper no. 2............Personal Essay (Revised)

  • Paper no. 3........... Analysis/Persuasion/Critique of 
                                 Media or Advertising

  • Paper no. 4........... Persuasive Essay (Revised)

  • Paper no. 5........... Researched Essay on a work of literature

  • Paper no. 6........... Literary Analysis (Revised)  

Group Work

Throughout the semester, you will be working in a writing group. Ideally, your writing group will let you know when your writing is communicating. Your job as a writing group commenter is to tell the reader when her writing is clear and when it is lapsing into “Engfish.” Your group will be valuable to your writing only to the degree that each group member is honest, sensitive, and attentive. For your writing group to be effective, you are also required to be present and have your work ready to be critiqued.  

Grading and Evaluation: 

All papers, with the exception of in-class impromptu or exercises, must be typed. Late papers will not be accepted without prior arrangements and may be subject to a lower grade.

Assessment Rubric for Essays


95-100: A – Excellent writing: minimal number of minor errors in grammar or style, with a standard use of language and punctuation; sentence structure is logical and rhetorically effective with superior use of transitions between sentences and paragraphs; paragraphs are unified, developed, and effectively placed within the paper’s context. The essay surpasses the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, a substantial use of references for the level of research required in class will be present.

91-94: AB; 87-89: B – Above average writing: competent writing with some errors in grammar or style that affect comprehension; sentence structure is logical and rhetorically effective with some transitions between sentences and paragraphs; paragraphs are generally unified and developed but may lack the maturity found in an “A” quality essay. The essay exceeds the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, an above average use of references for the level of research required in class will be present.

83-86: BC; 79-82: C – Average writing: acceptable writing with assorted errors, some serious, in grammar or style that affect comprehension; sentence structure is adequate but lacking in thematic focus and specificity; paragraphs have some problems with focus, unity, and development with minimal or no presence of transitions. There are some problems in mechanics of punctuation, spelling, and grammar that hamper effective communication. The essay fulfills the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there will be an adequate use and number of references for the level of research required in class. 

75-78: CD; 70-74: D – Below average writing: generally inadequate writing that displays several severe errors that dramatically affect comprehension; sentence structure is often substandard with underdeveloped or undeveloped focus; paragraphs lack transitions and logical placement within the essay. There are a significant number of mechanical problems of punctuation, spelling, and grammar that undermine the effectiveness of the essay. The essay inadequately fulfills the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there is an inadequate number of references for the level of research required in class.

below 70: F – Unacceptable writing; there are several major errors that reflect inadequate writing for comprehension; sentence structure is generally substandard with no focus or thesis concern; paragraphs lack transitions, development, and all logical placement within the essay. The mechanical numbers are excessive for college-level writing and reflect a failure to grasp English fundamentals. The essay fails to fulfill the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there is an insufficient number of references for the level of research required in class.

*Source: Dr. Ray Wheeler, Dickinson State U, North Dakota. www2.dsu.nodak.edu/users/rwheeler/English120.htm



Workshops, short assignments, and participation


Grades on Initial Papers 15%
Grades on Revised Papers 30%
Grade on Oral Presentation 5%  
Midterm essay 10%
Final Portfolio (details explained later) 15%





Week 1 

Sep 4

  • Introduction to course; introduction to each other. Background information.

  • Read and discuss “Engfish Handout”

  • Vocabulary assessment.

  • Online grammar assessment.

  • Learning Record Essay

  • Discussion of writing:  How do you write?  What do writers do? What pre-writing techniques do you use? How do you handle writer’s block? 

  • Sending and receiving e-mail attachments.

  • Assignment:

  • Personal Essay (Paper no. 1) – complete typed rough draft for next class.

  • Read Chapters 1 & 10, “Graduation” by Maya Angelou, pp. 483–490.  

Week 2 

Sep 11

  • Discussion of Learning Record philosophy and impromptu essays.

  • Discussion of reading (Chapters 1 & 10) and Angelou’s personal essay.

  • Discussion on writing groups.

  • Writing Groups on Personal Essay

  • Workshop on description.

  • “Glossing” for coherency.

  • Assignment:

  • Read web links: “Sample Narrative,” “Pre-Writing Techniques,” “Pacing,” and “Effective Dialogue”

  • Read “Texas, 1961” by Mary Karr, pp. 520–523  

Week 3 

Sep 18


  • Collect Paper no. 1 (Personal Essay) – task analysis.

  • Discussion of web link readings and Karr personal essay.

  • Group evaluations on essays.

  • Mini-Conferences and in-class writing.

  • Word root presentation (mine).


  • Complete Personal essay – due next class.

  • Read Chapters 3 & 4

  • Assign “word root” oral presentations (in groups).

  • Bring in advertisement for next class

Week 4 

Sep 25

  • Personal Essay returned – revision due October 2

  • Word root presentation

  • Analysis/Cultural Critique of advertisement (Paper no. 2) assigned.

  • Analysis of ads (brought in)

  • Discussion of advertising techniques (handout) and topic building.


  • Read Chapter 8  - Analytic Thinking and Comparing

  • Read “The Endless Autumn” by Nicolaus Mills, pp. 184–88.

Week 5

Oct 2

  • Personal Essay (revision) collected.

  • Discussion of Mills’ essay.

  • In-class analysis and discussion groups on American Tobacco company ad.

  • Writing Groups on Cultural Critique and topic building.

  • Word root presentation.


  • Read link on my website on “sentence variety.”

  • Read Chapter 12 – Persuading (again, hit the high spots) and read my website links entitled “Crafting an Argument” and  “Backing up Assertions.”

  • Complete typed rough draft of cultural critique for next class.

Week 6

Oct 9

  • Personal Essay revision returned.

  • Sentence Workshop.

  • Writing groups on Cultural Critique essay.

  • Mini-conferences.

  • Word root presentation.

  • Video on advertising.


  • Read: “Advertising, Pornography, and Public Space” by Delores Hayden, p. 155

  • Read: “My Father’s Photograph” by Samantha Campbell, p. 178

Week 7

Oct 16


  • Cultural Critique collected – task analysis.

  • Literary research essay assigned – due November 6.

  • Mid-term evaluations and learning record impromptu paragraphs        

  • Stylistic analysis of writing sample (use the cultural critique essay, if possible).


  • Create brief summary of writing strengths and writing weaknesses based on stylistic analysis. Select one or two items as your focus, and include the summary and your identified focal points with your cultural critique (due next class). Your paper should demonstrate your attempt to reduce or eliminate the one or two areas you’ve identified.

  • Cultural critique due next class.

Week 8

Oct 23

  • Cultural Critique returned – revision due October 30

  • Handout on literary terminology


  • Readings for literary analysis:

  • Poetry: select from “Sonnet 73” (William Shakespeare), p. 418, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” p. 418, or “Immigrants” by Pat Mora, p. 419.

  • Short stories: select from “Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway, 407, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, p. 410, or “If You Touched my Heart” by Isabel Allende, p.412

Week 9

Oct 30

  • Cultural Critique revision collected.

  • Workshop on Writing Effective paragraphs. Exercises assigned.

  • Literary Terminology Oral Reports/Skits

  • Discussion of poems and short stories.

  • Topic building.


  • Rough draft of literary analysis due next class (for writing groups).

Week 10

Nov 6

  • Literary analysis collected – task analysis.

  • Read Chapters 16 and 17 – we’ll be discussing these concepts over the next few classes

  • Writing groups on literary analysis.

  • Mini-conferences.


  • Literary analysis due next class.


Week 11

Nov 13

  • Literary analysis returned – Revision due November 20

  • Word root presentation.

  • Workshop on eliminating passive voice and other ongoing mechanical or stylistic weaknesses.


  • TBA

Week 12

Nov 20


  • Literary Analysis revision collected.

  • Discussion on literary analyses.

  • Handout on PORTFOLIO.

  • Writing groups and in-class work on literary analysis revisions.


  • Revised literary analysis due next week.

Week 13

Nov 27

Thanksgiving break

Week 14

Dec 4

  • Literature Analysis returned.

  • In-class work on learning record essays.

  • Mini-conferences

  • In-class work on portfolios


  • Portfolios and learning record essays due next class.

Week 15

Dec 11

  • Portfolios collected

  • Evaluations


Dec 18

In lieu of a final exam, portfolios will be discussed and shared

(Exam period scheduled for 1:00 to 3:00 pm) – Nosh welcomed!!

Assignments and Handouts:

Suggested Websites: