Class, Tues, 5/15

Essays on Medium


Display your digitized essay on your laptop screen. Wander about the room and see what other people have done with their pieces. Scroll. Tap. Read. Listen. Look. As you do, make note of at least two digitizing moves or strategies that (a) strike you as effective, and (b) differ from what you did in digitizing your own piece.

Some Ideas for Publishing Your Work

Responses to this Course

To Do

  1. Fri, 5/18, 10:00 am: Email me your R4, with a brief description of the significant changes and additions you’ve made. (Optional)
  2. Keep in touch! Take another course with me! I’m interested to hear what you do!


Class, Thurs, 5/10


An affordance is a suggested use—something that an object, technology, or environment allows you to do readily or well.

The design and architecture of environments enable certain types of interaction to occur. Round tables with chairs make chatting with someone easier than classroom-style seating. Even though students can twist around and talk to the person behind them, a typical classroom is designed to encourage everyone to face the teacher. . . . Understanding the affordances of a particular technology or space is important because it sheds light on what people can leverage or resist in achieving their goals. For example, the affordances of a thick window allow people to see each other without being able to hear each other. To communicate in spite of the window, they may pantomime, hold up signs with written messages, or break the glass. The window’s affordances don’t predict how people will communicate, but they do shape the situation nonetheless.

 ~danah boyd, It’s Complicated (Yale UP, 2013), pp. 10–11.

I introduced the term affordance to design in my book, The Psychology of Everyday Things. The concept has caught on, but not always with true understanding. Part of the blame lies with me: I should have used the term “perceived affordance,” for in design, we care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true. What the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible).

~Donald Norman, “Affordances and Design

Groups: Think about how the page and screen differ as a media for reading and writing. Make two lists: Affordances of the Page, and Affordances of the Screen. Include at least five separate items on each list.



  • Digitizing
  • Publishing on Medium

Some Ideas for Publishing Your Work

To Do

  1. Tues, 5/15, noon: Email me a link to your X8. I will create a list for our class.
  2. Tues, 5/15, class: Last class! Please bring your laptop. X8s, arcade, responses, evaluations, donuts.
  3. Fri, 5/18, 10:00 am: Post R4 to Google Drive or Medium. (Optional.)

X8: Digitizing

I’d like you to rework one of the pieces you’ve written so far in this course in ways that make thoughtful use of the affordances of writing in a digital space. An affordance is something that a particular medium or technology allows you to do easily or well. The affordances of digital writing include

  • incorporating images into your text;
  • linking directly to other online texts;
  • quoting audio or video clips in your essay; and
  • adding audio or video clips that you have produced to your essay.

Your task is to use some of these affordances to revise and re-present one of your pieces on I will be especially interested to see if the changes or additions you make lead to some new writing. That is, if you insert an image into your essay, don’t let it just sit there—comment on it, analyze it. If you link to other texts, tell us what it is you want us to notice about them. If you use audio or video, be thoughtful in editing the clip; go right to the moment in the song or film that you want to focus our attention on. Be creative. Take some risks.

Although I also need to say: Your risk-taking does not have to be done in public. One of the nice things about Medium is that it allows you to share stories privately, without making them public.

To post your work to Medium, you will need to set up a free account on the site. I will walk you through the mechanics of posting in class—it’s straightforward and easy. I’d also like to spend some time looking at an essay, “Musicophilia: A Look Into Oliver Sacks and Tony Siccoria“, by Maeghan Anderson, at E110 student in Fall 2015, which makes smart and effective uses of the affordances of digital writing.  I’ve also posted a brief set of hints on Formatting on Medium. I hope that like me you find Medium an elegant and appealing platform for writing.

Your final X8 is due at the start of class on Tuesday, 5/15.  We’ll set up an arcade in which you can scan the work your classmates have done and talk about it with them.

Class, Tues, 5/08

R4: Free Revision

Your last (optional) assignment is a free revision of any text you’ve written for this course that you’re interested in working more on and think you can make better. This might include:

  • Yet one more draft of R1, R2, or R3;
  • Another draft of an X assignment that you didn’t have opportunity to revise before;
  • X8, if you make significant changes to it.

In each of these cases, I’ll ask you to send me an email in which you describe the changes you’ve made and why you feel they result in a stronger piece. If you revise an R, and it gets better, it will earn a higher grade. If you revise an X and produce an essay  that earns a higher grade than one of your previous Rs, it will replace the lowest of the three R grades. (See Course Grades below for more details.) R4s are due by Friday, 5/18, at 10:00 am.

There is one other option: If you feel content with the work you’ve produced for this course so far, you don’t have to submit anything. You’re done!

Course Grades

Your final grade for this course involves the simplest of calculations. Each of your three final revisions (Rs) counts toward 1/ 4 of your final grade, and your collected work on your Xs counts for the final quarter. (See grades for details.) I use a standard four-point scale in adding up your grades (where B = 3.0, B+ = 3.3,  A– = 3.7, A = 4.0), and then divide by 4. And so, for example, if you earned a B, A, A–, and A–, you’d end up with an A– for the course.

R1 B 3.0
R2 A 4.0
R3 A– 3.7
Xs A– 3.7
Sum 14.4
Sum/4 3.60
Final Grade A–

Line Editing

Trade your R3s with a partner. Line edit each other’s pieces. By line editing  I mean suggesting changes for the sake of clarity and expression. A copy editor works with text; she reads to correct mistakes—typos, misspellings, lapses in punctuation, repeated or omitted words, that sort of thing. A line editor works with prose. Her job is more subtle, difficult, and interesting. She may suggest changes:

  • In wording;
  • In the structure of sentences (by combining shorter sentences or dividing longer ones);
  • In the order of sentences in a paragraph, or in the ways they are connected to each other;
  • In the arrangement of paragraphs or sections in an essay.

And, most important, the line editor tries to do all this while respecting the voice and tone of the author. The goal is to enhance the effectiveness of a piece, not to change its tone (or certainly its content).

For our purposes, I’d like you to suggest at least 10 line-edits to the piece you are working with. These may be adds, cuts, or reworkings. (Feel free to suggest routine copy-edits as well, but they don’t count toward your total.) Be bold. The author does not have to accept your suggestions, and you can always blame me for forcing you to make any suggestions that they don’t like.

Once you and your partner have finished line editing each other’s pieces, read through and talk about them. Feel free to call me over if you have any questions.

To Do

  1. Wed, 5/09, 10:00 am: Post R3 to Google Drive.
  2. Thurs, 5/10, class: Digitizing texts. Bring your laptop with you.
  3. Tues, 5/15, class: Last class! X8s, arcade, responses, evaluations, donuts.
  4. Fri, 5/18, 10:00 am: Post R4 to Google Drive or Medium. Optional

Class, Tues, 5/01

R3s and Conferences

Your R3 is due next Wednesday, 5/09. I assume that for most of you this piece will grow out of the work you’ve done for X5 and/or X6, but if you feel stuck on those, you can also return to one of the X assignments you wrote earlier this semester. Whatever piece you decide to work with, I urge you to imagine this as a chance to showcase some of the things you’ve learned as a writer in this course, to let me (and you) see just what you now can do.

I’ve scheduled a series of 15-minute one-on-one conferences this Wednesday and Thursday. I’d like to use this time to make sure you feel confident about what piece you want to work on and what you want to do with it. So please come to your conference with an annotated, print copy of the piece you plan to develop into your R3. By annotated I mean that you should mark any sections of your text you plan to add to, cut, or rework, as well as to write down any questions you may have for me. I’ll begin our meeting by asking you to talk me through your plans for your piece.

Working With (Not Simply Following) Klinkenborg

I’d like to begin working with the X7 Samples by asking each writer to read the first ¶ or two of her piece, and then her reflection. I’d then like to break into groups charged with developing a one-word (or -phrase) description of each writer’s revising strategies that clearly distinguishes her approach from the rest. (With thanks to Abby F, Megan M, Taylor K, and Rebecca D.)

“Selective Editing”: Notes from our discussion of X7. Thanks to Ana M

To Do

  1. Wed, 5/02, and Thurs, 5/03: Conferences with Joe, 134 Memorial. Bring an annotated print copy of the piece you want to develop for R3 with you.
  2. Tues, 5/08, class: Studio. Bring print and digital copies of your almost-final R3 with you.
  3. Wed, 5/09, 10:00 am: Post R3 to Google Drive.
  4. Thurs, 5/10, class: Digitizing texts. Bring your laptop with you.


Class, Thurs, 4/26

Advice From Klinkenborg

Working Toward R3

I’d like us to think about several X6 Samples in relation to my guidelines for evaluating writing. You’ll remember this form:

Grades_Page_1Since the pieces we are working with are not yet final drafts, I’m not interested in trying to assign grades to them (although I will say that each has strong potential to become an A essay). Rather, I’d like to think about what each writer does in terms of project, materials, and voice. Specifically, I’d like you to make some notes on each essay in relation to the following questions:


  • What point or insight is the writer trying to “arrive at”?
  • In what ways is she able to say something at the end of her piece that she couldn’t say (or couldn’t say as convincingly) at its start?


  • Does the writer make it clear which of her sources are public, personal, or fictional?
  • How does the writer respond to as well as simply restate what her sources have to say?


  • In what ways does the style of this piece seem influenced by Woolf?
  • In what ways does her voice seem distinctively her own?

(With thanks to Michelle I, Sarah B, Hannah B, and Victoria C.)

Reflecting on Your Own X6

Read through your own X6 carefully with the above questions in mind. Mark at least five moments in your text where you might significantly add to or recast your writing . Then, please send me an email in which you tell me (a) what your current plans for your piece are, and (b) any questions you might have for me. My response to your email will also be my response to your X6 (so the more you write, the fuller a reply you are likely to get).

To Do

  1. Mon, 4/30, 10:00 am: Post X7 to Google Drive.
  2. Tues, 5/01, class: Discuss X7s.
  3. Wed, 5/02, and Thurs, 5/03: Conferences with Joe.
  4. Tues, 5/08, class: Studio. Bring print and digital copies of your almost-final R3 with you.
  5. Wed, 5/09, 10:00 am: Post R3 to Google Drive.

Class, Tues, 4/24

X7: Revising With Klinkenborg

Finding Advice to Use in Revising

  • In groups: Please locate three bits of advice in Several Short Sentences that you think might be especially useful for writers in a course like this one. Translate those bits of advice into some (short?!) sentences of your own. Link them to the relevant page in Klinkenborg, and then email your three bits of advice to me. I will collate them for class (and for your use in X7) on Thursday.
  • Fastwrite: Report vs. Rapport: Read Caroline Turner on differences between feminine and masculine styles of communication. To what degree do you feel Woolf and Klinkenborg typify feminine and masculine styles of writing (or not)?

Working Toward R3

To prepare for our next class, please read the X6 Samples by Michelle I, Sarah B, Hannah B, and Victoria C. Then jot down some notes on each piece in response to the questions I ask about project, materials, and voice. (See the Thurs, 4/26 class plan for these questions.) I’ll ask you to draw on these notes in class.

To Do

  • Thurs, 4/26, class: Please your annotated copies of the Sample X6s to class with you. Please also bring a print copy of your own X6.
  • Mon, 4/30, 10:00 am: Post X7 to Google Drive.
  • Tues, 5/01, class: Discuss X7s.
  • Wed, 5/02, and Thurs, 5/03: Conferences with Joe.
  • Mo, 5/07, 10:00 am: Post R3 to Google Drive.





X7: Revising With Klinkenborg

For this assignment I’d like you to work with a piece you have previously written for this course. Please use your reading of Klinkenborg to revise and edit what you have written. The changes you make may be local and discrete, or on a larger scale. You can add material, if you like—or perhaps delete certain words or passages following Klinkenborg’s advice. (Feel free to make any other non-Klinkenborgian edits as well.)

Highlight the changes you make to your draft in some way (e.g., boldface, track changes, insert comments) that makes sense to you. It’s hard for me to quantify precisely how many changes I’d like you to make, but let’s say that you should do some significant work on your piece—either through adding/cutting/shifting larger chunks of text, or making a series of smaller edits (perhaps five or more).

After you’ve revised your piece, please add a section in which you reflect on what you have changed and why. Try to relate your edits to specific moments in Several Short Sentences. Note which changes (if any) pleased you, and which (if any) strike you as more problematic.

Remember: This is an X assignment, an exercise. I want you to experiment with the style of writing that Klinkenborg argues for. If it turns out that you like your X7 less than you liked the previous version of your piece, that’s not a problem. But my hunch is that you’ll find some techniques that you want to add to your toolbox as a writer.

Please post your X7 to your Google Drive folder by Mon, 4/30, at 10:00 am.

Class, Thurs, 4/19

Adopting and Adapting Woolf (continued)

With thanks to Josh S, Zoe S, and Andrew C.


The guidelines for X6 are the same as for X5, with this proviso: You can either add more (say, at least 500 words or so) to your current X5. (You can also revise or delete passages from X5 that aren’t working how you want them to.)  Or you can start over, write a new version of a piece in the mode of Woolf.)


In pairs: Reread the first few pages of Several Short Sentences. See if you can come up with the rules for:

  1. Line breaks
  2. Paragraph (or stanza) breaks
  3. Section breaks (There are  <.   .  . >s on pp. 3 and 5, and a single <————> on p. 7.

To Do.

  1. Mon, 4/23, 10:00 am: Post X6 to Google Drive. Either continue you the piece you wrote for X5, or write a different piece in the mode of Woolf.
  2. Tues, 4/24, class: Read pp. 50–100 of Klinkenborg.
  3. Thurs, 4/26, class: Read pp.100–149 of Klinkenborg.
  4. Mon, 4/30, 10:00 am: Post X7, a piece in the mode of Klinkenborg, to Google Drive.