• 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
  • 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] 

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