Sorry for the lack of communication before - this is my first time teaching two AP classes at once. I think it will be best if we have two separate and independent blog response sites for future assignments. Feel free to read the other class's blog responses for inspiration, but answer any assignment questions here. Thanks for your patience!

You can enter your blog response any time after reading the article from the Assignments Page. Your entry should discuss the author's message concerning frivolous writing. Mention connections or concepts that resonate with you from the reading. Reference the text to support your ideas for full credit. This blog closes on Monday September 26 at the beginning of the school day. You must submit one entry with your own ideas and connections and one entry where you respond to another blogger's ideas or connections.
 


Hannah Leighton
09/20/2011 19:35

After reading this article I was surprised to see that basic writing for my age group has not changed since Paul McHenry Roberts wrote the article How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words. Constantly, I see kids (Sometimes even myself!) Writing long-winded essays on topics that they don’t want to understand or study in depth. Students are more concerned with meeting, if not passing the required amount of words assigned by the teacher. As Roberts stated, “This, you feel, is a mighty good start. The only trouble is that it's only thirty-two words. You still have four hundred and sixty-eight to go, and you've pretty well exhausted the subject.” (Page Two) Writing is considered a task, not something that kids are meant to enjoy. Students drag their feet throughout the entire writing process and then wonder why the scores they get aren’t outstanding. Teachers are tired of having to read the same boring essay from twenty-five different kids. The point that Paul McHenry Roberts was trying to get across was that writing can be interesting and is successful with the right amount of effort and creativity.

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Brenna Mayfield
09/25/2011 15:03

In Paul McHenry Roberts “How to say nothing in five hundred words”, he addresses that through time issues may change but the writers ability to attract the reader’s attention has remained a constant fail. By using colorful and sometimes absurd ideas the writer can convey his/her point correctly. In “Get rid of obvious padding” the author takes simple sentences as” I was a shy little girl” and converts the sentence into a collects of interesting words and getting ever closer to his 500 word deadline. This could be a guide line for writers in need of assistance (like me) when I start to get too wordy or constantly use “uncolorful” words. In “avoid the obvious content” I realized how often students use similar ideas in the same boring way. I pity the teacher (Mrs. Gunn) reading the same topics with the same words. Instead of using the first topics that come to mind, get creative with your support. It may not be the strongest argument but you get the creative points from the teacher.


I agree with Hannah when she brings up the topic of students dragging their feet. Multiple students procrastinate a paper till the night before the assignment is due and turn in a weak essay while expecting to get a grade they don’t deserve.

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Allison Olson
09/25/2011 16:06

Throughout the short story “HOW TO SAY NOTHING IN FIVE HUNDRED WORDS” Paul McHenry Roberts exposed what it’s like to be the teacher reading the same boring essay, with the same “colorless” words, the same obvious points, and the common side students take towards an issue. What took my interest more than anything was the “COLORLESS WORDS”, I know when I’m peer-editing someone’s paper their use of diction can make or break their essay making the reader not want to continue reading. “Colorless words are those of such general meaning that in a particular sentence they mean nothing. Slang adjectives like cool ("That's real cool") tend to explode all over the language. They are applied to everything, lose their original force, and quickly die.” (page 11) Colorless words lack in detail making the writing piece dry and not pleasant to read. This passage just reminds me to keep my writing witty and more in depth in my creativity.
I agree with Brenna, she helps Paul McHenry Roberts alleviate teachers frustrations of reading the same boring topics with the same boring choice of simple sentences.

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AJ
09/25/2011 16:15

In “How to say nothing in five hundred words” by Paul McHenry Roberts, Paul discusses the bane of my existence when it comes to writing. 500 word essays (or any other amount of minimum word papers) are excruciatingly difficult for me because i am a writer (when forced to write to a mark) who uses "obvious padding" exceedingly, But Paul Roberts states "Now this is a way to go about reaching five hundred words, and if you are content with a "D" grade, it is as good a way as any. But if you aim higher, you must work differently." and this is where this article helped me the most, get rid of the straw Roberts says. By striving for that unmolested topic as well as using the perfect ratio of; colorful, and colored words it is now apparent that 500 words is not a lofty goal but rather a goal that should be overshot and needingly be pared back.

In response to Brenna's entry, I too feel that the majority of students are unmotivated when finding new topics or new points of view are required, or possibly the students are not willing to extend his/her-self at the risk his/her-grade when skating by on the norm has worked for so long and is the safest to the student.

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Dalton Carter
09/25/2011 17:03

After reading “HOW TO SAY NOTHING IN FIVE HUNDRED WORDS”, I cannot help but see the ironic connection between the short story and the blog responses us as students are told to put together. If we are not careful, the blog may be filled of the same fluffed up trash and identical arguments Mrs. Gunn will have a fit reading. However, because no one has taken on this subject yet, I call dibs: The section labeled “Take the Less Usual Side”, takes on a part of essay writing that continues to stump me. Listing out the obvious points of a subject is easy; however digging up the unused points of an argument is tediously painful. However, this approach is what will make an essay stand out amongst others. A writer needs to be careful to “…take the side of the argument that most of the citizens will want to avoid…”(pg 4), and not be swept away by the current of mainstream points.

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Dalton Carter
09/25/2011 17:10

Response:

In response to AJ, I agree that sentence structure and word choice is something I need to be aware of as well. I may be guilty of “padding” in my previous post, however I am still unclear where to draw the line between ‘padding’ a sentence, and simple word choice and sentence structure. I acknowledge it may be clear when read, but I also fear that one may be too critical and advise reconstruction of sentences that have no need for reconstruction.

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Jared Neiman
09/25/2011 19:35

Call a Fool a Fool. In the reading of Paul McHenry Roberts' "HOW TO SAY NOTHING IN FIVE-HUNDRED WORDS", this section proved itself to be more informational than most in my opinion. The reality of how indirect writing can be, when produced by an inexperienced individual, really partitioned itself as I read more. Roberts then states that by adding phrases like "in-my-opinion's" and "it-seems-to-me's" and "as-I-see-it's" and "at-least-from-my-point-of-view's" gains you nothing." For example, at the end of my second sentence I happen to use one of these inconveniences, allowing for my reader to say "well in his opinion this was the best section", I don't want this. I want to be direct, confident, almost over powering when proving points or being persuasive and beating around the bush does not help in such a case, they tend to rob your paper of it's crispness and force.

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Jared Neiman
09/25/2011 19:45

In addition to Dalton's response I agree that taking the unconventional side can be beneficial because it shows new points rather than the same old reasons everyone else chose that side for. These points, as differing as they may be, separate your essay from the rest.

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Jamie Boatman
09/25/2011 20:29

I have always known that when an individual takes on a writing task, they also take on all of the rules and limits included, but seeing them listed and explained in Paul McHenry’s “How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words” article has made me rethink my own writing. The section “Get Rid of Obvious Padding” struck my interest most because of my obvious use of padding. Diction is my number one challenge; finding words that aren’t too colorful or knowing how many colorful words to use when elaboration becomes diminutive. Paul McHenry writes, “Instead of taking a couple of obvious points off the surface of the topic and then circling warily around them for six paragraphs, you work in and explore, figure out the details. You illustrate.” (pg. 6) Rather than filling a paper with useless, inconvenient words, a writer must dig deep into facts, literature and history to successfully obtain the much needed information. As Hannah stated earlier, this is influenced by the lack of effort put into something they expect to receive a high grade on.

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Jamie Boatman
09/25/2011 20:38

In response to Jared:

As high school students, generally, we tend to think we know everything. But, when it comes to writing a graded paper personal expressions and opinions are exposed along with statements in which we question ourselves. Like Jared said, we need to stand firm in our arguments and most of all be confident in our writing in order to win that argument.

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Kody Shriver
09/25/2011 21:29

In my humble opinion, though I do not claim to be an expert on this complicated subject, frivilous writing, in most circumstances, would seem to be rather "nice" in many respects, or at least so it would seem to me. From where I sit ( hoping when Mrs. Gunn reads this she is fresh and tolerant or late ), I am finding it dificult to avoid the obvious content of a generic blog, such being: ...etc.
In all seriousness, I found Roberts' essay to be exceedingly witty while touching upon the common mistakes of writers. A prime example of such a mistake that I found most interesting was the lack in taking the less usual side; in which Roberts' demonstrates in the most satirical way that a "simple way of getting into your paper is to take the side of the argument that most of the citizens will want to avoid." Aside from giving humorous insight to the matter, I also learned that my opening sentences in this blog were only funny during the war of 1812. Although colorful words seldom appear in my writing, this section gave valuable insight to knowing your audience while using such diction. Roberts' says, "Ages differ in how they like their prose. The nineteenth century liked it rich and smoky. The twentieth has usually preferred it lean and cool." Regardless of era, this principle concerning "intended audience" holds true for all modern writers. Such is true with the validity of a word, and its internal definition (i.e. words with bad or good associations; mother or mother-in-law).

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Kody Shriver
09/25/2011 21:41

Response to Jared's blog:

I certainly agree that Roberts' essay gave definite insight concerning how to form a crisp argument--which i'm sure is the purpose for our reading this. Rather than merely identifying the essentials for an "A" deserving paper, you resonated with that which structures the back-bone of a successful argument.

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Joe Perryman
09/25/2011 22:10

While reading “How to Say Nothing in 500 Words“, I began to think of all the advice and examples that Roberts provided about successfully creating an essay that is both interesting, and effective in persuading the reader to grasp your opinion, all to come to a single conclusion regarding the relevance of the information. Although sections like “CALL A FOOL A FOOL,” and “AVOID THE OBVIOUS CONTENT,” offer quality suggestions on how to write more intelligently and uniquely, I realized that the most important thing to remember when writing an essay is to critically think about your words and what affect you intend for them to have. In essence, when following the advice in Roberts’ article, you have to be thinking about your essay in such a way that makes for better writing in general. I think for most of us AP students, worrying about including too much padding in our writing is less of a problem than not critically thinking about the topic on which we are writing.

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Nate Parcel
09/25/2011 22:11

We all have written an essay that has to be this many or that many words long some point in our lives. After reading “How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words” my great lengthening ideas that I have spent several years developing have been put to shame, refined, and defined how to properly use. While reading the “Get Rid of Obvious Padding” section (pg. 6) the writer described my most preferred idea to lengthen any paper which is essentially adding filler words. Once I finished reading the article it made me consider how I can write future papers lacking space fillers and how to suitably write a moving yet lengthy paper.

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Joe Perryman
09/25/2011 22:19

I agree with Hannah's post because she had a really good point in saying that writing can be worth reading with a sufficient amount of effort and creativity. It totally can be as long as you try hard enough to find a better word than totally.

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Nate Parcel
09/25/2011 22:28

Response to Kody’s blog:

Throughout time I’ve noticed that the style of writing is dependent on the people who write it which differs as time goes along. This brings me to Kody’s statement saying that this article brings that to point and reveals “the common mistakes of writers” which I agree and makes a sharp yet educational article.

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Stuart Pollock
09/25/2011 22:38

McHenry Roberts extrapolates upon the fallacies of student writings in his essay, “How to Say Nothing in 500 Words.” This satirical piece portrays the essence of writing critically and what errors to avoid. “In my opinion,” the passage regarding overused cliché’s and redundant statements is an important lesson for any writer. I can connect with the college freshman’s expansion of sentences, sometimes intentionally other times out of pure habit. Roberts states, “Thus four words have been turned into forty, and not an iota of content has been added,” it is necessary to illustrate and depict details without blathering on each point; concise writing is good writing, to an extent. Without examples and support, concise writing becomes minimalist writing leaving the author without content. This concept (“in my humble opinion”) will enrich frivolous writings and leave the author with a substantial argument to his paper.

Response to Brenna:
Stuart positively acknowledges your statement. As you addressed in your blog, I realize many of us reuse not only content and ideas, but the very phrases of our fellow students. Being original boosts any attempt at creative writing and grasping the mind of the reader, this is essential to successful writing.

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Jordyn Vandenberg
09/25/2011 23:32

McHenry Roberts lays the truth on the table about the flaws of students works in his essay "How to Say Nothing in 500 words." I found this essay very useful and informing. Roberts use satire to pull me in and really capture the essence of the essay. After reading Roberts piece of work i have come to find that padding is something i need to work on, even though you stick a few fancy, long, hard to pronounce words in your essay, doesnt mean its any better than using less words. Also after reading the essay i have come to find that before writing you need to figure out who you are trying to appeal to, and whats your purpose of writing. Overall this essay was a great read and i will be using this essay to refer to before writing.


Response to Hannah:
I completly agree teachers dont want to sit for hours reading the same essays. Most students think that if you stick some fillers in there somewhere it will boost their grade but in reality it just drops their grade. Most students when they write dont know their audience therefore do not get the point across.

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Jessica Stiffler
09/26/2011 01:00

After reading “How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words”, it was more obvious than ever, making a sentence longer with fancier words is not helping. While reading “GET RID OF OBVIOUS PADDING” it was clear that making the sentence longer to reach your goal of 500 words is not interesting to the reader. Put something that applies to your paper and holds on to the reader’s attention. I appreciated Paul McHenry Roberts’ use of satire, as he was telling you how to compile an essay, but at the same time he was showing us in his own work. When Roberts says “Be against it because…the football stars hog all the beautiful women, because it competes with baseball and is therefore un-American and possibly Communist-inspired.” He is keeping you interested with humor but also getting his point across, which is exactly what he is trying tell us about our own writing, make it interesting and meaningful.

In response to Dalton
I agree that we should not take the path most chosen because you may bring up a point that someone has not thought of, in the rare occasion that it may happen you have a well thought out paper and you get a better grade because you were creative and original.

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Kenta Takao
09/26/2011 08:59

Paul McHenry Roberts writes about the inability for students today to create a unique and original essay. In Paul Roberts informative article, “How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words or Less”, he notes that students today are unwilling to go above and beyond when writing a paper and settle with the redundant points about arguments. Paul Roberts hints and tips to increase our writing skills are valuable and should be taken into consideration. Basically speaking, when writing a paper, do not go with the typical points and views on a subject but rather write from a view that most students wouldn’t share, or come to the paper at an angle that will definitely grab the reader’s attention. Avoid clichés and put effort into researching and understanding what you are writing about. Avoid padding and abstraction and write to make a point. Avoid being a typical essay and prove that you can and will write with knowledge.
Response to Stuart Polluck: I am also able to relate to expanding on a simple idea without actually adding any information or useful material to the subject. As Paul Roberts is trying to say, a writer doesn’t just fill or pad a subject but he adds new and fascinating material to draw the reader in and being able to do this will be challenging but will result and a stronger argument.

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Ryan Wisch
09/26/2011 17:34

I find it almost impossible to find the right word at times; when this happens I will rephrase the entire sentence. I have a fairly small diction; I have always blamed this on my inability to spell most of the word in the English language. So when he said use colorful words, I became a little anxious. I did particularly enjoy when he talked about people that can take four words and turn it into two sentences. We all know that he was addressing over three fourths of our school. “A writer's work is a constant struggle to get the right word in the right place, to find that particular word that will convey his meaning exactly, that will persuade the reader or soothe him or startle or amuse him.”(Page nine) “In my humble opinion. though I do not claim to be an expert on this complicated subject, test driving, in most circumstances, would seem to be rather dangerous in many respects, or at least so it would seem to me. Thus four words have been turned into forty, and not an iota of content has been added. ” (Page seven)


Response to Nate: I too was disappointed when me “techniques” where thrown into the light. We will have to overcome this by using what he said in the “Slip out of Abstraction” section quiet literally.

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Cody J. Sykes
09/26/2011 19:45

Oh boy, reading this sure made me feel dumb. The essay, How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words or Less, by Paul McHenrey Roberts, is a witty essay on several flawed techniques that young writers used back in his time and today as well. Not suprisingly, I use several of these techniques, the most prominent being Obvious Content, Abstraction, and Obvious Padding. I did enjoy his sections on colorful and colored words, and in those sections he brings up the ever important pactice of knowing your audiance. Finally, I find the Call a Fool a Fool section quite refreshing, as there are far too many people out there, myself included, who censor themselves in fear of having someone agree with their true opinions.For as Mr. Roberts tells us, "...mount guard against those roundabout phrases, those echoing polysyllables that tend to slip into your writing to rob it of its crispness and force." (Pg. 8, paragraph 4)

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Cody J. Sykes
09/26/2011 19:57

In response to Stu:

I feel for you concerning the issue of subconciously padding sentences. Like you said, if we can illimenate padding, we can create arguments that are far more compelling and thought-provoking, and fewer arguments that scream "Ho-hum, I have no effort put into this argument, please don't read into it".

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Danny Malone
09/30/2011 23:08

Well, I have to admit I'm exhausted and not having a great night but I managed to get home so hopefully I can do this.
"How to Say Nothing in Five hundred Words or Less", by Paul McHenry is exactly what I thought it would turn out to be, an example of what I write as a younger, not as experienced, writer, and then why some of the most simple techniques are wrong, but still not uncommon. The section "Avoid The Obvious Content" didn't really seem to be me at first till I read all the way through and then looked at some old writing of mine. The section Call A Fool A Fool really struck out to me personally, mainly for the reason getting straight to your point without sugar-coding your idea, is always a good way to get someone's attention, for better or for worst. To summarize my feelings towards this article I found his wit to be amusing, and the pure fact that most of this is obvious, however it has just been made clear to me.

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Danny Malone
09/30/2011 23:12

In response to Ryan W.;
Reading the very first sentence in your response made me think of myself. I, too don't have great diction or word choice and I will sometimes go through an entire segment of my essay just to fit in a word I believe fits. It is for that reason that the last 4 sections of the text grabbed my attention.

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08/12/2012 23:34

Excellent! I admire all the helpful data you've shared in your articles. I'm looking forward for more helpful articles from you. :)

Joseph Aidan
www.arielmed.com

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