A Little Assessment

Sometimes I challenge my students and the writers I coach to craft a paragraph using all active, vivid verbs and the five punctuation marks that best contribute to a written voice: colons, semicolons, parentheses, dashes, and commas. I also coax writers to vary their sentence length. Try the five-word sentence! Then try the longest sentence you’ve ever written—using dashes and maybe a colon to introduce a list–that will modulate the rhythm of the paragraph. Finally, emphasize a key word with italics. See what happens. Maybe you’ve never tried all this (and maybe you don’t know how). It’s OK. Try. Students like the challenge; they turn in this assessment to showcase a beautiful paragraph, full of voice and style, full of music.

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