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Ways to respond to an argument (Essay 3)

November 6, 2018

There are many ways to respond to others’ ideas, but let’s focus on the most common:

or some combination of both

It’s a good idea to begin your response in Essay 3 not by launching into a mass of details but by stating clearly whether you agree, disagree or both, using a direct no-nonsense formula such as: “I agree” or “I disagree” or “I am of two minds. I agree that the state should pay some restitution, but I cannot agree that ________.”

Once you make a clear statement like this, readers will have a grasp of your position.


Disagreeing can easily generate an essay – find something you can disagree with in what has been said about your topic, summarize it, and argue with it.

But disagreement can be tricky. You need to do more than just disagree – you have to offer persuasive reasons why you disagree.

After all, disagreeing means more than just saying “no.” To turn a response into an argument, you need to give reasons to support what you say because

another’s argument fails to take relevant factors into account
another’s arguments is based on questionable assumptions, etc.

Here are some templates for Essay 3 in a response that is disagreeing:

The author is mistaken because he overlooks _____
The author’s claim that _________ rests upon the questionable assumption that __________
I disagree with Stevenson’s view that __________ because __________
By focusing on ________ the author overlooks the deeper problem of _____________


You need to do more than just echo views you agree with. It’s important to bring something new to the conversation.

You could cite some personal experience
point out unnoticed implications or
explain something that needs to be understood.

The important thing is to open up some difference or contrast between your position and the one you’re agreeing with rather than just repeating.
Here are some templates:

I agree that ___________ , because in my experience _____________

The author’s position is useful, because it sheds light on the problem of _________

But be aware that whenever you agree with someone’s view, you are likely disagreeing with someone else’s. It’s hard to align yourself with one position without implicitly positioning yourself against others.


This last option is helpful because it gets us beyond the simple agree/disagree format that can oversimplify complex issues.

If you respond with a “yes and no” or “on the one hand I agree, on the other, I disagree” enables readers to place your argument in context.

Templates for this type of response:

Although I agree with the author up to a point, I cannot accept his overriding assumption that _________________________

Although I disagree with the authors’ specific point, I fully endorse their overall point that ________

You could call this a “Yes, but” and “No, but” kind of response.

My feelings on this issue are mixed. I do support the authors’ position that ______ , but I find Stevenson’s argument to be equally persuasive.

This is a good template when you’re dealing with complex issues.

But as I said before, whether you are agreeing, disagreeing or both agreeing and disagreeing, you need to be clear as possible in the introduction to your essay.

Web resources for Essay 3

November 6, 2018

“State makes it hard for wrongly convicted to be compensated for lost years.” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb.2018.


National Registry of Exonerations (U of Michigan)


The Brennan Center for Justice

The Equal Justice Initiative

The Sentencing Project

Purdue OWL MLA citation guide

November 6, 2018

Attached below is a PDF copy of the Purdue OWL citation guide for the Modern Language Association (MLA) format.


The Rhetorical Situation in Just Mercy

October 22, 2018

As you read Just Mercy, think about these questions as you brainstorm for Essay 2:

The writer: How does the writer’s background influence the content of the argument?

This background is important for Stevenson’s book. At several points in the book, he talks about his own background and experiences.

Those experiences have an impact on how he sees a situation or how he interacts with the men in prison and on death row.

The writer’s purpose: What do you think Stevenson hopes to achieve by writing the book? Does he state this purpose directly? Or is the purpose implied?

The writer’s audience: Does Stevenson see his audience as hostile, friendly, or neutral about his subject? What values does he think his readers hold?

The context: This is the social, political and cultural events that set the stage for this book.

All of these elements make up the rhetorical situation.

Revision strategies for Essay 1 final draft

October 7, 2018

Here are some revision strategies for your final draft:

Highlight your thesis statement. Does your thesis clearly indicate the generalization about Luma that your examples support?

If not, revise your thesis so that it fits with your examples.

Does the organization of your essay line up with your thesis statement?

If not, revise either your thesis or your body paragraphs so your organization is logical and clear.

Reread your examples in your body paragraphs.

Is each one representative and specific of the quality you are discussing in that paragraph?

If not, cut the examples that don’t connect with your thesis. Brainstorm/reread the book to find more representative examples.

Include more details (quotations, summaries, paraphrases from the book).

Underline the topic sentence of each body paragraph.

Does each paragraph have a topic sentence? Does each topic sentence clearly make a point that the examples in that paragraph illustrate?

If not, add a topic sentence to clearly indicate the point the examples illustrates.

Reread your introduction and conclusion. Is each effective?

If not, revise your intros and conclusions so they clearly connect back to your thesis statement.

Revise your introduction so you introduce the reader to the book, the author, and the topic of the essay.

Revise your conclusion so you remind your reader of your thesis statement and bring your essay to a close.

Check your essay for spelling, grammar, clarity and punctuation errors.

Writing effective introductions and conclusions

September 23, 2018

Remember, for Essay 1, your introduction should include a thesis statement that expresses the generalization about Luma’s character that your examples support.

But how do you begin your essay? Here are some common kinds of introductions that “hook” the reader. (These introductions are helpful strategies for all the essays you will write in this class, not just Essay 1.)

• Open with a quotation

A good, short quotation can hook your reader. It must, however, lead naturally into your main idea, and not be there just for effect.

If you start with a quotation, make sure you tell the reader who the speaker is and where the action takes place before you begin quoting.

• Give an example or tell a story

Opening an essay with a brief story or example often draws readers in. Is there a telling example from Luma’s background?

• Start with a surprising fact or idea

Surprises captures people’s attention. The more unexpected or surprising something is, the more likely your reader will be hooked.

• Offer a strong opinion or position

The stronger the opinion, the more likely is that your readers will pay attention. Make your point clear in your introduction.

• Ask a question

A question needs an answer, so if you start your introduction with a question, your readers will expect to read on to get the answer.

Conclusions: Remember: Don’t conclude with your final example.

After your main points have been made by your body paragraphs, use your concluding paragraph to drive your main idea home one final time.

Make sure you conclusion has the same energy as the rest of your essay.

Basics of a good conclusion:

Refers back to the thesis statement, and

sums up what has been covered in the essay and reminds readers of your thesis.

Review: Keep this word in mind as you draft your first draft to make sure you include all the elements of an illustration essay: TEST

Thesis statement unifies your essay

Evidence supports your essay’s thesis statement

Summary statement (conclusion) reinforces your essay’s main idea

Transitions that move your reader from one example to the next.

Essay 1 – Illustration: Explaining with examples

September 13, 2018

Writers have a variety of options for developing ideas within a paragraph and within an essay (narration, comparison and contrast, process, etc.)

One of these patterns is illustration (also called exemplification).

What do we mean when we say that a movie is boring?

Or a particular law is unjust?

To clarify general statements like these, we use exemplification – that is, we give examples to illustrate a general idea.

2 mins. Hand out Essay 1 assignment


The introduction of an illustration essay should include a clear thesis statement that identifies the essay’s main idea – the idea the examples will support.

The body paragraphs should present evidence – fully developed examples that support the thesis.

Each body paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence that identifies the example or group of related examples that the paragraph will discuss.

The conclusion of an illustration essay should include a summary statement that reinforces the essay’s thesis.

An illustration essay should use appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect examples within paragraphs and between paragraphs.


An illustration paragraph should have a topic sentence that states that paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should present evidence – in the form of examples from the book – that supports and clarifies the general statement made in the topic sentence.

Examples should be arranged in logical order – for example, from least to most important or from general to specific.

You might be asking yourself: How many examples do I need to include?

The number of examples you will need depends on your topic sentence.

An illustration paragraph should end with a summary statement that reinforces the paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should include transitions – that introduce the examples and connect them one to another and to the topic sentence.

These transitions help readers follow your discussion by indicating how your examples are related and how each example supports the topic sentence.

also in addition moreover
finally one example another example
The first … The second …
for example
for instance


Blue: Topic sentence
Orange: Evidence
Red: Transitions
Purple: Summary statement

When countries change their names, it is often for political reasons. Sometimes a new government decides to change the country’s name to separate itself from an earlier government. For example, Burma became Myanmar when a military government took over in 1989. Cambodia has had several name changes as well. After a coup in 1970, it was called the Khmer Republic. Then, in 1975, under communist rule, it became Kampuchea. Gaining independence from another nation is another reason for a country to change its name. For instance, in 1957, after gaining independence from Great Britain, the Gold Coast became Ghana. Another name change occurred when the French Sudan became Mali. After gaining independence from France in 1960, it decide to reject its colonial past. Finally, Zimbabwe gave up its former British name, Rhodesia, several years after winning independence. These name changes can be confusing, but they reveal the changing political climate of the countries in which they occur.

(Grammar note: When you write an illustration paragraph, make sure to use a comma after the introductory transitional word or phrase that introduces an example.)


At this stage, brainstorm a list of qualities of Luma’s personality and character.

What are the most important aspects of her personality?

What does she value the most? What is the strongest part of her character? Weakest?

Jot these down on notebook paper or on your computer. Once you have a bunch of qualities, circle the ones that are most important or most revealing about who she is as a person. Then you can draft a working thesis statement.

List of Revision Symbols

September 7, 2018

Below is a list of revision symbols that I use when I give feedback to your essay drafts. I use these symbols as shorthand. (If you have a question about one of my comments, ask me and I’ll explain.)

A check mark next to a sentence or a paragraph means “Good” or “Excellent”

add   Add word

agr   Agreement

awk  Awkward

cap  capitalize

cs  comma splice

dm  dangling modifier

ds   double space

-ed  -ed ending

frag  fragment

fs  fused sentence

ital   italics

lc   lower case

^    insert  (comma, period, semi-colon, etc.)

;    semi-colon

:    colon

” ”  quotation marks

?   Confusing or awkward

¶  New paragraph

pn agr  pronoun agreement

run-on (or ro)   run-on

ref  pronoun reference

sv agr  subject-verb agreement

tense  verb tense/tense shift

//   faulty parallelism

X   cut

#  insert space

[ ]  brackets

( )  parentheses







The AA-T (English for Transfer degree)

August 24, 2018

Attached below is a flyer prepared by the staff at West. Students who successfully complete the AA-T in English for Transfer degree meet the requirements for SB 1440 for Associate Degrees for Transfer. The degrees were developed to
ease the transfer processfor students to the CSUs.

Contact Dr. Katherine Boutry with any inquiries:

FINAL- Become an English Major flyer


Welcome to English 101!

January 14, 2018

Here are the two books we will be reading this semester:


Outcasts United by Warren St. John



Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson