Since the purpose of the essay contest was to determine how well the participants could write an essay within a time limit (two hours), The Dongguk Post chose topics of human interest that would get them writing without having to focus too much of their attention on brainstorming and detailed planning. I doubt, for example, that there is a student in Korea who could not wax on and on about the 2002 WORLD CUP topic.
What is most encouraging about the essays is that the essayists are writing in their own natural style, confidently using words and phrases they are familiar with while eschewing the dubious practice of inserting syntax from a dictionary into a sentence, which makes for awkward reading, as if two different hands were composing the same sentence.
All of these essayists follow a similar approach to organizing an essay. They begin with a topic sentence that the rest of the essay supports and develops through well-organized thought. This was accomplished by using simple, compound, and complex sentences and arranging them into paragraphs. Sentence variety prevents their writing from becoming too simple and boring.
Beginning with the topic sentence there is a logical order of ideas in the essays connecting sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph, giving the essays unity. And through employing transitional words and phrases -- first, therefore, moreover, for example, in conclusion, to name a few -- the writers make it easy for readers to follow connecting ideas within and between paragraphs, giving the essays cohesion.
Much of the verbosity of past student writing is gone from these essays. Their clear, direct sentences are saying more through using fewer words, a significant advancement. This is true of my own composition students, whose writing is more succinct and has fewer elaborate (windy) introductions and attempts at florid prose than in the past. I do not see as many unwieldy sentences trying to say everything but failing to say anything because the sentences overwhelm a student's ability to make them grammatical.
Given the time limit, the essayists surely were hard-pressed to properly edit and proofread, something many composition students are inattentive to even when they have a week to complete a composition. By taking the time to thoroughly review the essay's content, style and organization, irrelevancies can be detected and removed, thereby strengthening the essay's unity. And through careful correcting of technical errors, particularly omissions of articles and prepositions and other necessary words, clarity is improved.
The writer's own standards, of course, determine when a piece of writing is complete. Yet it is instructive that Hemingway rewrote the ending to "A Farewell To Arms" 39 times before he felt that he had gotten it right. Perfection so bedeviled the humorist James Thurber that his wife began setting an alarm clock for a certain hour, at which time Thurber would cease touching up one of his New Yorker pieces. And no matter how often Sherbo reviews and corrects "Foreigner's Eye," there is always room for improvement to his contribution to The Dongguk Post.
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