The Top 5 Criteria for Portfolios (as decided by you)

Originality Originality is reflected in taking a sophisticated or unique angle, picking an atypical topic, and/or choosing a unique form of expression.
Attention Grabbing/Audience Awareness/Relatable One grabs attention by being aware of audience. This can be expressed in sophisticated uses of evidence and examples, as well as word choices. Audiences should be able to  form connections to the piece and the ideas based on the information provided and the style of writing. This may also include concrete details that are easy to visualize.
Conveys Message/Complex Ideas That Are Easy to Understand Typically, one has a purpose when writing, and it is usually to carry across a specific message. The best messages are often complex, yet simply and clearly expressed, so that the message can be trasmitted to an audience.
Organization/Smooth Flow Globally (whole-project/paper), good organization lays out a road map that is easy to follow. The pieces of the whole project are logically organized so that a reader can easily transition from one point to another and understand the larger points of the piece. Locally (with in paragraphs and sentences), the same should be true. Each idea should connect to the next, and within sentences, one should be able to tell what action the subject is performing.
Word Choice & Mechanics Picking words that make sense, spelling correctly, and using grammatical style that clearly expresses your thoughts is important to helping a reader grasp your ideas.


When it comes to the portfolio, what you really should be thinking is “What do I want people to know about my work and who I am as a writer?” The portfolio is the body of work that best represents your capabilities as a developing writer. The reflection is something like the introduction to your book. To help you along, here are some questions to think about.

These are three questions that you should address. I think it would be hard to have an effective reflection without considering these points:

Why did you choose the pieces that you chose?

How did these pieces evolve, or how were they revised? Give specific examples. Explain why you felt these changes were necessary. (Remember: I can’t physically see the changes. I need you to show me what you considered important to the pieces’ evolutions)

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses now?

Here are some other questions that you might consider when writing your portfolio:

Who do you think you are as a writer at this moment in time? Has that changed since you began college? How so?

Who do you want to be as a writer in the future?

How do you want to use writing in the future?

Has your definition of what makes a person a writer changed at all?

Have your thoughts about why we write evolved?

How do you define “good” writing?

Did any specific assignment, workshop, or feedback help you to improve more so than others?

How do you feel about the feedback that you gave your classmates throughout the semester? Did you learn anything from giving feedback?

You may, of course, choose to talk about things that are not on either of these lists.

Also, don’t feel that you need to address these things in any particular order. Write them in whatever structure is most effective and flows best.

The Polishing Process

Editing and Proofreading Tips

As you work towards your final drafts, editing is an important step. Once you have completed the revision process, it’s time to go back through your paper and make sure you have achieved sentence clarity and precision of language. Here are some solid tips for proofreading and editing:

*Read your paper aloud. Listen for places where things sound wrong and places where you stumble over words. These are usually indicators that something is not quite right with the wording.

*Ask a friend to read it aloud while you read along. A really good friend might even help you proofread.

*Read your paper from the last sentence to the first sentence, looking carefully at the words that you read. Are they spelled right?

*Give yourself at least a day to put the draft aside. If you try to proofread immediately after writing it, you are almost guaranteed to miss errors because your brain automatically fills in what you were thinking instead of what’s on the page.

*Hit Control+F, and then type “their” in the find box. Look at every use of “their,” and make sure you are using the correct version of this homophone. Then, go back and repeat for “there” and “they’re,” as well as “you’re” and “your.” Let’s add “its,” “it’s,” “to,” and “too” while we’re at it.

  • Their = ownership “Their ball is in the street.”
  • There = location “The ball is over there” or existence “There is a ball.”
  • They’re = they are “They’re playing ball.”
  • You’re = you are “You’re really tall.”
  • Your = ownership “Your height is above average.”
  • It’s = it is “It’s a beautiful day”
  • Its = ownership “Its kittens were black.”
  • To = a directive “Give the ball to the cat.”
  • Too = also “I want a kitten too!” or excess “It’s too cute!”

*Make sure that every time  you use “I,” you have capitalized it. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen “i” in your projects, posts, freewrites, tweets, and emails.

*Definitely is spelled d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y NOT d-e-f-i-a-n-t-l-y. Defiantly means disobediently, not certainly.


Some Additional Grammar Tips

These are some common errors that I see in many of your papers. If you have more questions, there are great resources online, such as GrammarGirl and the Purdue OWL, that can help you figure out your specific issues.

*Introductory clauses (actually called ‘dangling modifiers’): Whenever you have an introductory clause or phrase, you need to use a comma.

  • When doing homework, my computer caught on fire.
  • Once upon a time, there was a frog.
  • In 1999, there were a lot of parties.
  • Because I was sick, I could not go to school.

*Semi-colons link two COMPLETE sentences that share very similar ideas or a list where it’s necessary to separate commas. They are a stylistic tool, not a necessity. Limit yourself to one semi-coloned sentence per page (if you feel a need to use them at all).

  • I love my mom’s chocolate chip cookies; they are made with love.
  • I have friends from Atlantic City, New Jersey; Athens, Greece; White Plains, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; and Los Angeles, California.

In the case of very long lists, especially ones that include many commas, a semi-colon may be used as a “super comma.”

  • I have many futures jobs in mind: a zoologist, one that works in a zoo laboratory; a marine biologist, especially if I get to work at Sea world; or a cactus farmer, which I think is self-explanatory.

*Which vs. That: There is a difference between “that” and “which.” “Which” refers to something that is simply an attribute or added on. “That” reflects something that cannot be removed from the subject to which it refers. I recommend that you listen to this podcast from GrammarGirl. It will help clarify the difference.

*Common fragment starters: If your sentence begins with “for example,” “because,” or “which,” make sure it’s actually a complete sentence. “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost” isn’t a sentence; it’s a fragment or a dependent clause. However, “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost is a cartoon where the supernatural comes into play” would be considered a complete, independent clause. Casper the Friendly Ghost is the agent. In order for this to be a sentence, that agent has to complete an action. In this case, it’s a simple one. The shows exists, signified by the word “is.”

*Dependent clauses that define or describe something: There are many types of dependent clauses, but one common type of dependent clause that I’d like to point out in particular is dependent clauses that are used to describe something. For example, in “My mom, who is a rockstar baker, likes to enter pie contests,” you must use commas to hook in the extra information. You might also write something such as “The candy apple is hard, which is because it was placed in the refrigerator.”

*Active vs. Passive Voice: Try to use the active voice when possible. For example, “The cat was washed by my mother” is passive; the object is acted upon by something. “My mother washed the cat” is active; the subject/agent performs an action. You should also avoid using too many helping verbs. It is typically better to say “I learned that cats are fluffy” rather than “I had learned that cats are fluffy,” unless you are purposefully trying to create a sense of distance.



GrammarGirl’s Quick and Dirty Tips

The Purdue OWL

Guide to Grammar and Writing

Some resources to help you with the revision process:

1. Revision in General:

2. Signal Phrases- easy ways to introduce outside resources:

Various phrases —…/MLAsigphrases__ACR.doc

A list of signal words –

3. Editing:

10 tips for Editing–

Proofreading tips from Purdue –

Writing About Writing

We’ve had nearly a whole semester now of talking about the craft of writing, what makes something “good” writing, and the styles of different writers. Today, I ask you to consider what these terms mean to you. In a blog post of at least 250 words, write a mini-essay that addresses the following.

  • What is writing?
  • Why do we write?
  • What makes someone a writer?
  • Do you consider yourself a writer?

You may also pull from the texts we’ve used this semester, outside sources, or even the pieces written by your classmates to help make your point.

You should post these entries to your blogs.

You should take the time to respond to at least one of your classmate’s posts by tomorrow.

Evaluate your Writing as Activism Project

How do you feel about the final product overall?

Do you think you have effectively made your point? Would this work in a real life situation? Why, or why not?

If you had to do this again, would you do it the same way?

If you had 3 more weeks to work on this piece, what would you change?

Are you going to publish/send out this project?

Pick 5 in Order of Importance

Pick the top 5 features that are important to apply if you want to perform “good writing.”

List them in the order of importance (from most to less important) in a comment below.

Think carefully about which you feel are most important, as the top 5 will be the aspects I will be considering while grading portfolios.