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Formula Writing

Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 11 years, 9 months ago



  • Formulaic writing offers a really useful strategy when you are struggling with organization, when you are limited by time, or when you are learning a writing approach.
  • This is not the way writing should be. Writing is something that emerges from the self, a form of personalized expression that should not be dictated.
  • Formulas are as inappropriate for writing as they are for expressing a feeling of profound sorrow at something lost (an elegy) or profound praise (an ode)
  • That being said, the AP test is not about writing. It is about passing a test. If you have doubts at this point, I’d give some serious thoughts to this formula for the prose/poetry passages.
  • If you are really worried still, I wouldn’t feel bad about memorizing these formulas as an easy way to get through the process of writing.



First sentence:

[short phrase from the poem/passage from the prose]: [Author’s] [good strong adjective], [good strong adjective] language forces the reader to examine an interesting…


Black, slack, earthsoup: poet Mary Oliver’s rich, evocative language forces the reader to examine the question of the nature of life, using the most unlikely symbol, a swamp.



Using [literary device #1] and [literary device #2], [the author] effectively conveys [statement of theme and prompt focus].


Using figurative language and tone, Oliver effectively conveys the profound idea that, while life may appear to bind and trap us, it always offers the potential for renewal and hope.

Body Paragraphs

Topic Sentence, Argument, Evidence, Analysis (Repeat 2-3 times)

Example Topic Sentence

Oliver’s use of metaphor and simile powerfully suggest a profound connection between the speaker and the swamp.

Argument: A Claim

Olivers dominant metaphor equates the swamp with human life.

Evidence: A passage or line reference

From the suggestion that the swamp is the center of everything to the closing lines recognition of the power of renewal, Oliver reminds the reader that the swamp embodies human experience.

Analysis: Explanation of how the evidence proves the claim

1-2 sentences of analysis connecting the evidence to the claim, then back to the topic sentence.

[Repeat in paragraph as needed; effectively making each sub-argument an isolated point to prove. This should keep the essays straightforward and on point] 



  • Adapted from the Jane Schaffer paragraph method.
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Additional Resources

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