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15.7 Consistency: Fun With Grammar

Passing Notes

1. When you're unable to talk with a friend about something that's on your mind, writing comes in handy. Find one or two people to play with, and choose one of the following methods for passing notes:

  • Using pencils and one shared sheet of paper
  • Sharing one computer terminal
  • Forming a computer chat group (Your instructor will give you instructions for this.)
2. Set yourselves up to use your method, and from now on, you're not allowed to talk.

3. Click here to find brief reports of today's news from USA Today (click on the Top News option). By pointing and using other gestures (or by writing if you're in a chat group), decide among yourselves which article to read, and then take a few minutes to read it.

4. One of you write the headline of the article at the top of your shared paper or screen, and write one sentence saying what you think of the news. Then let each member of your team write one sentence about the news. Now take turns writing one sentence each, developing your ideas in more detail. Respond to each other's ideas, just as if you were passing a note in study hall. Maybe you'll argue and give reasons for your points, give examples, tell stories that prove your point, show how this event reminds you of something, or discuss the meaning of the news and your feelings about it. Maybe you'll say something else. Let the conversation unfold naturally, but in complete silence, and only one sentence per turn.

5. After eight to ten minutes, stop and read silently what you've written. Look for ways to turn this long note into a paragraph. Probably only about a third of your note is worth working with. Communicate about what to keep and what to reject in whatever silent way you can. Then start revising what's left. If you're writing on paper, use arrows and jot comments in the margins. If you're at a word processing screen, use the editing menu to move sentences around, delete them, and develop or correct them.

6. Draft a main idea sentence and put it at the beginning or end of the paragraph.

7. Now edit the paragraph for consistency. Make sure that your verbs express a dominant time perspective and that your pronouns show a consistent point of view. Look for at least one place where parallelism would clarify your point. Make these changes together, but in silence.

8. Release yourselves from the rule of silence and take turns reading the paragraph aloud, suggesting last-minute changes based on what you hear. If you're in a class, read your team's product aloud and listen to what other teams have written. Listen for each example of parallelism, and comment on any problems with tense or pronoun consistency.

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