Let me begin by saying that no one likes to write essays. No one, including myself and if there is anyone out there that enjoys the struggle of writing an essay, then they are not my friend. Essays though seem to love me, they follow me and haunt me in more than half of the classes I’ve taken at UC Davis. I thought that by choosing a science major, then I wouldn’t have to take classes that required writing. How naive and wrong I was. After three years at UC Davis, I have come to terms with my fate with writing; I just have to accept they’ll always be there, no matter how much I try to push them out of my life.
Since I moved to the United States when I was ten, I was never taught the English grammar rules in school. I could barely understand the language at the time. Therefore I had to teach myself the basic grammar rules. I learned from the feedback I was getting from my teachers on homework assignments and by using online sources. Thankfully my teachers were very patient with me and my slow learning process. Having the disadvantage of learning English as a second language during the time when my peers were mastering it, was tough for me and it made me hate having to write.
In high school, I took honors and IB English, and both classes required a lot of essays throughout the year. As you can imagine, they weren’t my favorite classes because of that, but we wrote essays so often that I started getting good at writing the basic five-paragraph essays. For my junior and senior year of high school, I was in the IB English class, which meant that I would have the same teacher both years. That helped my writing a lot because my teacher was able to see my strengths and weaknesses in my essay writing. She would always point out to me that my verb tenses sometimes wouldn’t match and that my writing is too wordy.
Now as a junior in college I seem to get similar feedback from my professors, but less often. Sometimes it’s hard for me to recognize when I’m switching the verb tenses, because as I am writing at the time my tenses make sense, so I have to look out for them when I edit. On the other hand, I tend to make my essays wordier than they should be because of two reasons. One being that I don’t know another way to get my point across. Since my vocabulary is still not as developed as I would like, I tend to summarize a lot, when I’m not sure what words can sum up what I am trying to say. The second reason my essays tend to be wordy is that I am trying to hit a specific word count, and I am worried that I won’t make it. I usually go over the word count and forget to go back through my essays and remove the fluff.
In my UWP 1 class, I was able to focus on my problem with grammar and verb tenses through the Language Development Project (LDP). The LDP assignments helped me, because we had to look at old writing pieces and analyze them, and that’s when I saw my mistakes with grammar and verb tenses. I saw that in my writing I was going from past tense to present tense to future tense, and for the first time, I finally understood what my teachers meant by switching verb tenses. Before I had an idea but the LDP made it clear to me and now I know what I have to look out for in my writing. My tenses have to match with the time frame that I am using. The LDP’s also helped me analyze my problem with some grammar rules, like run on sentences and figuring out ways to make my writing less wordy. My biggest problem with run-on sentences is that I have a hard time knowing when to use a comma, a semicolon, or a period. In the LDP’s I spent a lot of time analyzing old essays and figuring out when it was appropriate to rephrase sentences and when to change my punctuation. These changes helped me fix my run on sentences, which also helped me fix my essays from being too wordy. I continued to practice what I was learning from the LDP assignments in my problem letter and research paper.
For the problem letter, I wrote a letter to my Statistics 13 professor from last year. I talked about how difficult it is for students to do well in his class because he makes the exams very long while not giving us enough time to complete them. In the letter, I stated the problem of not having sufficient time for the exams. I also presented some solutions which are to make the exams shorter or making the problems on the exams less wordy. While writing the problem letter, I tried to make it as concise as possible, while making sure that the problem and the solutions are clear. I also worked on my verb tenses in this letter, since I wrote about an issue in the past that should be corrected in the future.
For the research paper I talked about the negative misconceptions that people have towards sororities based on the media when in actuality sororities like Delta Delta Delta have shown their value in the community by doing an outstanding job with their philanthropy to St. Jude Cancer Research Children’s Hospital over the past two decades. By talking about a discourse community I am a member of, it made the research paper very personal, and I wanted to present my sorority with correct information. In this paper, I used my knowledge on the run on sentences and punctuation. There is a lot of information I was trying to get in the paper, without trying to be too wordy, so I had to focus on correcting my run on sentences and placing commas where they were needed.
After years of trying to fight this love-hate relationship with writing, I know now that I will always have to write essays, so I’m finding ways to start liking writing. With the help I’ve received from my teachers over the years, as well as what I’ve learned in UWP 1, I feel more comfortable with writing. There’s still a lot to learn in the future, but at least now I can easily say my grammar, punctuation skills, and wordiness have improved since the beginning of this quarter.