Smiley Face Tricks magic three

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Smiley Face Tricks

MAGIC THREE:  Three items in a series, separated by commas that create a poetic rhythm or add support for a point, especially when the items have their own modifiers.

“In those woods, I would spend hours 1listening to the wind rustle the leaves, 2climbing the trees and spying on nesting birds, and 3giving the occasional wild growl to scare away any pink-flowered girls who might be riding their bikes too close to my secret entrance.” (Todd, college freshman)

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE:  Non-literal comparisons add “spice” to writing and can help paint a more vivid picture for the reader. Include examples of similes, metaphors, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification, symbolism, irony, alliteration, assonance, etc.

“When we first moved into the house on Orchid Street, I didn’t like it. My room was hot, cramped, and stuffy as a train in the middle of the Sahara. And the looming skeleton-like gray and white frame of the place scared me.” (Teri, grade 7)

SPECIFIC DETAILS FOR EFFECT:  Add vivid and specific information to your writing to clarify and create word pictures. Use sensory details to help the reader visualize the person, place, thing, or idea that you are describing.

“It’s one of those experiences where you want to call a radio station and tell your problems to some guy who calls himself Dr. Myke, but how isn’t more of a doctor than your pet hamster is, one of those experiences where you want to read a sappy Harlequin novel and listen to Barry Manilow with a box of bonbons as your best friends, one of those experiences where you wouldn’t be surprised if someone came up to you and asked exactly what time yesterday you were born. Yeah, one of those.” (Ileana)

REPETITION FOR EFFECT:  Repeat a symbol, sentence starter, important word, etc. to underline its importance.

The veranda is your way only shelter away from the sister in bed asleep, away from the brother that plays in the tree house in the field, away from your chores that await you.” (Leslie)

EXPANDED MOMENT:  Take a moment that you would ordinarily speed past, and develop it fully to make your reader take notice.

“But no, I had to go to school. And as I said before, I had to listen to my math teacher preach about numbers and letters and figures…I was tired of hearing her annoying voice lecture about ‘a=b divided by x.’ I glared at the small black hands on the clock, silently threatening them to go faster. But they didn’t listen, I caught myself wishing I were on white sand and looking down at almost transparent pale-blue water with Josh at my side…I don’t belong in some dumb math class. I belong on the beach, where I can soak my feet in caressing water and let the wind wander its way through my chestnut-colored hair and sip Dr. Pepper all day long. “ (Shelly)

HUMOR:  Whenever possible and appropriate, inject a little humor to keep your reader awake.

“He laughed? I’m nothing. I’m the rear end of nothing, and the devil himself smiled at me.” (Andrew)

HYPHENATED MODIFIERS:  When you connect two adjectives or adverbs together with a hyphen, it lends an air of originality and sophistication to your writing.

She’s got this blond hair, with dark highlights, parted in the middle, down past her shoulders, and straight as a preacher. She’s got big green eyes that all guys admire and all girls envy, and this I’m-so-beautiful-and-I-know-it body, you know, like every other super model.” (Ilena)

FULL-CIRCLE ENDING:  When you include an image or phrase at the beginning of a piece of writing and then mention it again at the end, it gives your piece a sense of closure.


“Hey you, with the green and neon-orange striped shoelaces, you who always pulled my old frazzled white one in math. Hey you, who always added your versions of ‘art’ to my math problems for Mrs. Caton’s class so that 9 x 7 = 64 turned out to be a train with Puffs of smoke and two boxcars and made me get an 83 instead of a 93 since Mrs. C. doesn’t count locomotives as correct answers.”


“Now Justin still sits behind me in math with his neon-green and orange striped shoelaces and pulls on my old white frazzled ones. He still draws zombies on my homework, but he hasn’t dumped another pitcher of Kool-Aid on me - - not yet at least. Oh, and by the way, in case you’re wondering, his first words when he opened his eyes were, ‘It was James Kenton who hid your clothes and made you walk around in a chicken suit…I’m not that mean.” (Liz)

Varying Sentence Openers-Periodic Sentences




Amused, we allowed her to finish her wildly exaggerated tale.


Frantically, hundreds of ants scurries in all directions trying to escape

Participial phrase

Hearing strange noises, we crept downstairs to investigate.

Infinitive phrase

To prepare for a short-answer test, Ellen makes flash cards

Adverb clause

Because the train was traveling so quickly, it vanished in seconds.

Several adverbs

Quickly and smoothly, the swimmers dove into the pool.


Nevertheless, you are still required to complete four years of English.


Out of the sky came a mystery.


Each item below begins with a sentence model from literature that has an interesting sentence opener. Combine the sentences that follow into a single sentence that matches the structure of the literature model. You may omit words or change their forms as you combine sentence parts.

Top of Form


Conscience-stricken, Leo rose and brewed the tea.

Bernard Malamud, "The Magic Barrel"

  • Beth was satisfied.

  • Beth pushed her chair back from the dinner table and excused herself.

Bottom of Form

Example: Satisfied, Beth pushed her chair back from the dinner table.

  1. Fumbling with both hands, he once more stuck the knife into the sheath.

Isak Dinesen, "The Ring"

  • The members of the band sounded as good as ever.

  • They were playing together for the first time in years.


  1. In his room, he plays his guitar.

John Updike, "Son"

  • Nate paints watercolors.

  • He paints them in his mother's studio.


  1. Creaking, jerking, jostling, gasping, the train filled the station.

Nadine Gordimer, "The Train from Rhodesia"

  • The tractor pushed against the heavy log.

  • The tractor was grinding, growling, whistling, and hiccupping.


  1. Eyes narrowing, he thought for a few moments about what to do.

Jack Finney, "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"

  • The yacht headed out to open sea.

  • Sails were billowing.


  1. Gaunt, bruised, and shaken, he stumbled back to his village.

Lame Deer, "The Vision Quest"

  • The dog was well-fed, energetic, and happy.

  • The dog headed outside to play.


  1. Frightened, everyone in the village fled into the canes.

Paule Marshall, "To Da-duh, in Memoriam"

  • The bull was angered.

  • The bull charged the matador.


  1. The staircase window having been boarded up, no light came down into the hall.

Elizabeth Bowen, "The Demon Lover"

  • The bicycle tire had been punctured.

  • Jasmine had to walk the bicycle home.


  1. Patient, cold, and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats.

Dylan Thomas, "A Child's Christmas in Wales"

  • The producer accepted the Oscar for best picture.

  • She was wide-eyed, joyful, and proud.

  • Her head was lifted high.


  1. Slowly, taking my time, I began the final ascent.

Arthur C. Clarke, "The Sentinel"

  • Leo ran toward the goal line.

  • He ran swiftly.

  • He was holding the football firmly in his arms.

Wordiness results from many sources. Many of us have learned to pad our writing with all sorts of empty phrases to reach length requirements for academic writing. Wordiness also tends to occur when we're struggling to clarify our ideas or when we're tired and not thinking clearly. Regardless of the reason for padded writing, we can achieve concise writing if we incorporate several strategies during the writing process and if we're aware of the individual patterns of wordiness typical of our own writing.

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