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Austin Jennings

Mrs. Erskine
English 111
23 January 2017
Writing Portfolio Reflection
Growth is essential to progress and improvement, and when growth stagnates,
all progress screeches to a halt as well. As a writer, I have grown more in this first
semester of Dual English than any other year of any other English ever. Contrary to my
previous years of English throughout middle and high school, I have learned a great
deal of information regarding writing conventions, the English language, and how to
translate my thoughts onto paper quickly and efficiently. I came into this year viewing
myself as a strong writer and someone who has a decent grip on the English language,
but I have seen my proficiency in both skyrocket. My style has improved dramatically; I
can more artfully craft essays and convey the message I want to get across exactly as I
intend it to be interpreted. My skills in grammatical and mechanical conventions has
also grown immensely; I am aware and in control of many more parts of the English
language that allow me to more correctly tell a story or present facts. I am most shocked
by my strides in simplifying and accelerating my writing process; I can put my thoughts
in written words precisely as I want them mostly the first time, allowing me to expedite
the writing process because it takes me far less time to craft an essay.
Forging an appealing introductory paragraph is possibly the hardest aspect of
essay writing and requires skills with style. Previously, I had immense trouble with my
introductions; I would do too much tell and not enough show. This year, I labored

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over my introductions to make them more enticing to the reader and create a sense of
whats-to-come so that the reader is curious and wants to read more. In my OneWheeled Wonder essay, I opened with Having a single wheel supporting my body five
feet into the air isnt an experience most people have the opportunity to undergo. In this
introduction, I didnt explicitly tell the reader anything, but instead created a sense of
mystery as to how I was suspended 5 feet in the air by a single wheel. I continue
describing the scene by saying My legs are shaking from the nerves of all of the eyes
of my peers staring at me. This adds another dimension to an already interesting
beginning by adding that I am being watched by a plethora of my peers, making the
reader wonder further what is going on without me telling them yet. However, style is
more than introductions, and I have certainly improved in other stylistic aspects.
Transitions are yet another part of writing that can tremendously improve the flow
and how the essay sounds by linking each paragraph together. Transitions are arguably
what I have struggled with most in my writing career, because I generally never had
them at all. In my Hike of a Lifetime piece, I agonized over the transitions to ensure that
they sounded good. To move from my introductory paragraph to my first body
paragraph, I forged these sentences: As the rubber tires of the airplane met the
concrete on the runway in Denver, my adventure was only beginning, and I had no idea
what I was in for. Upon arriving at the mile-high city, I feel a strange sensation wash
over my entire body. These were the last and first sentences of the introductory and
first body paragraph, respectively. To assist myself in making the transition sound good
and make sense, I pretended that instead of beginning a new paragraph, I was merely
shifting topics within the same paragraph. This halted my previous mindset that I was

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starting something new, because by thinking of my next paragraph as completely new, I
was subconsciously ditching the information from the previous paragraph and making
the switch sound abrupt. This is the same technique I used later in the same paper,
saying With nothing but what we could carry in our backpacks, we set off on our 100+
mile hike through the mountains. Each day we had to make it from one campsite to
another. Taken out of context, these two sentences sound like they relate enough to
each other to belong in the same paragraph, but when you put each sentence into the
context of the paragraph it belonged to, it also sounded like it belonged. This, to me, is
what makes a skillful transition, making the paper a spectrum of topics that flow into
each other rather than several defined and separate topics. Style in writing is like the
skill in which an artist uses his brush; the colors may ebb and flow into each other
beautifully, but if he doesnt know what colors to use then his skills with a brush are
practically useless.
Grammar and mechanics is the foundation of writing, theyre the rules. They tell
the writer how to properly utilize punctuation and sentence structure like similar rules
would tell an artist what colors match and go well together and which brushes to use for
which purposes. I have been adept at properly using grammar and mechanics for a
while, but I wasnt capable of taking full advantage of what it had to offer me. I was
using similar sentence structure as opposed to varying my sentences because I didnt
know how to have a variety of sentences in an essay and make it still sound
satisfactory. I didnt know what a semicolon or a colon was, or at least how to use them
properly. In my essay The Virtue of Respect, I wrote For example, if Dean didnt like
Sam, he would still feel respect for him regardless of his dislike towards him because

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his accomplishment and ability to succeed is independent of whatever may have
caused Dean to dislike him. This property of respect is as important as it is unique. As
can be seen here, I crafted a rather lengthy sentence with multiple clauses and
commas, followed by a simple sentence with one independent clause. This allows me to
provide emphasis on the simple sentence, while also indirectly pointing out the
complexity of respect. Later in the essay, I utilized several punctuation marks in the
same sentence to craft a sentence that links multiple ideas together and show that they
are all closely related: When an individual has self-respect, he trusts himself enough to
know that whatever actions he deems necessary are in fact necessary and best; he will
also be able to recognize competency in others and show them the respect they
deserve. The first dependent clause prefaced the rest of the sentence, while the next
clause provides a conclusion and the last clause adds on to the previous idea while also
linking them together with a semicolon; this provided a clear relationship between the
possession of self-respect and what effects that has on a person. Transitions and
correct usage of punctuation are essential to mastering grammatical and mechanical
conventions, but what good is knowing the foundation of writing if you dont know what
steps to take to even write the paper?
Writing an essay can be a daunting task to many, but once you understand what
steps to take and what process to follow to write a paper, every essay seems more
manageable. A struggle for me for a long time, I didnt have a grip on how to get into the
flow of an essay. This year, however, I have learned how to get into the writing mode
and complete a lengthy essay in relatively little time. My improvement can be perfectly
exemplified starting with the timed writing piece we did at the beginning of the year that I

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chose to do about the effects of technological innovation. Given a class period to write a
fully-developed essay, I was only able to complete three short paragraphs that lacked in
content and proper explanation of ideas, a mere 220 words. However, given roughly the
same amount of time to write a literary analysis piece more recently, I was able to
construct a 5 paragraph and 690-word paper which fully analyzed several aspects of
writing of the story The Story of an Hour. While writing the first timed writing piece, I
had no method to the madness that was going on in my head; ideas were hurtling
everywhere with nothing to catch them and organize them. I was stuck with winging it
and hoping for the best. Throughout the plethora of papers that we have written this
semester, I have developed a subconscious method for writing essays. Now, as I write
one, I am constantly thinking about not only what I am writing now, but how I can weave
that into the next sentence or paragraph to make everything sound as good as possible.
Furthermore, I do my best to pay attention to the little details and leave no stone left
unturned. I have an innate ability to think of a topic or point from many different angles,
and I am finally learning how to harness that ability to benefit my writing; I make a
conscious effort to address every question the reader might have. Through those
methods is how I ended up with a longer, more detailed, and more precise essay
analyzing The Story of an Hour.
Even considering the massive and extensive strides I have made in my writing
this semester, there are always more improvements to be made. One field that I am
only beginning to comprehend, much less master and control, is audience. For some
reason, the concept of writing towards a specific audience has always perplexed me.
This is evident in my lack of ability to identify audience in other peoples writings. I am

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seldom able to correctly do so, and I am certainly not able to craft an essay directed
towards a specific group of people. What I am attempting to do now is as I write, put
myself in the shoes of whom I think would be reading it, and asking myself what they
would want to be hearing. I plan on continuing to do this and practice doing this until I
can achieve a firm hold on how to control my lexicon to aim it at a specific type of
person so that that person may better understand and enjoy my writing. For example,
with this piece of writing, I am not applying to college nor am I writing a love letter to my
girlfriend, I am merely delivering a reflection of my progress in writing to my English
teacher. As I am writing, I am continually reminding myself that while this shouldnt be
as formal as a college essay, I still need to try to elevate my language so that I sound
real and genuine, yet sophisticated and honest.
After going through self-reflection, I have realized several things. Primarily, I have
realized the incredible difference between the beginning of this year, even after taking
AP English my junior year, and now, only at the end of the first semester. The visible
improvements I have made in style, grammatical and mechanical conventions, and the
writing process rejuvenate my hopes that I can survive writing all the papers that I will
write in college. Nonetheless, I am still aware of the room that I have to become even
better, and to make my essays truly stand out among the others. While I have certainly
grown a great deal in this first semester, I look forward to what the remainder of the year
has to offer me and what kinds of achievements I can make out of it.