1 Mazujin

A Descriptive Essay Would Most Likely Be Found Asian

Lorton, Va.

My father takes me down to the arroyo when I am so small that I do not yet reach his waist. My feet fumble across flaking desert skin and he pulls me along gently by my hand and tells me to be careful of small cacti and the bones of dead jack rabbits. He does not let me straddle the rift where the earth divides into repelling mounds of sand. Instead, he slips his hands beneath my arms and swings me around in a half circle, his red face wrinkling into a smile.

That morning, my father had crept into my room with the sun and shaken me into consciousness. “Get your sneakers,” he had whispered. “We’re going on a treasure hunt.”

It is minutes later now and we are trudging down an overgrown trail, tactfully descending the deep slopes of New Mexican land. Everything smells strongly of mud and salt and soaked manure from the horse barn down the road. I almost trip over a weed, but my father steadies me and says, “Almost there, baby.”

The arroyo is different than I have ever seen it. It is scattered with long, silver puddles. In the pink glow of the rising sun, the sand looks shiny and slippery. Around us, green tufts of vegetation burst from the earth in unpredictable patterns and yellow wildflowers with thin stems knock softly against each other in the wind.

My father tells me to wait and he steps down into the wet sand. I watch as his sandals sink deep into the ground and leave long footsteps. He crouches suddenly, and digs into the earth with a discarded stick. Then he stands, approaches me, and places in my hand something slimy and smooth.

“A pottery shard,” he says, in explanation. “From the Native Americans, who lived right here a thousand years ago. The rain washes them up. If we’re lucky, we’ll find all the pieces of an entire pot.”

I look down at the strange triangular stone and wipe the sand from its surface. He lifts me up in his arms, carries me back toward the house.


My father gives me a book about Georgia O’Keeffe for my fifth birthday. We read it together and he bounces me on his knee and licks his fingertips before turning the pages. He points at a landscape that looks like a rumpled tablecloth and tells me, “This is why we’re here.” I steal a flashlight and flip through the book under my covers at night. I touch the same glossy picture and whisper, “This is why we’re here.”


When I am 6 years old, the Sunday school teacher asks me what my father does for a living. I tell her he is an artist like Georgia O’Keeffe. I do not know that I am lying. I do not know that he hasn’t sold a piece in months. I do not know that my mother sits at the kitchen table after I go to sleep and cries because the mortgage is past due and she can’t figure out a way to tell me that this year, Santa Claus just might not make it.

For Christmas, my father gives me a sparkling blue stone he found in the arroyo. I say thank you and pretend I mean it. Later, I stand on the edge of our brick patio and wind up my arm and throw the rock as far as it will go. It disappears inside the bristles of a pine tree.


I do not say goodbye to the arroyo before shutting the car door and stretching the seatbelt across my chest. I do not say goodbye because I think that I won’t miss it. We are leaving New Mexico. We are going to New York where my father will get a real job and we will become a real family. We drive alongside a cliff, the rock rough and jagged and sprinkled with a thousand tiny diamonds. I press my finger against the glass. This is why we’re here.


When I am 16 years old, my father takes me back to New Mexico and we go once more to the arroyo. The neglected trail is long gone now and we stumble in our tennis shoes over dried up cacti and colorless desert flowers. I am too old now to hold my father’s hand. He walks a few steps ahead of me and I do not see his face.

The arroyo is bone-dry, littered with dented soda cans, beaten strips of tire and mud-stained garbage bags. Many monsoon seasons have left the sides of the arroyo tall and smooth, except for the dried roots of long-dead plants, still lodged in the dirt, which reach out toward us like skeleton hands.

My father crouches over and his shirt draws taut across his back. He delicately parts the earth with his fingers and searches for something that he will never find again.

“No more pottery,” he says. He looks at me and squints his eyes against the sun. “It must have washed far away by now.”

Suddenly comes to me the vague image of my father in ripped jeans, pressing a pottery shard into my palm.

I wonder if he, too, has washed far away.

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Audience Considerations for ESL Writers: Introduction


Audience is an important component of writing. Whether you compose a paper for your class, submit a professional resume, or simply send an email, you most likely imagine how your document will be received. Audience can be defined as a person or people who read(s) your paper, in other words, your reader(s). It is important to know who your audience is because it influences the content and the style of your writing.

Types of Writing and Audience

Here are some examples that show the written genres that you will most likely encounter in college or in your career and the audience that is typically associated with each of these genres.

  • University Library Report: College students
  • Resume/CV/Cover letter: Potential employer
  • Book Review: Professionals from your field of study
  • Annotated Bibliography: Professor, readers of an academic journal
  • Memoir: Your classmates, peers, members of your family, readers of a magazine 

You probably noticed that the audience is somewhat predetermined by the type of writing you produce, and vice versa, your readers influence your choice of a genre. In other words, you will not likely submit your memoir to an academic journal read by professionals and scholars. Similarly, an administrator of an engineering company, in which you wish to get a job, will not be interested in receiving a book review from you. 

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Writing for a North American Academic Audience

Most of your writing assignments in college will consist of academic papers that you will write for your classes. Therefore, your primary audience in college is your professors.  While each of your professors will require a set of his or her own expectations that you will need to follow as you work on your papers, there are also a number of common characteristics of American academic writing that you need to be aware of.  These characteristics are most likely different from the writing conventions in your native language; therefore, they may be somewhat difficult to grasp. Academic writing in an American fashion is usually defined as linear and thesis-­‐driven.  This part of the resource will help you become familiar with these basic features.

American academic essays have a linear structure

Writing in academic settings in North America, you are expected to clearly indicate the most important points of your essay in the introduction of your paper, as well as explain how these ideas are going to be developed (e.g., comparing and contrasting, classifying, describing cause and effect relationships). Then, the rest of your paper will basically provide support for these main points, forming what is called body paragraphs of your essay.  This support may include: facts, statistics, personal experiences, examples from literary sources, quotes, and so forth. Whereas this main part of your paper will vary based on the rhetorical organization, its primary goal always stays the same: to explain and support the main ideas indicated in the introduction. Finally, the last section of your paper, called conclusion, needs to summarize the main points developed in the body paragraphs and provide a logical closure to your paper. In the conclusion, some authors also like to express their personal opinion on the topic, provide a solution (if appropriate), and give some advice to the reader.

This three-­‐section essay structure constitutes what is called linear organization of American academic writing. As mentioned earlier, it may be very different from the writing approaches that you utilized in your native language back home. In fact, some of your instructors will be familiar with the organizational patterns that you used in your native language.  But even in that case, they will still require that you follow the conventions of American academic writing.

North American academic writing is thesis-­driven

The introduction of your paper needs to contain the main ideas that you will later develop in the body of your essay. The main ideas are normally summarized in one sentence that is called thesis statement. Think of thesis statement as a one-­‐sentence summary of your whole paper, or sort of a snapshot. American audience always expects to see this snapshot at the beginning of the paper (they don’t like to be surprised, nor do they like to guess what it is that the author is going to talk about); therefore, you will do them a huge favor and save them from unnecessary frustration by placing your thesis statement in the introduction of your paper.

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 


Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Stance and Language


Stance can be defined as the attitude that the writer has towards the topic of his or her message.  The stance that you take will greatly determine the tone of your message and the words that you choose. Notice, for example, how the authors in the following examples describe the same event that they attended. Their impressions of the event were very different, and it is reflected in the stance that they took.


Once we got to the food section of the event, I immediately realized that there was little to no organization. There was trash all over the place, with no trashcan in sight. There was a serious lack of tables to eat at, so many people were forced to eat standing up, which got really messy because of the nature of some of the foods. Many of the organizations that were selling the foods apparently didn’t talk to each other, because I saw many of the same kinds of rice, fish, even bread at the different tables.

Furthermore, many of the dishes were either cold or too little. And of all the tables, only one group also thought of bringing the drinks, so getting a drink meant standing in line for half an hour, mainly because they kept running out because of the high demand.

One would think that an event whose focus was mainly food would put a little more thought and planning into it.

Example 2

Almost all Asian student organizations have participated in this event. There were plenty of foods from different Asian countries and areas. Fried rice from China, spring rolls

from Vietnam, curries fish ball from Hong Kong and chicken from Singapore. Though these foods are not exactly like they would be tasted like in real Asia, these still give you a basic idea about how are Asian food look and taste like and how large is the diversity of Asian food. Among so many choices of foods, I definitely will recommend the curry fish ball from Hong Kong Student Association. It tastes exactly like what you would taste in Hong Kong, so it might be the most original taste of Asia.

So in relation to your audience, think about the following questions when you are trying to determine what stance to take: How do you want to be perceived by your reader(s)?  Opinionated or neutral? Passionate or indifferent? Biased or objective?

Critical or fair?  What is your relationship with the audience that may affect your choice of stance?


Language largely depends on the type of the audience that will read your written work. Therefore, before you start writing, think about your readers. How much do you think they know about the topic you are going to write about? Would they understand the terminology you may use? If not, perhaps you need to provide definitions and additional explanations. On the other hand, if your readers have a good deal of knowledge about your topic, there may be no need for you to explain the concepts with which they may be familiar.

The language that you use will also depend on the relationships that you have with your audience.  Are they your friends or classmates? Professors? Employers? Compare, for example, two emails written by the same student to a classmate and a professor:

Example 1

Hey Chris, how’s it going? Did you have fun this weekend? Hey I won’t be in class tomorrow, I sorta feel sick. Could you stop by Dr. Johnson’s office and grab that book for me that we need for our project? I’d appreciate that.

Thanks, buddy!

Example 2

Dear Dr. Johnson,

I am sending you this email to let you know that I will not be able to come to class tomorrow because I am not feeling well. Attached is my reflection for the last assignment.

I was also wondering if I could meet with you on Thursday during your office hours to discuss my research project.

Thank you.

Best regards,

John Smith.

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Tone and Purpose


Along with the different language that you use depending on your reader, the tone of your writing should be appropriate for your audience as well. Your tone reflects your attitude towards the subject you are writing about and the readers you are writing to. For example, if you are composing an email to your professor, you cannot be rude, but you need to be polite and formal. You should use the language that shows your respect to the professor and his or her status. 

In addition, you should also consider the context in which your audience will receive your message and use the appropriate tone accordingly. For instance, when submitting a scholarship application or a grant proposal you should remember that it will be reviewed by several readers in an academic setting.


The purpose of your written work should be clear to those who will read it. Ask yourself what it is that you want to communicate to your audience and check your draft to see if you achieved your goal. At the same time, you should also think about what you want your audience to take away from your written work. Do you want to raise their awareness of a certain issue?  Do you want to engage them in the discussion? Is your purpose to provoke their thoughts on the problem you are addressing?

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Medium and Design

The way you design your written work also depends on who is going to read it. If you are writing a lab report, it is appropriate and it may even be necessary to use charts and tables. Or if you are submitting a written course project or a portfolio, you need to think about how your audience will navigate the contents of your materials, so perhaps the table of contents could be quite helpful. Your audience may also determine the way(s) you will deliver your written work. Think about what media better fits the purpose of your message: oral presentation, electronic format, or print. You can also use a combination of media.

In short, when are communicating a written message, you should always keep in mind your audience. Consider the following list of questions as a checklist that will help you target your writing to a particular audience and construct your writing accordingly:

  • Whom are you writing to?
  •  What is your audience’s life background? Are they educated? Do they have certain life experiences that may affect what and how you address them in your writing?
  • Are they “insiders” (they are your professional peers or they are familiar with the area that you are describing) or “outsiders” to your topic (they are not familiar with the field you are writing in)?
  • Are you aware of demographic characteristics of your readers (e.g., gender, race, age, sexual orientation, political views, religious beliefs, social and economic status, etc.)?
  • What is your relationship with your audience? Are you friends with them? Are they your colleagues?  Peers? Professors? Potential employers? Strangers? Your opponents?
  • How do you think they will accept your message? 
  • What reaction are you expecting from your audience? Do you want them to make a decision, enter into a debate, or take some form of action? 
  • What do you think your audience expects from you and your message? 

Although this list is not exhaustive, it will help you be aware of your audience, and it will also help you avoid violations that may occur as a result of a lack of knowledge or even ignorance about his or her readers.

Contributors:Elena Shvidko, Ashley Velázquez.

The resources in this section are designed to help the reader better understand the concept of Audience when writing in English for North American, academic audiences. 

Words Matter: How to Effectively Use Idioms, Slang, & Stock Phrases in Academic Writing

This workshop explains what idioms, slang, and stock phrases are and discusses how to use them in formal and informal contexts. Download the PowerPoint file by clicking the above link.

Please note that this workshop was developed as part of the Purdue Language and Culture Exchange (PLaCE) program for Purdue University's West Lafayette campus. PLaCE focuses on providing international students with additional linguistic and cultural support as the acclimate to the North American higher educational context.

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