Assignment A03: Money Rewrite

New Material

I’ve updated (and continue to update) this assignment since first posting it. Please read it in its entirety before you begin your rewrite.

Before class TUE FEB 05, post a Rewrite of your essay about the invention of money, the people of Yap, the French and American gold exchange, the creation of the Brazilian real, and the new inflationary policy of the Japanese government.

Find the resources for your assignment at the top of the sidebar under the Category A01: Invention of Money, but publish your new post to the category A03: Money Rewrite.

  1. Incorporate into your rewrite any feedback you have received on your Invention of Money post. Also demonstrate you’ve learned important lessons from course materials “Try to Say Something,” “Cows and Chips,” and “Eliminating Unnecessary If/Then.”
  2. Adopt a more academic, less personal tone than you may have used for your original Money post. For examples of the styles to avoid and adopt, review the instructions for Assignment A02.
  3. Post your response on the blog in two categories: A03: Money Rewrite and the category for your own name found under Author.
  4. Give your post the title Money Rewrite–Student Name substituting your own name, of course.

Notes on Academic Style:

Academic writing doesn’t have to sound stuffy and, well, academic, but it does take care not to be sloppy, casual, slangy, pointlessly metaphorical, or vague.

Monetary systems benefit their members by rewarding everyone for doing one thing well, instead of doing everything just well enough to get by. Each member fulfills one need for the group, which generates a community of people who rely on one another, to everyone’s mutual benefit. The value of a cow is not so many potatoes, but so many random markers—stones, coins, or notes—that are prized not for what they are, but for the cows or the potatoes they represent. Once the members of any community trust the value of the marker, trade can flourish, since the cow herder no longer has to find a roofer who wants a cow. He can sell the cow for money and pay the vegetarian roofer in money, who will trade it in turn for avocados and chips. Nowadays, we rarely even handle the coins and notes, but we still have trust in the swiping of cards as a way of tracking our “buying power,” which is all our labor, or our products, or our “likelihood of continued gainful employment” ever represented anyway.

Notice you needn’t build dense, tortured sentences to write well academically. Your language can be vivid; it can be full of cows and chips; it can refer to common human experiences in friendly this-is-who-we-are language that does not preach to our readers or pretend that we have knowledge not available to everyone.

No Second Person Language:

I know writing instructors don’t agree on which voice is appropriate in your essays, partly because in some writing, first person is acceptable while in others it’s prohibited. (Also because those other instructors are wrong.)

Trust me on this, though: we is always a good choice. Nothing builds trust and persuasiveness faster than acknowledging we’re as mystified and surprised by the world around us as our readers.

Trust me on the opposite too. Nothing makes us sound preachy and arrogant faster than addressing our readers as you. Even in generalizations like “when you think about it,” we are being too personal for academic writing and risk alienating our readers.

So now that I’ve prohibited you from saying both “I changed my mind about money,” and “when you think about money this way,” what’s left? The beautiful and oh-so-effective first person plural: We feel this way about money because we’ve been taught to feel this way.

A reminder from feedback to Brianne Waters:

Remember, in your rewrite, you’ll ditch the “I could not help but think” language. You’ll be writing about the peculiarities of money, representative value, and abstract currency, but not about your “reactions” to it. Since your reader knows nothing about Yap and its gigantic limestones, it’s your job to inform them briefly while at the same time making your point. For example, here, you’d be saying: The people of Yap, whose “coins” were gigantic limestone disks too big to move, didn’t even bother to transfer physical ownership of their money, but merely let their community know that the massive rocks indicative of great wealth had “changed hands.”

That may be enough on this topic.

Cows and Chips:

In feedback to Nicole Clark, I offered specific examples about trust in simple money transactions at a checkout counter. It’s helpful to mention that money is based on faith, but more effective to show specific examples of faith in action.

When cashiers receive 20s, 50s, 100s, they hold them to the light, don’t they? So even actual currency can be mistrusted. They don’t accept checks from strangers without ID, in case they’re handed worthless paper. The swiping of a card may be the most trustworthy method of payment for the store, although the most abstract, because a bank somewhere verifies the availability of funds in the cardholder’s account. The doubt in that transaction is whether the shopper owns the card.

Some feedback to Jodi Dziedzic:

But compared to a timeshare arrangement, which is the impossibly crazy concept that for two weeks every summer I “own” a condo in Puerto Vallarta that somebody else owned the day before I got there and which someone else will own the day I move out, the Yap seem quite sane. Be sure when you compare the two systems you use a tangible example to help your readers understand who’s crazier.

That may be enough on this topic.

Being Careful with Your Terms:

Big differences exist between money, currency, wealth, value, credit, and buying power; also between possession, ownership, title, and control. Careful readers depend on us to use our terms consistently and accurately. If we say money when we mean currency, we’re less likely to convince them we understand our topic well enough to prove a thesis. From feedback to Rory O’Connell:

Money is imaginary. We don’t see it; we don’t use it, except for trivial transactions. Even parking meters don’t take it these days. But wait! I’m talking about currency, not money, and there’s an important difference between the two. Those parking kiosks do take my money, whether I insert coins or bills, a prepaid parking card, or a debit or credit card from my bank(s).

We can’t talk intelligibly about money without resolving the different ways we use the term itself: to mean coins and bills; to mean our bank balances; to mean our buying power; to mean our future earnings.

Your rewrites need to be careful to distinguish these many meanings.

When you say people trust their banks to “safely store their digital wealth,” you’re talking about which meaning of money? What’s the difference between your bank balance and your “available funds”? Suppose you ask your bank to calculate your “pending payments” through the end of the month. You currently “have” that “money” today, but how wealthy do you feel if you know it will all be gone before the 31st?

From feedback to Mike Middleton:

You’re trying here to redeem your promise of a psychological value, Mike. What do you mean by a psychological value? Example: two loving parents in a stable home gives children the psychological advantage of an early sense of security that gives them confidence of a comfortable present and bright future. What does money provide, psychologically?

Why is a digital system of keeping track more of a “psychological system” than swapping physical paper? As a thought experiment, is a check for the full value of the car more or less psychological than a small cash down payment in hundred dollar bills plus a promise of more to come?

There may be more to say about this.

What Does My Reader Know?

In your first drafts, many of you assumed your readers had all read Milton Friedman and listened to NPR. In your rewrite, you must write for a wider audience than “us,” and provide the context for readers to understand your assertions about the Yap, the French, the Brazilians, the Japanese. Another excerpt from feedback:

You mention the fei of the Yap, without calling it fei, say something about stone money, call it strange, and mention trust. It’s unlikely anyone not in our class would ever understand what you mean by stone money, by your French gold comment, or about its relationship to the Yap, so please keep in mind your readers are not familiar with your own background study.

A similar note on the same topic from feedback to Brianne Waters:

Remember, in your rewrite, you’ll ditch the “I could not help but think” language. You’ll be writing about the peculiarities of money, representative value, and abstract currency, but not about your “reactions” to it. Since your reader knows nothing about Yap and its gigantic limestones, it’s your job to inform them briefly while at the same time making your point. For example, here, you’d be saying: The people of Yap, whose “coins” were gigantic limestone disks too big to move, didn’t even bother to transfer physical ownership of their money, but merely let their community know that the massive rocks indicative of great wealth had “changed hands.”

That may be enough on this topic.

Content Advice:

As if the invention of money were not already complex enough, some of you have been touching on additional complexities of finance without beginning to develop them. Sometimes those cards we swipe actually transfer money we already have (debit transactions); other times they amount to loans we’re taking (credit transactions), in which the merchant gets paid, but not by us. A bank pays the merchant on our behalf, and lends us what we need, without demanding collateral from us. We repay the bank once a month, with interest, or suffer the consequences. The merchant doesn’t have to trust us (except to be the owner of the card); it trusts the bank to pay for the chips. The only reason the bank trusts us is that we’ve paid our bills in the past and are reasonably good prospects to earn money in the future. How would the Yap accomplish that?

Some feedback to Taylor Brody:

This is another abstraction even more complex than the others. Now we’re not even spending money we currently have; we’re promising that we will someday have the money we will need to continue to pay for this big car we’re going to “possess” right away, although technically Citibank will actually hold the title and therefore possess it. We’re spending future cows and eating the chips today.

The money system obviously depends on faith, but not just faith in money; it clearly requires that we takes risks with one another as well. Some feedback to Joe Passalacqua:

Let’s not pretend that wealth isn’t power; of course it is. But your other reflections—about the total amount of currency in use, whether there’s enough value to sustain it, presumably how it inter-relates to values held in other currencies, what exactly underlies the currency that gives it its power—are the basis, or should be, for a more complex thesis than you’ve decided to defend here so far.

Personal Feedback: I have finally finished providing particularized feedback to everyone who requested it, or so I believe. If you asked and I somehow neglected you, I first apologize; then, I’d like to hear from you.

Feedback on the Feedback: As always, I would appreciate knowing if you find this advice helpful, the assignments clear.


  • DUE TUE FEB 05 before class.
  • Word count is irrelevant, but thorough analyses of whatever length will be graded higher than superficial writing that wastes words. Complex ideas briefly expressed are rewarded best.
  • You will receive a second grade for this Money topic rewrite, which will not replace your grade for Assignment A01.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Rhetorical Writing category (15%)

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels.
This entry was posted in A03: Money Rewrite, Assignments, David Hodges, Professor Post. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Assignment A03: Money Rewrite

  1. jpassalacqua says:

    I found this advice very helpful. It served as a great checklist to ensure i didn’t use anything unnecessary in my writing.

  2. tbrody92 says:

    I certainly found this advice very useful, though some of it I learned last semester from you!

  3. adkins70 says:

    The advice was very helpful, especially the “cows and chips” part as I usually get caught up in the ideas and theories without giving examples to clarify my thoughts.

    • davidbdale says:

      In that case, this was very useful. There’s no substitute for vivid examples, as we learned from Mr. Friedman, who gave us that stone at the bottom of the ocean.

  4. mmiddleton1 says:

    I felt that the actual writing helped more than the specific topic, though the topic was very interesting making it easier to write about. Overall, it definitely was worth looking into and writing about in hopes to improve our writing abilities on analyzing a certain topic.

  5. briannewaters3 says:

    This advice was really helpful and I definitely appreciated it. It helped me to not only make the edits that you suggested in your comments but also helped me look for additional items in which I could improve.

    • davidbdale says:

      Would it benefit you in the future if all assignments were this specific, complete with examples and reminders, Brianne?

      • briannewaters3 says:

        I think it definitely would. I know there have been times when you want us to just write without a lot of formal instruction but I do like having all these details laid out in order for me to format my writing in the correct manner.

  6. anthonymatias97 says:

    The advice under “What does my reader know” was very helpful because I seem to assume that my readers knows more about the topic than they actually do. It helped me to eliminate any unnecessary actions that were in my essay.

    • davidbdale says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by “unnecessary actions,” Tony, but I do appreciate your comment. It’s common after studying a topic to assume everybody knows what we just learned. It’s also common to forget that our classmates are not necessarily our audience; neither is our professor. Anybody dropping by the blog should be able to understand your essays without reading the source material.

  7. kaileewhiting says:

    I found this post really valuable and helpful because it brought everything we have been talking about in the last week together. So I did not have to rack my brain remembering everything you said or scouring the blog trying to find all the bits and posts talking about our rewrite. It was incredibly helpful to have it put all into one place. Thank you!

  8. adamtwths says:

    This advice was very helpful, it really helped me fix my mistakes by using this as a checklist. I definitely benefited from it.

  9. cdisarcina says:

    Seeing everything laid out like this is very helpful in addition to the feedback.

  10. billykluge says:

    To me the advice was very helpful, I learned to watch for repetition in my writing and format my sentences better.

  11. jodidziedzic says:

    I found this very helpful. While my first post was not necessarily the most ideal, I figured any advice you gave in general would be very beneficial. Especially because your feedback was so elaborate, I eventually understood everything you were trying to say.

  12. The advice you gave was very helpful. It helped me organize my thoughts and write coherently.

  13. kenyahkayy says:

    The advice was very helpful. I appreciate. I liked the “Cows and Chips.” I was also very careful at not using second person language.

    • davidbdale says:

      Thanks, Kenyah. Did you populate your essay with cows as a result? A quibble, if you’ll allow me: “very careful not to use second person language.” OK? Thank you for your comment.

  14. oconne92 says:

    The part where you took the section from your feedback to me especially helped me. Using that I took a “money vs. currency” standpoint in my writing. I also eliminated personal language whenever I could.

  15. lebano55 says:

    Content knowledge is something I feel I could certainly improve on, thanks.

    • davidbdale says:

      Thanks, Steve, but I can’t tell from your comment whether the little section devoted to content did you any good. Is this your request for additional help? It’s always available, but you have to ask deliberately. I have time before and after class Thursday.

  16. kmbuttari says:

    I thought the advice was very helpful. It turned my essay into a totally new, not horrifically boring analysis of the topic

  17. kovnat77 says:

    This was a really awesome consolidation/ compilation of the information you had not only discussed in class, but had left for us to find on here. I really appreciated having it all here to look at and reread to keep the skills fresh in my mind when going back to rewrite an essay.

  18. primav01 says:

    This sort of outline to how you could make your post much better in regards to this assignment was extremely helpful. thanks a lot

    • davidbdale says:

      Thanks, Dan. (I’m going to be a jerk now, partly just to humor myself because you’re 18th out of 20 comments. Please eliminate the 2nd person from your comment. See? Jerky.) How we could make our posts better. Practice that. It will save you trouble later. 🙂

  19. smithk53 says:

    I really appreciate the time that you put into clearly explaining assignments. I also like how you use many different examples to get your point across.

  20. rickc1030 says:

    I felt as though one of parts that I benefited from the most was the Second person language and how to correctly use language to incorporate the audience without sounding like preaching.

  21. clarkn92 says:

    I found this advice to be very helpful. It helped me see what I need to improve on in my essay and what I do not need to include in my essay. It helped me see what parts of my paper that i need to focus on.

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