How Word Choice Can Change The Perception Of Reality


People have always asked throughout my life “do you like math or English more?” I would always reply “science”. I would only say this because science is the only subject that I have always been placed in advanced classes for. The first time I ever took an advanced English course was my freshman year of high school. It was a little nerve-racking when I looked at my freshman schedule and saw an advanced English course because it was out of my comfort zone and unfamiliar to me. 

Let me start by saying even though English was never really my favorite subject, staying in advanced English courses throughout high school was one of the best decisions I have ever made. There was some doubt at first because I never felt that my writing was exceptional because I have always struggled with getting my words out in a way that made sense. Although I have always had good grades in English, my writing has always been what I struggle with most. It has always been hard for me to gather all my thoughts before writing an essay and even harder to get it down on paper in a way that made sense. I always get anxious when I am told that I will have to write an essay because I know what that means for me. I will go down a long spiral of thinking about what I should write and then I will come up with a bunch of different ideas and have no clue how to string them together to create a storyline. This always ends with me opening a doc and writing random throughout all over the page and staring blankly at them until I can find a way to make it all make sense. 

Taking AP English in high school is something I will never regret because although it started off at a rocky start for me, I felt that it helped me grow as a writer. In advanced English courses, you get familiar with what is called timed writes. With these timed writes, you are given thirty minutes to write a complete essay based on a prompt given on a little piece of paper. I am sure you can imagine why these were one of my least favorite activities. Thirty minutes to read the prompt, come up with ideas, sort through ideas in your head, and write a solid five paragraphs seemed nearly impossible to me. I always felt so self-conscious about this activity because after thirty minutes we switched papers with someone around us and read, evaluated, analyzed, and provided feedback that they were able to use since this was a weekly activity that we did. I always got embarrassed looking at my paper compared to others because I felt like I never wrote a well-structured essay because my thoughts roamed all over the place and this definitely showed on my paper. Looking at someone else’s well-structured essay lowered my confidence with writing because I felt like everyone else’s papers looked so neat and seemed to be well throughout and organized. Comparing my paper to theirs I felt like my paper was a jumbled mess with words scribbled all over it. After a while, I did significantly improve my timed writes, but it definitely was not easy. I would go home and look up timed write prompts online and time myself as I wrote. This helped me learn to gather and sort through my thoughts a lot faster because, in my opinion, that is what was holding me back the most. 

If you ever took an advanced English course you know that a large majority of time in class is spent learning and practicing for the AP exam. The AP exam is meant to put your knowledge to the test and show what you have learned throughout the year by making you read and analyze texts as well as write. Yep, you probably guessed it, at the end of the AP exam you have to complete a timed write. Every once in a while we were given the chance to take a mock exam and get a feel of what it would be like when the time came to take the real AP exam. I always hated the questions asked on these exams because unlike math where there is most likely only one precise answer “English tests were always a judgment call, a matter of opinion and personal experience” (Tan). This always irritated and confused me because essentially all the answers are correct, but you have to pick the one that is most correct given the context. 

Being thrown into an advanced English class with no prior experience was difficult at first. Especially because most of the kids in the class had been in honors English in junior high school so they were more familiar with certain activities and knew what was expected. Although I did feel like I did not belong and like I was not smart enough at first I am glad that I pushed myself to stay in the class and continue taking it. Allowing myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone and put in a class that I thought I would never take is why I am a better writer today. I learned so many helpful skills along the way and had a great support system from peers and teachers who were always willing to give me feedback. Taking AP English has impacted me in so many different ways and has also helped me be more confident and comfortable with my writing. I do think taking an advanced English course helped me gain the confidence I needed to go into a college English course and feel comfortable and not out of place. Advanced classes are harder on you and expect more from you which really helps prepare you for what will be expected in college courses. It is also important to note that everyone has a different and unique writing style and although yours might look very different from theirs it does not mean you are less of a writer or that anyone is better than you. Find your style and purpose for writing and focus on that. That is how you become the best writer you can be.  

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