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Length: About 500 words

It must be an inanimate object

—I know you love your children,

pets, parents and spouses/partners/girlfriends/boyfriends—but even a

dog isn’t really a possession—if you’re like me, your dog(s) own you

far more than you own them. And that’s not even the half of it with

cats. But I digress.

This is an argumentative assignment

—you must explain why this

thing—whatever it might be—is (or was) so valuable to you. You will

want to think about how Angell describes the baseball and how Didion

uses language to get to the heart of what she observes and values,

and that what she judges as foolish or worthless, about the Las Vegas

wedding industry. Both Angell and Didion are masters of the key

detail—learn from them to be succinct, but precise.

The essay should be descriptive—it should be clear to the reader what

the object is, why you cherish it, what it looks, smells, sounds, tastes,

and feels like. Who made it, and does that matter? Was it mass-

produced or is it unique to you? Did you receive it as a gift, save up

for it yourself, make it yourself?

For me, my most prized possession is probably a watch I received as a

wedding present from my wife; it’s not a Patek Phillipe or something

crazy like that—it’s just a Seiko—but more importantly, the face is an

old fashioned “Conductors’” like the pocket watches railroad workers

used in the past—the numbers are Roman and the second hand is

where the VI should be—and I had been looking for just such a watch

for years.

My fiancée, now wife, found it before we got married and knew it was

the one I’d been looking for. It has been repaired twice for a bad dial,

and it has a very small scratch on the crystal. Otherwise, it is perfect.

Currently, it has a brown leather strap, and fits on my wrist just a

little loosely. The face is a soft white with black numerals. I wear it

quite often though it is not my everyday watch; but every time I put it

on, I think of my wife and our marriage, which is nice.

If I were going to expand that paragraph into an essay, I would certainly talk about our

rehearsal dinner where my wife gave me the watch, and when and why I wanted this

particular kind of watch-face.

You may think, “I can’t possibly get 2-3 pages out of describing

something.” And maybe you can’t if you only think about describing

the object. But instead, describe the object in action—we’ll cover

narration in another essay, but think of its story—in the art world they

speak of “provenance” to describe the condition of a work and who or

what has owned/displayed the work since it’s creation; perhaps you

can include the history of the object as part of your response.

Basic Guidelines



Double space your essay; include your name, the course number

and section at the top of the first page.


Avoid the use of the second person as it is conversational and

too direct. Use the first person to describe your own thoughts,

but better to use the third person in most of your analysis.


Do not

focus on the writing process—your reader does not need

to know why you chose the topic or what you’re going to write

about. Instead of telling your reader what you are going to do,

do it.


Write in the present tense unless specifically describing past


How it will be graded



A failing paper, either a “D” or an “F,” will either be completely

off-topic, so short as to be negligible, and/or be so marred by

mechanical errors that meaning is lost. Further, the argument

may not be grounded in a thesis or else lack examples or explain

why the examples given mean for the interpretation.


A “C” paper is one that manages to competently convey

information to the reader—each part has a logical organization

with clear thesis statements, contains coherent and complete

sentences, appropriately answers the essay prompt, and does

not have so many mechanical flaws that legibility suffers.


A “B” paper has all the characteristics of a “C,” and in addition

displays effective insights into the essay prompt (possibly

acknowledging multiple perspectives on the issues, or making

particularly good choices about what material to address), has

fewer mechanical flaws, and has an organizational scheme and

general tone appropriate to the material.


An “A” paper has all the characteristics of a “B,” and in addition

displays few or no mechanical flaws, pays attention to

appropriateness of word choice and shifting tonality through the

essays, displays a command of pacing and sentence variety

appropriate to the varied content of the essays, and may display

particularly thoughtful insights, of contain stylistic devices

which illuminate the material.

Further, per the English Department’s Guidelines, the essay will be

judged according to this breakdown.

15% Introduction

The student introduces the subject being described, creating a

sense of context and import that builds up to the thesis


15% Paragraphing and Design

The student develops his/her description of the subject matter in

paragraphs of at least 6-7 sentences. The details described give

a sense of thoughtful arrangement or design that gives the

organization a sense of cohesion.

20% Specific language

The student demonstrates a commitment to avoiding vague

phrases (“it is,” “there are”) and ambiguous language

(“something, everything, what, how”). The paper appeals to the

senses through immediacy and concrete details. The language

demonstrates some attention to expanding the student’s


20% Audience and Purpose

The essay demonstrates a sense of intention aimed at a

particular audience. If the subject matter is technical, for

example, but the audience is a general one, the author makes an

effort to “translate” professional terminology into accessible


15% Grammar and Punctuation

The essay demonstrates a commitment to correcting grammar

issues identified in the student’s pretest. These may include

dropped apostrophes, subject/verb agreement,

they’re/their/there confusion, or any number of potential issues.

15% Conclusion

The essay reinforces the essay’s thesis by reminding readers of

the main point and importance of the topic.

After you turn the paper in through the assignment in the Week 2

‘Weekly Activities.’ I will grade and return it to you via email as a

Word or OpenOffice file. I will make comments throughout the paper

to offer guidance on how to improve the paper and your writing in

general. If you choose, you may revise the paper once for a new

grade—I am a big believer in revision, so I urge you to take advantage

of this option. You may have until the end of the term to re-submit any

or all of your formal essays for a re-grade.

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