PIE: An English Equation

Years ago, at Southern Utah University, I was in the middle of flirting to make my uptight friend nervous when my favorite professor smacked a paper on my desk. He’s a tall guy, and that made him seem intimidating but his bald head, full beard, and expressive eyebrows gave him a sardonic demeanor. Kyle Bishop was the Head of the English Dept at SUU at the time, and he always had the best teacher gossip. He bent down to me as he passed and I was intrigued. I felt like I was about to be let in on a massive secret.

“I know Chase is fun to tease, but maybe you should spend more time in the Writing Center reviewing my notes instead of making him blush.” He gave me a self-important look through his wire-rimmed glasses and walked away.

I sighed and rolled my eyes but by the end of class, while his side comment hadn’t been what I initially expected, it was exactly what I needed as a student and writer.

On the paper Dr. Bishop had given back to me, next to the circled B- letter grade, were the letters P-I-E in bright orange highlighter. I had seen the word written on my previous work in his class, but I usually got a B (after a routine all-nighter of snacks and Dr. Pepper) and that was good enough for me. On this paper, however, he expounded on what PIE meant and I soon realized how useful PIE is as a sort of equation for paragraph structure.

Before and After

The following section about gothic literature may be a decent introduction, but it is supposed to be a thesis-defining paragraph with supporting evidence and a clear argument. The final sentence should work harder than the others if we want to pay attention to segues and transitions. The last sentence should emphasize the overall theme of the thesis while wrapping up one argument and beginning another, all at the same time.

 

BEFORE:

In our previous reading, The Vampyre, vampiric character turns down the sexual advances of prostitutes and mistresses, accepting only the conquests of the most Victorian worth, those of virginal young ladies and socially ranked women in fine moral standing while Camilla helps her hosts for months, doing physical and emotional labor and hiding her vampirism from her loved ones. Using various methods he orchestrates their fall from lofty virtuous plains of the greatest heights of society. But the relationships exploited in the novella titled Camilla are totally different. The relationships between the vampires and their victims in Camilla is more human, completely believable, and far less morally bankrupt.

 

Let’s take that whole thing apart and plug the right sentences into the PIE equation.

 

Point: Make a point (choose an argument and write a topic sentences that provides context for the reader and sets the tone of the work).

Example:

The relationships exploited in the novella titled Camilla differ drastically from those in other Gothic stories that feature the vampiric figure.


Illustration:
Provide evidence, or proof of your point (back it up with real information; statistics, quotes, personal experience, or content produced by a source of some kind, in this case, vampire literature).

Example:

In an earlier novel, The Vampyre, the vampiric character turns down the sexual advances of prostitutes and mistresses, accepting only the conquests of the most Victorian worth, those virginal young ladies and socially ranked women in fine moral standing. Using various methods he orchestrates their fall from lofty virtuous plains of the greatest heights of society, while Camilla helps her hosts for months, doing physical and emotional labor and hiding her vampirism from her loved ones.

 

Explanation: Explain the illustration (Explicitly interpret, connect concepts, analyze consequences, hypothesize ramifications, and examine the rhetorical credibility of the work).

Example:

The relationships between the vampires and their victims in Carmilla is more human and believable while being far less morally bankrupt.

Now, let’s put the pieces together and see what kind of paragraph we get!

 

AFTER (REVISED PIE PARAGRAPH):

The relationships exploited in the novella titled Camilla differ drastically from those in other Gothic stories that feature the vampiric figure. In an earlier novel, The Vampyre, the vampiric character turns down the sexual advances of prostitutes and mistresses, accepting only the conquests of the most Victorian worth, those virginal young ladies and socially ranked women in fine moral standing. Using various methods he orchestrates their fall from lofty virtuous plains of the greatest heights of society, while Camilla helps her hosts for months, doing physical and emotional labor and hiding her vampirism from her loved ones. The relationships between the vampires and their victims in Carmilla is more human and believable while being far less morally bankrupt.

 

In Bishop’s class at SUU, an equation for English finally helped this B- writer finally figure out how to structure a paragraph. Because I could see the structure of the argument, I found ways to bring my poetic work, critical analysis, and social sciences writing to new levels. I realized that without PIE, I was just rambling at my professors, but with PIE, I’m participating in a bigger conversation. By taking a real stance and supporting my points, I can look at my learning material with a critical eye, identifying strengths and weaknesses. I can read a story or an essay or a research paper, analyze where punctuation is helping the words come to life, and see it as a thing that was thoughtfully created and can always improve.

 

 

 

 

Getting over the grad school hump with blogging and playing with my dog. Thesis year, here I come!

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