16 Sep 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

P3: My Passion

Start with a photo that illustrates your passion. (If you took it yourself, or you are in it, great; if not, that's OK, too.)
  • Use this photo as a starting point, to focus your creative energies.  Your paragraph should SHOW your passions; to help you get started, I'll ask you a few questions, but I don't want your paragraph simply to answer these questions.
    • How does the photo illustrate your passion?
    • What feelings does it invoke, what information does it convey?
    • What information or feelings are obvious from the photo, and what would somebody have to guess?
  • I'm not interested in reading a paragraph that simply describes the photo -- I already know you can do that sort of thing, because you have successfully graduated from high school.
  • If your photo was taken in a studio, you don't have to describe what it was like posing for the photo. (I"m thinking of senior graduation photos, where people pose with sports equipment or other props.) But if you feel the photo does accurately convey your passion, use it as a starting point to SHOW me why that passion is important to you.
  • Include your photo with your submission to Turnitin.com.  (On the MacBook, the Word command is Insert -> Picture -? From File.) 
Show me your passion, in a paragraph of 200 words -- but do it without actually writing a sentence that comes right out and tells me that "My passion is ____."

Example: A dry paragraph would just come right out and TELL the reader, "I am passionate about teaching." But in this video, the speaker SHOWS his passion for teaching through specific examples that make us see his passion, even though he never uses the words "I am passionate about teaching." 

Suggestion: Don't actually name the specific thing that you present as your passion. SHOW me a scene in which you are actively engaged in that passion, and demonstrate your ability to choose details that teach me something about what that passion means to you. (If it feels too awkward to completely hide the name of the thing you are passionate about, then go ahead and use the name. My suggestion is to get you to think about how you can SHOW your point with evidence, making me see and believe it for myself.)

See "Show, Don' t (Just) Tell."

Here is a passage that makes simple statements, without supplying any specific details. The result is flat, unconvincing, and not particularly worth reading.

TELLING: "I love my Aunt Sarah's garden. Any chance I get, I smell them and study them. I know a fair amount about them, and even if I'm tired from my boring job in a fast-food kitchen, working in a garden always makes me relaxed and happy."

When I read the above passage, I don't have any reason to feel relaxed and happy. The following revision provides specific details, and expects that the reader will be intelligent enough (and engaged enough) to put the clues together, and in the process, become engaged with the emotions this passage is trying to convey.

SHOWING: "The wysteria and lilacs wafted the grease and kitchen cleansers from my uniform. From where I lay, I could see the north bed of Empire roses could use some pruning, but that would wait until I finished replanting the tulips. I hefted a shovel and a 50-pound bag of potting soil, and tried to guess where Aunt Sarah would keep her crimping wedges. After eight hours of McWork, I was ready to relax."

In the second passage, it's fairly easy for the reader to gather that the author's passion is gardening.

The specific references to natural smells winning out over work-related smells create an emotional image... there is no need to come right out and say "I like to relax in the garden after a hard day's work," because the passage already describes the author as lying down, and the natural smells are here depicted as winning out over the work-related smells.  Likewise, the second passage does not need to say "I know a lot about gardening," because the author refers to "Empire roses" (which are presumably different from some other kind of roses) and "crimping wedges" (presumably some specialized gardening tool),  The author never comes right out and TELLS the reader "No matter how tired I am from my part-time job, I always have energy to work in the garden."  Instead, the author -- who was initially lying on the ground, recovering from a long fast-food shift -- now ready to "heft" a shovel and carry a heavy bag.


Use the photograph to help you focus on a single main point (not a list or random stream of thoughts).
Show with vivid, relevant details that make me feel I am there with you, experiencing the emotions you are feeling.


20%  Format (200-word length and MLA style)
20%  Accuracy (punctuation and words)
20%  Clarity (phrases and sentences)
20%  Showing (using vivid specific examples, not general statements or lists)
20%  Ideas (focus, creativity, depth)


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